Chapter 10 Latvia

In: Roma Voices in History
Open Access

10.1 The Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’

10.1.1 The Registration of the Society

[Zīmogs] Protokols.

1932. g. marta mēn. 8. d., Rīgas apgabaltiesas reģistrācijas nodaļas sēdē šinī lietā neviens nebija ieradies. Sekretārs: [Paraksts].

Akts Nr. 81. 1932 g.

Rezolūcija. 7. martā 1932. g.

Latvijas Suverēnās Tautas vārdā Rīgas apgabaltiesas reģistrācijas nodaļa, sekojošā sastāvā:

Priekšsēdētājs: L. Bruemmers, Tiesneši: B. Stagaers, A. Jeremics, Ar sekretāru A. Ozoliņu.

Izklausījusi lūgumu reģistrēt “Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas beedrību “Čigānu draugs”, – un ņemot vērā, ka iesniegtie statuti saskan ar likumu, pamatojoties uz lik. par biedr., savien. un polit. organiz. 11. p., NOSPRIEDA:

Reģistrēt Čigānu kulturas veicinašanas biedrību ‘Čigānu draugs’, saskaņā ar tā paša likuma 17. pantu.

… [trīs paraksti].

[Stamp] Protocol.

No one was present at the meeting in this case on March 8, 1932, at the Registration Department of Riga District Court. Secretary: … [Signature].

Act No. 81. 1932.

Resolution. March 7, 1932.

In the name of Latvia’s Sovereign Nation Registration Department of Riga District Court, presented by:

Chairman: L. Bruemmers, Judges: B. Stagaers, A. Jeremics, Secretary: A. Ozoliņš.

After hearing the request to register the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ and given the fact that the submitted statutes match the law, based on Article 11 of the law of societies, unions and political organisations, it is DECIDED:

To register the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’, according to Article 17 of the same law.

… [Three signatures].

Source: LNA LVVA, 1536-14-69-9.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

The document presented is a resolution of the Riga District Court to register “Čigānu draugs” (Friend of Gypsies), a Gypsy Culture Promotion Society, following its request and verifying that its statutes correspond to the law. The resolution is dated March 7, 1932, but the protocol is dated March 8, 1932, which is hereafter the accepted date of founding to which the later documents refer. The Society is the first Latvian Roma Organisation.

Ieva Tihovska

10.1.2 A Meeting of the Members of the Society

Rīgas prefektūras priekšnieka Kungam.

Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrības ‘Čigānu Draugs’.

Rīgā, Pleskodāles ielā, Nr. 8.

[Zīmogs] Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība ‘Čigānu draugs’.

4. augustā 1932. g. No. 1. Rīgas, Jūrmalā.

Ziņojums

Pagodinājos darīt Jums zināmu, ka 21. augustā 1932. g. notika pilna biedru sapulce, Rīgas Jūrm. Dubultos, Kurmāja, pie kam Jums paziņoju valdes sastāvu:

1) Jānis Leimanis, biedrības priekšsēdētais iedzīv. Rīgā Zasulaukā Pleskodāles ielā, Nr. 8.

2) Voldemars Paladž, priekšsēdētāja biedris, iedzīv. Saldū Skrundas ielā, Nr. 31.

3) Alberts Gindra, sekretars, iedzīv. Saldū, Upes iela Nr. 3.

4) Osvalds Čuka, kasieris, iedzīv. Saldū, Skrundas ielā, Nr. 15.

5) Līna Pelcis, mantzine un biedru zine, iedzīv. Caur Ozolpili Smārde, Vecsprostos.

Pie kam vel klāt paziņoju Jums revīzijas komisiju:

1) Kārlis Leimanis, revīzijas komisijas priekšsēdētais, iedzīv. Rīgā Pleskodales iela Nr. 8

2) Adams Burkevič, sekretaris, iedzīv. Rīgā Aniņmuižas ielā Nr. 30. dz. 2.

3) Ernests Jezdovskis, priekšsēdētāja biedris, iedzīv. Aniņmuižas ielā, Nr. 30.

Šeit klāt pielieku augšminētos, 3, biedrības statūtu norakstu eksemplarus, kas apstiprināti Rīgas apgabaltiesas reģistracijas nodaļā, 8. martā, 1932. g. zem Nr. 81.

Priekšsēdētājs: … [paraksts] Jānis Leimanis.

[Zīmogs] Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība “Čigānu draugs”

To Chairman of Riga Prefecture.

From the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

Riga, Pleskodāles Street, No. 8.

[Stamp] Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

4 August 1932. No. 1. In Riga, Jurmala.

Report

I am honoured to inform you that a complete member meeting was held on August 21, 1932, at ‘Kurmaja’ Dubulti, in Jurmala. I also thereby inform about the board members:

1. Jānis Leimanis, Chairman of the society, living in Riga, Zasulauks, Pleskodāles Street, No. 8.

2. Voldemārs Paladž, assistant of the Chairman, living in Saldus, Skrundas Street, No. 31.

3. Alberts Gindra, secretary, living in Saldus, Upes Street, No. 3.

4. Osvalds Čuka, cashier, living in Saldus, Skrundas Street, No. 15.

5. Līna Pelcis, treasurer and membership manager, living in Smārde, Vecsprosti.

At the same time, I inform you about audit commission:

1. Kārlis Leimanis, Chairman of the audit, living in Riga, Pleskodāles Street, No. 8.

2. Adams Burkevič, secretary, living in Riga, Aniņmuižas Street No. 30, apt. 2.

3. Ernests Jezdovskis, Chairman assistant, living in Riga, Aniņmuižas Street, No. 30.

I enclose 3 copies of our society’s statutes, approved by the Registration Department of Riga District Court on March 8, 1932, No. 81.

Chairman: … [Signature] Jānis Leimanis.

[Stamp] Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

Source: LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-2.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

The document presents a Report to the prefect of Riga on the meeting of the members of the society Čigānu draugs on August 21, 1932. It contains a list of the board members and audit committee of the society and their places of residence. Four persons from the capital Riga as well as three persons from the town of Saldus (western Latvia) and one from a rural area near Smārde (Western Latvia) are mentioned as the representatives of the society. This document correlates to the next one, which shows the highly changing membership of the board over the next few years.

Ieva Tihovska

10.1.3 A Report to the Prefect of Riga on the Meeting of the Members of the Society

Rīgas pilsētas prefekta kungam.

Čigānu kulturas veicināšanas b-bas ‘Čigānu draugs’.

Valdes sēdeklis, Zīles ielā Nr. 1-1, Rīgā.

[Zīmogs] Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība “Čigānu draugs” 20. martā 1936. g. Nr. … Rīgā.

Ziņojums

Ar šo pagodinās Jums ziņot, ka 1. martā 1936. g. ar Jūsu atļauju notika pilna biedru sapulce, Zīles ielā 1 dz.1. Rīgā, pie kā Jums ziņo valdes sastāvu:

1. Jānis Leimanis biedrības priekšsēdētājs, dzīvo Zīles ielā Nr. 1-1, Rīgā.

2. Kārlis Leimanis b-bas sekretārs, dzīvo Zīles ielā Nr. 1-1 Rīgā.

3. Ernests Jezdovskijs b-bas priekšēdētāja biedrs, dzīvo Mežmaļu ielā Nr. 1 Rīgā.

4. Mārtiņš Martinovs Johans b-bas kasieris, dzīvo Čuguna ielā Nr. 27 Rīgā,

5. Elizabete Leimanis b-bas mantzinis, dzīvo dzīvo Zīles ielā Nr. 1-1 Rīgā.

Pie kā vēl ziņo b-bas Revizijas komisiju:

1. [Juris] Georgs Leimanis priekšsēdētājs, dzīvo Zīles ielā Nr. 1-1 Rīgā

2. Indriķ Krauklis, priekšsēdētāja biedrs dzīvo Zīles ielā Nr. 1-1 Rīgā

3. Anna Jezdovskijs sekretāre, dzīvo Mežmales ielā Nr. 1. Rīgā.

Priekšsēdētājs: … [paraksts] J. Leimanis.

Sekretārs: … [paraksts] K. Leimanis.

[Zīmogs] Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība ‘Čigānu draugs’.

To Mr. Prefect of Riga

From the Board of the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

Zīles Street 1-1, Riga.

[Stamp] Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

March 20, 1936. In Riga.

Report

We are honoured to inform you that with your permission on March 1, 1936, we had a general members’ meeting in Riga, Zīles Street 1, Apt. 1. The board members are:

1. Jānis Leimanis chairman, living at Zīles Street 1, Apt. 1, Riga.

2. Kārlis Leimanis secretary, living at Zīles Street 1, Apt. 1, Riga.

3. Ernests Jezdovskojs vice-chairman, living at Mežmaļu Street 1, Riga.

4. Mārtiņš Martinovs Johans cashier, living at Čuguna Street 27, Riga.

5. Elizabete Leimanis treasurer, living at Zīles Street 1-1, Riga.

Also, informing about audit commission:

1. Juris Georgs Leimanis chairman, living at Zīles Street 1-1, Riga.

2. Indriķ Krauklis, vice-chairman, living at Zīles Street 1-1, Riga.

3. Anna Jezdovskijs secretary, living at Mežmales Street 1, Riga.

Chairman: … [Signature] J. Leimanis.

Secretary: … [Signature] K. Leimanis.

[Stamp] Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

Source: LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-5.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

The above document contains a list of the board members and audit committee of the society and their places of residence. The document shows that the board and audit committee has changed considerably since 1932, which indicates a certain instability within the society. Only three persons, including the head Jānis Leimanis and his son Kārlis, have remained on the board. Five new members are mentioned in the document, including Leimanis’ wife and other son Georgs, so in this year half of the board consists of Leimanis’ family members. All the members are from the capital Riga; no other regions are represented, unlike in the previous document. Still, a newspaper article indicates that Leimanis has organised meetings with Roma in all the regions of Latvia (Ventas Balss, 1937, p. 3; Jaunākās Ziņas, 1937, p. 18).

Ieva Tihovska

10.1.4 The Request to Dissolve the Society

[Zīmogs] Iekšlietu ministrijas preses nodaļā Saņemts 16. mai 1936.

Ienākošo rakstu Nr. 8011.

Iekšlietu ministrijai.

Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrības ‘Čigānu draugs’.

Ventspils nodaļas biedru.

Lūgums

1936. gadā Ventspilī tika nodibināta Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrības “Čigānu draugs” Ventspils nodaļa, kurā mēs apakšā parakstījušies Latvijas pilsoņi iestājāmies par biedriem. Par biedrības priekšnieku tika ievēlēts čigāns Jānis Leimanis, dzīv. Rīgā, Zīles ielā 1. dz. 1.

Minētais Leimanis vairākkārtīgi Ventspilī sapulcēs kā arī personīgās sarunās ar biedriem ir uzstājies ar runām, kurās solījis mums gādāt zemi, ko it kā dabūšot no Valdības izdalīšanai čigāniem, un prasījis no mums ziedot šim nolūkam naudu un pūles. Šī gada marta mēnesī viņš mums paskaidroja, ka zemes piešķiršanas jautājums esot jēmis mums labvēlīgu virzienu. Piešķirtā zeme atrodoties Ventspils stacijas tuvumā, 60 ha kopplatībā. Bet neskatoties uz ziedotu naudu un laiku Leimanis nekā nav panācis un izrādījās arī, ka viņa nozīmētais zemes gabals atrodas prīvātās rokās un par viņa izdalīšanu čigāniem nevar būt ne runas.

Tā biedrības priekšnieks Jānis Leimanis, izmantodams mūsu nezināšanu un uzticību mūs ir mānījis, prasīdams no mums veltīt nesasniedzamam mērķim naudu un pūles. Bez tā Leimanis mūs uzaicināja pūlēties, lai panāktu atsevišķu skolu nodibināšanu čigāniem un grāmatu izdošanu čigāņu valodā.

Skatoties uz visu aprādīto nevēlamies, ka Leimanis arī turpmāk uzstājas Valdību iestāžu un atklātības priekšā kā Čigānu pārstāvis, jo esam tanīs uzskatos un līdz mums arī visi Ventspils čigāni, ka

1. Čigānu biedrība mums Latvijā nav vajadzīga, jo esam kā loiāli pilsoņi apmierināti ar Latvijas Valdības gādību, kas gādā vienlīdzīgi visiem pilsoņiem.

2. Savus bērnus labprāt sūtām latviešu skolās, kur tie tiek izaudzināti par krietniem cilvēkiem un pilsoņiem.

3. Grāmatas čigānu valodā mums nav vajadzīgas, jo protam visi Latviešu valodu un Leimaņa izdotās grāmatas mums nav vajadzīgas un nav saprotamas.

4. Zemi mēs labprāt vēlētos, lai varētu izbeigt nepastāvīgo dzīves veidu un nodrošināt sev eksistenci, bet līdz ar to esam pārliecināti, ka pati Valdība to ātrāk mums gādās nekā Leimanis.

Jemot vērā augšā minēto mēs apakšā parakstījušies Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrības “Čigānu draugs” Ventspils nodaļas biedri pagodināmies lūgt laipni Iekšlietu Ministriju ievadīt biedrības “Čigānu draugs” likvidāciju.

Ventspili. 1931. g. 12. martā.

[Zīmogs] Klāt zīmogmarkas par Ls 0.80.

[Paraksti] … I. Krauč, J. Gindra, V. Jezdovskis, L. Putraševic, Stepka, N. Čīčis, J. Stepans, A. Paučs, F. Stepans, A. Kleins. Ž. Kleins, J. Didžus, M. Stepans, [u. c.].

[Stamp] Received at the Press Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on May 16, 1936.

Incoming document No. 8011.

To Ministry of Internal Affairs.

From Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

Ventspils Department.

Request

The Ventspils Department of the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ was established in 1936 and we, the citizens of Latvia signed below, joined the society. Jānis Leimanis, living in Riga, Zīles iela 1-1, was elected as the chairman of the society.

The above-mentioned Leimanis during his speeches in Ventspils and in personal conversations has promised to obtain land for us. Supposedly the government would give land for distribution, and he has asked to support the cause with our funds and efforts. In March this year, he informed that the land cause has taken a promising direction. There are 60 ha of land available near the station of Ventspils. Despite our efforts and expenses, we have not got any land, and the mentioned piece of land is private property and there is no way it could be given to Gypsies.

This is how the chairman Jānis Leimanis has misused our trust and ignorance, how he has cheated us while asking for our money and effort towards an unattainable goal. Besides that, Leimanis also encouraged us to try to establish separate Gypsy schools and to publish books in the Gypsy language.

For the above-mentioned reasons, we don’t want Leimanis to represent the Gypsy community in public and in government decisions, because we and the rest of the Gypsies in Ventspils share these thoughts:

1. We don’t need a Gypsy society because we are loyal to the government of Latvia that takes equal care of its citizens.

2. We gladly send our children to Latvian schools where they are educated as honest humans and citizens.

3. We don’t need books in Gypsy language because we all understand Latvian and we don’t need or understand the books published by Leimanis.

4. We would like to obtain land so that we can have a more stable livelihood and to better support our existence, but we consider that the government would provide that for us faster than Leimanis could.

Bearing in mind the above mentioned we – the members of Ventspils Department of the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ signed below – ask the Ministry of Internal Affairs to start the liquidation of the Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

In Ventspils, March 12, 1936.

[Stamp]. Stamp postage value Ls 0. 80 included.

[Signatures] … I. Krauč, J. Gindra, V. Jezdovskis, L. Putraševic, Stepka, N. Čīčis, J. Stepans, A. Paučs, F. Stepans, A. Kleins. Ž. Kleins, J. Didžus, M. Stepans, [etc.].

Source: LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-15; LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-16.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

The request of the members of the Ventspils Chapter of Čigānu draugs, dated March 12, 1936, to dissolve the Society. This comes soon after the chapter was founded. The request is addressed to the Ministry of the Interior and expresses a lack of confidence in the head of the society Jānis Leimanis and his activities: efforts to grant land ownership to Roma, communication with state institutions and the media, translation of literature into Romani language, a call to establish Gypsy schools. Newspapers indicate that, despite the expressed distrust in Leimanis’ activities and leadership, he continued to organise meetings with Ventspils Gypsies in subsequent years with the aim to employ local Roma and encourage them to become a proper part of civic society (Ventas Balss, 1939, p. 1). Several other criticisms and opposition to Leimanis’ leadership were published in the media, for example, the newspaper of the Latvian Communist Party Cīņa (The Struggle) wrote in 1940 that Leimanis wanted to gain at the expense of his brethren and live like a lord (Cīņa, 1940, p. 6). Even today I have met Roma who do not support what Leimanis did in the past. There could perhaps be specific emic reasons for such views.

This document dates to the time of authoritarian rule in Latvia, which was declared on May 15, 1934. A turn towards an ideology of mono-ethnic nationalism resulted in, among other things, greater control over the organisations of ethnic minorities; for example, a significant decrease in the number of ethnic minority schools was observable (Dribins, 2004, p. 59, see also Sibīrijas Cīņa, 1934, p. 3); however, this issue is awaiting more in-depth research. The Ventspils Gypsies statements contain some rhetoric of the new ideology of the state, for example, that a Gypsy Society is not needed because Roma are loyal to the state, which guarantees equal rights for everyone, and that Latvian written language and schooling is preferable over Romani language.

Ieva Tihovska

10.1.5 A Report of the Prefecture of Riga on the State and Activities of the Society

Dienesta ziņas

Čigānu kulturas vecināšanas b-ba “Čigānu draugs”, kuras sēdeklis atrodās Rīgā, Zīles ielā Nr. 1, reģistrēta Rīgas Apgabaltiesā un darbojās no 8.III.1932. g. Biedrībā sastāv 83 biedri un biedri veicinātāji. No b-bas dibināšanas līdz šim noturētas 2. pilnas biedru sapulces 1932. g. un 1936. g. Bez tam, valdes sēdes: 1932. g. noturetas 7 reizes, 1933. g. 3 reizes, 1934. g. 1. reizi, 1935. g. 3. reizes un 1936. g. 4. reizes. Sarīkoti koncerti: 29. IV 33. g. Konzervatorijā, 20. V 33. g. Igauņu b-bas zālē, 3.VI.[19]33. g. Slokā, 10. un 11.VI.[19]33. g. Jelgavā, 6.VIII.[19]33. g. Brīvdabas muzejā un 20.VIII.[19]33. g. Svētes parkā.

Koncerti noslēgušies ar deficitu. Biedribā netiek vesta atsevišķa kases grāmata, kādēļ arī nav redzams vai b-bas kasē atrodas kādas naudas zumas vai nē. Sarīkoto koncertu norēķini nav apstiprināti no pilnas biedru sapulces un par sarīkotiem koncertiem nekas nav minēts valdes sēžu protokolos. Statutos paredzēts, ka pilnas biedru sapulces jāsasauc vienreiz gadā, kas nav ievērots. Tāpat paredzēts pilnā biedru sapulcē likt priekšā apstiprināšanai gada budžetu, arī tas nav darits, bet valde saimniekojusi pilnigi bez budžeta. Nekādi norēķini par biedru naudām un citiem ienākumiem un izdevumiem oficiāli nav vesti, aprobežojoties vienīgi ar dažām atzīmēm biedrības pr-ka personigā grāmatā. Pēc 1933. g. biedriba kulturēlā ziņā nekādu aktivitati nav izrādijuse, izjemot noturētas valdes sēdes un pēdējo pilno biedru sapulci. Cik novērots, viena daļa b-bas biedru ar b-bas darbibu nav apmierināti. Kulturas nešanai čigānu starpā, biedrībai līdz šim ir bijuši mazi panākumi.

Biedrības valdes priekšsēdis ir Jānis Leimanis, locekļi: Ernests Jezdovskis, Johans Martinovs, Kārlis Leimanis un Elizabete Leimanis. Revīzijas komisijā Juris Leimanis un Fricis Jezdovskis. Valdes locekļi: Kārlis Leimanis ir valdes priekšsēža Jāņa Leimaņa dēls un Elizabete Leimanis – sieva. Tāpat revizijas komisijas loceklis Juris Leimanis ir Jāņa Leimaņa dēls. Pie šāda valdes locekļu un revizijas komisijas sastāva nav iedomājama b-bas kārtiga darbiba un objektivitate. Spriežot pēc pēdejo gadu darbibas, b-bas ‘Čigānu draugs’ pastāvēšanai ari uz priekšu nav nekādas nozīmes, jo tā redzamu aktivitati čigānu starpā, kulturas veicināšanas ziņā, nav ienesusi. Pretvalstiska darbiba kā no atsevišķiem biedriem, tā ari pašas biedrības nav novērota.

