“The word makes me think of dark-skinned women in long, beaded skirts and bangles playing tambourines around a fan. I know that’s a stereotype, but that’s all I know about Gypsies.”

The Riddle of Prague, Chapter Four, Hana Silna

gypsy campfire dance

When I first moved to Prague in 1991, that’s all I knew about Gypsies, too.

“The politically correct designation is Roma. But the Gypsy is no epithet. It’s a holdover from when the Romani first came to Europe and people thought they were Egyptians.”

The Riddle of Prague, Chapter Four, Michal

The Roma have faced discrimination for centuries in Europe. During the Communist occupation of parts of Central and Eastern Europe, the Roma were supposed to become more assimilated into their communities. When the Iron Curtain fell, there was a backlash of hate crimes perpetrated against the Gypsies.

“Let me tell you about the new freedoms in this country, Hana.” Michal hits his fist on the table. “Freedom to think means freedom to hate.”

The Riddle of Prague, Chapter Five

In the 1990s, one town wanted to build a wall to separate the Roma population from the majority population. This video produced by the Open Society Foundation illustrates the history of the Roma in Europe.

For more information on the Gypsies, you can visit their website at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *