Widowhood / Orphanhood


When Roma children are very young, they are taught to be independent and responsible for their family. Therefore, if one of the parents dies, the bigger children are capable, to a certain extent, of taking care of the household and of their younger brothers and sisters. Usually, though, a widower looks for a new wife. The first women he considers, mainly because of the children, are unmarried sisters of the deceased. It is assumed that a wife's sister will treat the children as if they were her own.

K'amende sas jekh Rom a ov iľa andal jekh familija romňa. Andre kodi familija sas štar čhaja. Koda Rom iľa nekphuredera. Dživlas laha, sas les duj čhave. Sar uľiľa koda dujto, paš o porodos muľa kodi romňi. Trine štare čhonenca peske iľa lakera ternedera pheňa. Sas les tiš čhave laha. Paľi iľa la tritona, tiš joj leske muľa a štvartona, nekterneder sar iľa, ta kadi les predžiďiľa, le romes. Sa kole čhaven, sa ľikerde avri.(J.K. 1981)
"A Rom in our family married a woman from another family. In that family there were four daughters. This man married the oldest one. He lived with her and they had two children. His wife died during the birth of the second child. Three or four months later, he married her younger sister. And he had children with her. Then he married a third one and she also died. Later, when he married the fourth sister, the youngest, she outlived him. She brought up all of the children." (J.K. 1981)

Should a deceased wife not have unmarried sisters, or if such a union did not come into consideration, the family looked elsewhere for a wife for the widower. And this time, the family had the main say in the choice of a wife. A widowed mother was better able to take care of her children than a widower. Therefore there was no rule that she remarry.

Te hin phureder, kaj lake kavka pal o saranda berš, ta malokana imar džal romeste. Sar terneder, ta mek peske šaj džal, aľe imar malosavi, bo pes daral pal o čhave - cudzo dad, cudzo dad pes phenel. (J.K.)
"If she is older, if she is over forty, then she is unlikely to remarry. If she is younger, she can still get married, but hardly any woman will do it because she is worried about her children – a stepfather is a stepfather, as they say." (J.K.)

If a widow wanted to remarry, her family and sometimes her oldest son would have to agree.

Sar muľa amenge o dad, e daj na džalas pal aver rom. Ačhľa korkori. Joj daralas, hoj o čhavo te na la marel. Hjaba hoj sas mek ciknoro - leske sas akor eňa berš - mek na domukľa la dake, kaj te džal romeske. E daj šunelas igen. (A. Ferencová 1995)
"When our father died, our mother did not get married. She remained alone. She was afraid her son would kill her. Even when he was still little – he was nine – he didn't allow his mother to get married. Mother was very careful to obey him." (A. Ferencová 1995)


In case both parents died, the grandmother had custody of the children. A Roma family would never put orphaned children into an institution on their own accord. When that sometimes happened, it was on the initiative of social workers or the schools. If the grandmother was no longer alive, other members of the family were required to look after the children. Usually that task fell to the sisters of the deceased, but sometimes other members of the family had to take the children. Often older brothers and sisters looked after the younger siblings, especially if the former had their own families.

Text based on

Žlnayová, Edita (1996) Postavení a úloha ženy-matky a muža-otca v rómskej rodine (Position and role of the wife-mother and husband-father in the Romani family). In: Romano džaniben 96/1-2.
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