12. aug. 1936. g.

[Zīmogs]. Rīgas prokuratūras XII iec. uzraugs … [paraksts].

Official Memo

The Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’, registered and in operation since March 8, 1932, is located at Zīles Street No. 1 in Riga and has 83 members and supporters. Since its formation, there have been two general meetings, in 1932 and 1936. Meanwhile, there have been multiple board meetings: 7 meetings in 1932, 3 meetings in 1933, 1 meeting in 1934, 3 meetings in 1935 and 4 meetings in 1936. There have been organised concerts on April 19, 1933, at the music conservatory, on May 20, 1933, at the hall of the Estonian Society, on June 3, 1933, in Sloka, on June 10 and 11, 1933, in Jelgava, on August 6, 1933, at the Open-Air Museum, and on August 20, 1933, in the park of Svēte.

Concerts have ended with a deficit. There was no separate cash journal within the society, as a result it is not clear whether the society has any money left. The organisational expenses have not been approved by the general meeting, and the concerts are not mentioned in the board meeting protocols. The statutes of the society declare that general meetings are to be held once a year, but this has not been done. Similarly, the yearly budget should be presented and approved at the general meeting, but this has not been done, and the board has operated without a budget. There are no official records of membership fees and other income or expenses, only a few remarks are found in the personal notes of the chairman.

There has not been any cultural activity since 1933, apart from board meetings and the last general meeting. It has been observed that a portion of the members are not satisfied with the functioning of the society. The society has not been successful in the promotion of the culture within the Gypsy community.

The chairman is Jānis Leimanis, Board Members are Ernests Jezdovskis, Johans Martinovs, Kārlis Leimanis and Elizabete Leimanis. The audit commission consists of Juris Leimanis and Fricis Jezdovskis. Board member Kārlis Leimanis is the son of the chairman Jānis Leimanis, and Elizabete Leimane is his wife. Juris Leimanis from the audit commission is the son of Jānis Leimanis. It is impossible to operate properly and objectively with such a make-up of the board and audit commission. Moreover, judging by the operations over the last few years, there is no sense for the existence of the society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ as they have not successfully promoted culture among the Gypsies. Anti-government activities have not been observed within the society or among its members.

August 12, 1936.

[Stamp]. Riga Office of the Prosecutor … [Signature].

Source: LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-10; LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-11.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

Report of the prefecture of Riga on the state and activities of the society, dated August 12, 1936. Informs that the society has 83 members, has held 20 meetings since 1932 and organised seven concerts in 1933. The report contains a critique on the monetary management of the society, its low level of activity after 1933 and the fact that the board contains several close relatives of Jānis Leimanis. The report concludes that, although it does not seem that the society has taken any anti-government action, there is no need for its existence and it can be dissolved.

Ieva Tihovska

10.1.6 The Order of the Ministry of the Interior to Dissolve the Society

1475. lēmums.

1937. g. 8. janvārī, saskaņā ar papildinājumu likumā par biedrību, savienību, polītisku organizāciju slēgšanas, likvidācijas un reģistrēšanas kārtību izņēmuma stāvokļa laikā (Vald. Vēstn. 1934. g. 163. num.), uzdodu likvidēties čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrībai “Čigānu draugs”.

Biedrība jālikvidē biedrības valdei 3 mēnešu laikā pēc šā lēmuma izsludināšanas “Valdības Vēstnesī”.

[Paraksts] Iekšlietu ministra b.

[Paraksts] Administratīvā departamenta direktors.

“V.V.”, Polit. pārv., Rīgas apg. tiesai, Rīgas pref. 2 noraksti.

Decision No. 1475.

On 8 January 1937, in accordance with the addendum to the law on the registration, termination and liquidation of societies, unions and political organisations during exceptional circumstances (Official publisher Valdības Vēstnesis, No. 163, 1934), I order the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ to liquidate itself.

The society’s board must liquidate the society within 3 months since the announcement of this decision in the official publisher Valdības Vēstnesis [1].

… [Signature] Minister of internal Affairs.

… [Signature] Director of the Administrative Department.

Valdības Vēstnesis, Political administration, Riga District court, Riga prefecture, 2 duplicates [2].

Notes

1.Valdības Vēstnesis (Government Herald) was the official publication of the Latvian government and its organs in which new laws, orders, regulations and other official documents were published.

2. The document is an official Order of the Ministry of the Interior, dated January 8, 1937, duly signed by respective officers.

Source: LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-7.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

10.1.7 The Request to the Minister of the Interior Asking that the Society not be Dissolved

[Zīmogs] Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība “Čigānu Draugs”, 19. februārī 1937. g. No. 18, Rīga.

[Zīmogs] Iekšlietu ministrijas Preses un biedrību nodaļā saņemts, 19. feb. 1937.

