Ungrika Roma (Hungarian Roma)

The designation Ungrika comes from the term "Ungros" (Hungarian). Appelation (exonym) – the term by which we label others – is loose. It applies to several groups of Roma living in Slovakia or in the Czech Republic.

  • Servika-Roma apply the term Ungrika to all Roma who speak a "Hungarian"-Romani dialect or Roma for whom their mother tongue became Hungarian.
  • Roma in southwest Slovakia (around Galanta) accept the name Ungriko and say about themselves: "We are Ungrika (Hungarian) Roma", first, because they live among Hungarian Gadže and, second, because they speak "Hungarian"Romani. Roma who reside further east (Hnúšťa, Klenovec), among Slovak Gadže, are called Servi or Slovak Roma although they speak "Hungarian"Romani.
  • Roma from around Hnúšťa, Klenovec, etc. use the term Ungrika only about those Roma who now speak Hungarian rather than Romani.
  • Vlach-Roma call Hungarian Roma Romungri.

Like Servika Roma, Hungarian Roma have also been settled for at least three centuries. They reside in their pera - settlements in villages and towns although today many families live among Gadže.

Numbers: wherever and however the authorities took the census of Roma, they never differentiated between individual sub-ethnic groups. They considered only those who were settled and those who travelled. A listing from 1893 affirmed that, in Slovakia, there lived 36,231 "Gypsies", 35,623 of whom were settled. The great majority of them belonged to the Roma group Servika. Looking into old listings, and learning of how many were Hungarian Roma is still an unfulfilled task for historians.

Most Hungarian Roma made their living from music. Their traditional profession was music; they became famous all over the world with their music. They used to play for the Hungarian nobility who also ruled Slovakia because, until 1918, Slovakia was under Hungarian rule . Other Hungarian Roma were blacksmiths . As among Servika Roma, some families lived as basket makers and broom makers. Since the land in southern Slovakia is fertile and farmers grow melons, pumpkins, paprikas and tomatoes, some Roma families entered the vegetable business: They went from village to village and bought vegetables from prosti (farmers). They then delivered the vegetables to towns where they sold them. Many became rich from this business. Of course, among Hungarian Roma – just as among other Roma and non-Roma – there were poor settlements, poor families, rich settlements and rich families, but all nations have their poor and their rich. It may be said that the standard of living of Hungarian Roma is, on average, higher than that of other Roma.

In 1939, Hungary took over southern Slovakia. Hungary was allied with Nazi Germany. There were laws of war pertaining to Roma. Roma men were taken into the army like the others and sent to fight against the Russians on the eastern front. Until September 1944, the head of state, Admiral Miklós Horthy, left the Roma in peace. When, at the end of the war, the fascist Ferenc Szálasi and his Arrow Cross Party ("Nyilas") seized power, they began to send Roma to concentration camps . The first Roma rounded up in occupied Slovakia were from around Košice. (However, Servika Roma lived there – not Hungarian Roma.) Many of them died in Dachau. The fascists then began the roundup of Roma in other districts. Fortunately, the war ended before the fascists could finish perpetrating their atrocities.

After the war, Bohemia opened up to Hungarian Roma. The war and then communism loosened the traditional bonds between Roma and farmers. The Roma could no longer support their families with traditional professions. Therefore, many Hungarian Roma left for Bohemia to look for work and places to live, just as the Slovak Roma and the Vlach had done.

Among the Ungrika Roma there are outstanding personalities:

Musicians: Perhaps the most famous was the violinist and bandleader Cinka Panna (1711-1772) from Rožňava. Others are Ján Balog (1802-1876) and Pavol Rácz (1815-1885) and his whole clan. Their women, too, performed music. Even today, Ungrika Roma can be proud of their outstanding musicians. Let us mention at least two names: Rinaldo Oláh and Ján Berki-Mrenica.

Writers: Dezider Banga (1938), Hilda Pášová (1941).

Artists: Dezider Fertö (1921), Julius Lakatoš (1938), Ján Berky (1951), Ján Oláh-Širo (1959), Dušan Oláh (1960)

Politicians: Ján Cibula, MD (1932).

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