“Not only Roma. First of all, Greeks”

April 8 has been established as World Roma Day.

In Greece, the presence of the Roma counts over ten centuries.

In 2001, with a resolution of 46 member associations of the Panhellenic Federation of Greek Roma Associations, the self-identification of the Greek Roma was announced as follows:


“We Greek Gypsies declare unequivocally and, in every direction, that we are an inextricably linked part of the ubiquitous Hellenism.

Any other view, wherever expressed and/or emanating from, will not only find us at odds, but opposed also.

If ever, even hypothetically, a question arises regarding the elimination of one of the two constituent terms of our Identity, for which we are proud, that is:

a) “Greeks”,

b) “Gypsies”,

we declare unequivocally, unequivocally and unanimously, that we choose the elimination of the term “Gypsies” and the preservation of only the term “Greeks”.




Giorgos Dimitriou, has been a friend since 1997. He is a Roma and a mediator, who until recently participated in the mediator program of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He does not live in a Roma settlement, but he always talks about the problems of his community and tries to activate mechanisms that will provide solutions to these problems. As part of his efforts, he called me the day before yesterday. “On April 8, 1971 in London there was a festival for the Roma which was later established as World Roma Day” he told me and continued: “But we as Greek Roma have made our declaration in 2001 and identified ourselves as Greek Gypsies. With a cultural difference from the rest of the Greeks. A language that is native and spoken by all Roma populations worldwide, Romani and customs and traditions that have to do with birth, death, engagement, marriage, etc. But these also differ from place to place.

We are Greeks. Like the Pontic Greeks. The Thracian Greeks, etc. We respect the constitution; we have the right to elect and be elected. In the last 25 years there have been leaps and bounds in the arts and literature. We have lawyers, doctors, priests, police officers, journalists, teachers and we are active in Greek society as Greeks.”



Chronic problems, lack of trust

George talks about the problems faced by the Roma in Greece, due to the lack of trust that exists towards them and from them. “We have many problems which are timeless. Political will is needed from the state in order to provide a solution to them. Such as housing, education, health, employment. All these years, none of these problems is moving towards its solution, because there is no will, while there are funds from the European Union to bring the Roma to the level of the average European citizen. Something that doesn’t exist right now. Of course, there is also a large part of Greek Roma, who either do not cooperate or do not have the education to understand that things are changing globally and in Europe so that they should harmonize accordingly. On the one hand we have a state that has these sensitive groups on the sidelines and on the other, the Roma themselves have identified their lives with what the Greek state forced them to feel like all these years. To be on the sidelines. So that they cannot join the society. If one is cut off from the rest of society, one will not get education and its supplies. He will not have a house that meets the infrastructure to have a proper hygiene. Primary health or the possibility of vaccination programs, so that they are healthy for the rest of society.

There must be a program for legal jobs, so that the Roma do not violate laws, working without permits on purpose to support their families. One who has no education will not have a diploma to do the trade of a street vendor. If they had the education, they would have a diploma etc. If the education is not there, it makes certain things difficult in a family. Many times, we have reported these problems to the special secretariat that existed for the Roma, and to the secretariat later as it developed. No substantial interventions were made. Either because those who lived in the camps believed that they would be alienated as a Romani identity, or because the state’s penetration of them did not have the corresponding success and effectiveness. The biggest problem is the lack of trust which over the years has been cultivated by both sides. A relationship of trust was not cultivated.”




The mediator Giorgos Dimitriou


George is 53 years old. He has two daughters and two grandchildren. He was born in Dendropotamos, Thessaloniki and grew up in Athens, in Agia Varvara. For the last ten years he has been working as a mediator and for the last 30 years he has been an active member of the Roma community. As a member and president of a primary and tertiary body. The program he participated in the last few years had to do with school leakage. It started at EKPA University and continued in other universities. Among them was the Aristotele University of Thessaloniki.

“I went with a team of psychologist, social worker and teacher to the schools. Primary and high schools, which we took lists of children who systematically either did not go to school or had a reduced presence in these schools. We made a plan; we found the families and the children and try to support the families. To find out the reasons why this was happening to the children and the families. We were telling them the consequences and the implications. That is to say that the benefits will be cut, that the school is in contact with the police and the prosecutor’s office, because educations is mandatory in Greece. We were analyzing the social consequences that the family and the child will have if they do not know how to read and write and how bad this would be for their life in the future. We tried to get some children back to school and offered some extra learning instruction for the days and hours they have missed. We visited these families again and had a constant contact to see how they were developing. We did reports quarterly and over the year to see which children were able to finish the grade or return to it.

All this stems from the extreme poverty of some related to unemployment and the marginalization of parents. This also has an impact on children’s anti-social behavior in schools. We witnessed incidents. The conclusion is that if the local community leans on these people, school dropout will be reduced. We saw that there was a desire for cooperation from parents and children. They were happy and wanted the program to continue. Finishing the program in October, we were moved when we saw children and families looking for us and asking for us. Stopping this program will start school dropout from children again. What I know is that there is hope that from the new school year it will start again. It should not be stopped because of the specificity and multiple problems faced by Roma families. It is a program that encourages families and children. It helps them and shows them in practice, that a portion of state functionaries and the central state itself is interested in them. That helps their efforts to finish high school.  That it helps them either to start, encouraged by the presence of various people such as teacher’s social workers and psychologists”.




“I was a violent child too”


George, not only finished school, but was also president of the board of the students, in the high school where he studied. “In first grade, I attend the elementary school of Menemeni.  Then we moved to Athens because of my father’s work. He was a peddler. I went to the 11th primary school in Aigaleo, the 4th primary school in Agia Varvara, the 7th primary school in Agia Varvara, the 1st high school in Agia Varvara and the 2nd year in EPAL Aigaleo” he says and continues: “We left Thessaloniki in 1978. In the school where I went, there was no Roma community nearby.  I finished the elementary and middle school and stopped in last year of the high school due to a major health issue my father was dealing with. I got supplies and knowledge that made me a better person. When I left from here, I was a violent child and in general my presence with the other children was particularly problematic. In Athens, what the school managed to do for me was to join the way the school operated by actively participating. The same happened in middle school and high school. In fact, it gave me the opportunity to be recognized and to be the president of the 15 students board both in the middle school and the high school having the acceptance of 17 classes. All this made me see things differently in terms of learning and education. I passed this on to my children. Both of my daughters have nursing degrees and were given the opportunity whenever they wanted to find a job that was easy for them.

I had the opportunity to give my children the impetus to learn. On the contrary, my parents did not because they were both illiterate. Nevertheless, they helped me and supported me and never stopped me or put obstacles in my way to stop school.”


With Giorgos Dimitriou, Roma mediator, passing around the Dendropotamos of Thessaloniki, we arrived at the Roma settlement, Agia Sofia. There we met Vassilis Bafa. Mediator since 2016 and resident of the settlement. Father of three children. That is what we have recorded in Agia Sofia Roma settlement.

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