Ienākušo rakstu Nr. 2379.

Iekšlietu ministra kungam.

Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība “Čigānu Draugs”.

Līdaku iela Nr. 3, dz. 4., Rīgā.

Lūgums

Augsti god. Ministra kungs Jūs ļoti lūdz atcelt Čig. Kult. Veic. b-bas “Čigānu Draugs” likvidāciju, jo kultūras darbs ir mūsu neapzinīgai un tumšai tautai gaismas stars, kas pēc zinama laika parādīs savu neaprobežojamu vērtību.

Čigānu kult. veic. b-ba “Čigānu Draugs” ir reģistrēta Rīgas Apgabaltiesā reģistrācijas nodaļā 1932. g. 8. martā, Nr. 81.

1475 lēmumā uzdots čig. kult. veic. b-bai “Čigānu Draugs” 3 mēnešu laikā likvidēties sākot ar 8. janvāri š. g.

Augš minētai b-bai ir sava valde un revīzijas komisija. Valdei ir 5 locekļi: priekšsēdētājs, sekretāris, kasieris, priekšsēdētāja biedris un mantzinis. Revīzijas komisijā 2 locekļi: priekšsēdētājs un sekretārs. Biedrībā ir 35 biedru.

Ļoti Jūs lūdz augsti god. Ministra kungs, augšminēto ņemt vērā un nogriezt no mums nāves ēnu, kas varētu iznīcināt mūsu gaismas staru, t. i. Čig. kult. veic. b-bu “Čigānu Draugs”.

Paliekam cerībā.

Priekšsēdētājs: … [paraksts] J. Leimanis.

Sekretārs … [paraksts] K. Leimanis.

[Zīmogs] Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība “Čigānu draugs”.

[Stamp] Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’, 19 February 1937, No. 18, Riga.

[Stamp] Received at the Press and Society Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on February 19, 1937.

Incoming document No. 2379.

To Minister of Internal Affairs.

From the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’, Līdaku Street 3, Apt. 4., Rīga.

Request

Dear Minister, we are asking to cancel the liquidation of the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ because cultural work is like a star of light for our ignorant and dark folk and it will show immense value and benefit after some time.

The Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ is registered in the Registration Department of Riga District Court on March 8, 1932, document No. 81.

The decision No. 1475 requires liquidating the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ within 3 months since 8 January of this year.

The above-mentioned society has a board and audit commission. The board has five members: chairman, secretary, cashier, vice chairman and treasurer. The revision commission has two members: chairman and secretary. The society has 35 members.

Dear Minister, we kindly ask to regard the above mentioned and keep us out of the shadow of death that would destroy our only hope of light – the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

Staying hopeful,

Chairman: … [Signature] J. Leimanis.

Secretary … [Signature] K. Leimanis.

[Stamp] Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

Source: LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-28.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

This document is a follow-up reaction to the Order of the Ministry of the Interior from January 8, 1937, to dissolve the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’. It presents a request of Jānis Leimanis and Kārlis Leimanis (on behalf of the society) to the Minister of the Interior asking that the society not be dissolved, dated 19 February 1937. In their request, the representatives of the society urged the government to not halt the cultural activity of the society, because it is “a ray of light for our ignorant and dark folk” that will eventually prove its unlimited value. The document contains information on the membership of the society, which has decreased since August 1936 (Document No. 1.5) by more than half (to 35 members).

Ieva Tihovska

10.1.8 Memo, Listing the Reasons for Dissolving the Society

Dienesta atzīme

Čigānu kultūras veicināšanas biedrība ‘Čigānu draugs’ likvidēta tāpēc, ka visas biedrības amatpersonas ir tuvi radinieki, grāmatas nav vestas un nav skaidrības par tās mantas stāvokli.

Rīgas prefektūra /1936. gada 14. augusta raksts 25295/ konstatējusi, ka biedrība nekādu aktivitāti kultūras veicināšanā neizrāda un ka tās pastāvēšana nav nepieciešama. Lūgums atjaunot biedrību būtu noraidāms.

1937 g. 15. martā.

Darbvedis … [paraksts].

[Atzīme ar roku un paraksts] Noraidīt, 15.III.[1937].

Service Remark

The Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ was liquidated because all officials of the society are close relatives, there is no book-keeping and there is no transparency of its property.

Riga Prefecture (Article No. 25295, August 14, 1936) has realised that the society is showing no efforts to promote the culture and there is no need for its existence. The request to renew the society should be dismissed.

March 15, 1937.

Clerk … [Signature].

[handwritten remark] Dismiss, March 15, 1937.

Source: LNA LVVA, 3724-1-3748-22.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

Memo, dated March 15, 1937, listing the reasons for dissolving the society: the board members are close relatives, the monetary management is unclear, the society does not participate in activities of culture promotion. There is no clear information regarding the exact date of the liquidation of the society. The fact that the society is fully liquidated is published in a governmental newspaper on April 10, 1941 (Beierbahs, 1941).

Ieva Tihovska

10.2 Jānis Leimanis

10.2.1 The Friend of the Latvian Gypsies

Друг латвийских цыган

Евангелие на цыганском языке – “Фараоново племя”

Цыганская дуэль – “Ракло” – Цыгане и футбол.

