Vajda

vajda (vojvoda), Slav., originally non-Romani noblemen in Transylvania and Hungary who were to safeguard Gypsies on their estates.

At the same time, they collected from the Roma taxes that were often very high and for their own profit. The post of vajda was introduced in the middle of the sixteenth century by Jan Zápolský. A century later, Gypsies were mentioned in these posts in historical documents. On one estate, Roma fell under the jurisdiction of their own vajda, who was confirmed, (or even proposed), by the particular nobleman. [ Arrival in Europe] The vajda was responsible for the behaviour of his people and even had the legal right to deal with the smallest misdemeanors. The vajda obtained residence permits for his group of Roma to live in certain administrative districts or on estates where they were obligated to perform necessary services and work for the surrounding inhabitants. The overwhelming majority agreed to work as blacksmiths and musicians (E. Horváthová, 1964).

In many settlements in Slovakia the vajda still functions as a mediator between Roma and non-Roma. Vajdas' legal rights are limited. Apart from the term vajda, the Romani word čhibalo is used. The Slovak word is "starostas". While čhibalo/starostas can be used for non-Romani representatives, vajda refers only to a Romani representative.

During World War II, Gypsy vajdas were appointed by non-Romani commisars (mayors) and commanders in the fascistic "Hlinka Guards". They were forced to carry out various anti-Romani measures.The fascist regime thus put them in difficult social situations and against their own people, and many were led into terrible psychic quandaries. In some settlements a Romani vajda (čhibalo) would have to determine which of the men would go to work camps for "re-education".

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