Мелким шрифтом напечатанная заметка. Новое культурно-просветительное общество – “Друг цыган”. Цыгане вольные птицы, кочевники, казалось бы, от сотворения мира – и культурно-просветительная работа, неразрывно связанная с мыслью о чем-то оседлом, постоянном? Странно.

Правление общества на Рижском взморье. Крохотный домик утопает в сугробах снега. Рядом Эдинбургская православная церковь: основатель общества “Друг цыган” Ян Лейман – церковный сторож. Типичный цыган, небольшого роста, с пышной вьющейся бородой. Говоря об основании общества, о цыганах, об их жизни, он воодушевляется, его светло-карие глаза горят светом подлинного энтузиазма.

– Я давно, очень давно об этом думаю. В первый раз мне довелось выступить в роли организатора цыган и защитника их интересов во время войны в 1915 году. Тогда их усиленно удаляли из района военных действий – считалось, что вместе с кочевниками-цыганами могли передвигаться шпионы. Их самих почти обвиняли в шпионаже. Прошение, поданное нами губернатору, не имело успеха. “Для цыгана везде готов и стол, и дом”, – сказали нам.

– Это неверно. Правда, цыган кочует с места на место, но его кочевья ограничены известным районом. Он привязан к родине и верен ей больше, чем кто бы то ни было. И все же судьба загнала нас вместе с остальными беженцами далеко, в Ново-Николаевск. Русские гостеприимный народ. Нам было неплохо. Но все же родина тянула, и вот вернулись сюда.

– Я сам местный, уроженец Курляндии. Собственно, не могу назвать себя кочевником. Приблизительно с десятилетнего возраста живу оседлой жизнью. Тянуло к ученью, ходил в школу. К сожалению, не кончил, не позволили обстоятельства. Читал, старался пополнить образование, узнать как можно больше о судьбе своего народа. Вернувшись на родину, взялся за большую работу – перевел на цыганский язык Отче наш, Верую, еще несколько молитв и – главное – Евангелие от Иоанна. Было трудно. Цыганский язык беден. Не хватало слов. Я работал над этим 5 лет. Мою работу послали Британскому обществу, но вот до сих пор нет ответа.

Насколько я знаю, это – первая книга на цыганском языке. Большинство цыган вообще неграмотно. Где уж тут думать о своем алфавите, литературе. А жалко, очень жалко. Благодаря этому, происхождение цыган, их прошлое совершенно неизвестно.

– “Фараоново племя”? Да, нас так называют. Быть может, есть основание для этого. Кто знает? Я лично нахожу, что между цыганами и египтянами есть большое сходство, хотя бы в том, что для египтянина так же, как для цыгана, самое ценное была его лошадь и колесница. Лошадь – кормилица цыгана. Большинство цыган живут барышничеством и коновальством. Занимаются и другим. Есть кузнецы, медники. Женщины гадают. Просят милостыню. Трудно их осудить при их бедности.

К женщинам вообще у нас хорошо относятся. Куда лучше, чем у латышей. Только вот переступать им нельзя.

– Что переступать?

– А вот, если мужчина, сидит, вытянув ноги, не дай Бог, если через них женщина переступит. Мужчина тогда опоганится. Или еще через посуду, а того пуще через лошадиную сбрую. Никак нельзя. Не полагается.

Раньше цыгане лучше жили. На всех сверху вниз поглядывали. Цыган наденет что-нибудь новое и ходит козырем – сам чорт ему не брат. Настоящий цыган должен быт безстрашен, непобедим. На противника он никогда не нападает из-за угла. Ходить в драку с ножом, топором не цыганское дело. Это они уж у чужих переняли. Раньше единственным оружием цыгана был кнут. Кнутовище длинное, длиною в руку. Оба конца залиты свинцом. Хочет драться, вызывает противника по честному. Сам первый не бьет. Я в детстве еще видел такие бои. Цыгану, который умеет владеть кнутовищем, десять человек с ножами не страшны. Говорили мне, где-то подрался цыган с офицером. У цыгана кнут, у офицера сабля. Так что ж вы думаете. Цыган победил.

Есть среди цыган и оседлые. Вся беда в том, что цыгане, которым удается получить образование, выйти в люди, отрекаются от своего племени и не говорят даже, что они цыгане. Вот тут, в Опере, танцует цыганка. Кончила гимназию, говорят, была и в университете. А от нас совсем отстала. Да мало ли их.

Я бы хотел объединить цыган. Связать их в одно целое. Вывести из того положения, в котором они теперь находятся. Только трудно. Сами же цыгане часто этого не хотят, чуждаются культуры. Надо мной смеются: “Хочешь быть цыганским королем”. Но мне ведь самому ничего не нужно. Мне важно, чтобы они духовно развились.

Нашли бы общий язык. Ведь теперь даже его нет. Вот мы, например, с литовскими, польскими, русскими цыганами сговоримся. А встретились во время беженства с австрийскими, так те совсем иначе говорят. Есть только одно слово, одинаковое для цыган всего мира. Спросите “Конту Ром?” (Ты цыган?). Если ответит “Ром”, – значит свой.

– Разве никто, кроме цыган не говорит по цыгански?

– Нет. Этого почти не бывает. Цыгане неохотно смешиваются с иноплеменниками. У нас даже свои, цыганские, дети называются иначе, чем чужие: дочь – чай, сын – чаво, чавалы – ребята, а чужие: дочь – ракле, сын – ракло.

Совершенно неожиданно выплывает на свет Божий происхождение южно- русской клички мелких мошенников и хулиганов, которых там называли “ракло”.

– Смешанные браки у цыган редки. Цыганка знает – если ушла к чужому, для своих, она уже отрезанный ломоть. Другое дело, если русская или латышка выходит замуж за цыгана. Ей в таборе всегда готово место. Значит, стоит уважения, если не побоялась уйти за мужем. Вот, например, у одного из основателей нашего общества Освальда Чука – мать латышка. Он сам из оседлых цыган, столярничает.

Наши основатели горячо относятся к делу. Всего нас пятеро. Я, Освальд Чука, моя племянница Лина Ева Пельц, Вальдис Палач – у него страшная фамилия, но он сам милейший человек. Между прочим, он единственный из нас, занимающийся исконным цыганским делом: торгует лошадьми. Пятый член нашего общества – Матвей Гиндра. Он много посодействовал основанию общества. Быть может, организаторский талант у него в крови. Его дед был известным цыганским старшиной. Сам он – секретарь пожарного общества в Салдусе. К тому же еще и футболист.

– Значит, спортивная секция в вашем обществе обезпечена?

Ян Лейман усмехается.

– Как же. Он уже мечтает создать цыганскую футбольную команду. Доживем, даст Бог, и до этого. Только бы начать. Внушить самим же цыганам доверие к нам, а там уж дело пойдет. Вот, сыновья подрастут – помогут. У меня их двое. Старшему, Кириллу – 20 лет, он учится в ремесленной школе при жел[езно]-дор[ожном] управлении. А младшему, Георгию, – 15. Скоро окончит основную школу. Его отдам в учительскую семинарию. Пусть будет и у цыган свой учитель.

“Друг цыган” провожает меня до дверей. Густые снежные хлопья засыпают скромную сторожку – “колыбель цыганской культуры”. Быть может, из нее когда-нибудь выйдут новые цыгане, сменившие “бубна звон, гитары стоны” на учительскую кафедру и футбольный мяч.

Ки-Ра

[Фото]. Янъ Лейманъ, церковный сторожъ Эдинбургской православной церкви, основатель общества “Друг цыган”.

[Фото]. Ян Лейман, его жена Елизавета и младший сынъ Георгий.

The Friend of the Latvian Gypsies

The Gospel in the Gypsy Language – “Tribe of Pharaohs” [1]

Gypsy Duel – “Raklo” – Gypsies and Football

A note typed in small print. New cultural and educational society “Friend of Gypsies”.

Gypsies, who, it seems, have been free spirits and nomads from the beginning of the world, and cultural and educational work, which is always inextricably entwined with a thought about something settled and steady? That’s odd.

The society’s Board of Directors is located at the Riga’s seaside. A tiny house is buried in snow. Alongside the house is Edinburgh Orthodox Church, where the society’s founder Jānis Leimanis is a guard [2]. He is a typical Gypsy, a man of small stature with a thick curly beard. When he speaks about founding the society, about Gypsies and their lives, he seems enthusiastic, his light-brown eyes light up.

– I have been thinking about it for quite some time. I got the chance to serve as an organizer and advocate of the Gypsy people’s needs during the war in 1915 for the first time. They were driven from the land due to military action – it was believed that spies could travel with nomadic Gypsies. They themselves were often accused of espionage. We petitioned the governor, but without success. “Gypsies can live well wherever they go”, we were told.

– It is not true. Gypsies roam from place to place but their wanders are limited to a certain area. They are attached to their homeland and more faithful to it than anybody in the world.

And yet, by a whim of fate, we with the rest of the refugees have ended up far away, in Novo-Nikolaevsk. Russians are hospitable people. We were fine. But nevertheless, we missed our home, so we came back here.

– I am a local myself, a native of Courland. Strictly speaking, I cannot call myself a nomad. I started living a sedentary life around the age of ten. I became drawn to studying, started going to school. Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t allow me to graduate. I read a lot, tried to replenish my knowledge, learn as much as possible about the history of my people. Having returned home, I got down to hard work – I have translated Our Father, The Symbol of Faith, a few more prayers and, most importantly, the Gospel of John into the Gypsy language. It was difficult. Gypsy language is poor. It lacks vocabulary. I’ve been working on this for 5 years. My work has been sent to the British [Bible] society, but so far there is no answer.

As far as I know, this is the first book in the Gypsy language. Most Gypsies are generally illiterate. Of course, they are not thinking about creating their own alphabet, writing their own literature, perish the thought. Such a pity. Due to this, the origin of the Gypsies, their past is completely unknown.

– “Tribe of Pharaohs”? Yes, people call us that. Perhaps there is a reason for this. Who knows? I personally find that there is a great similarity between Gypsies and Egyptians, at least in the fact that for an Egyptian as well as for a Gypsy his horse and chariot are the most valuable possessions. A Gypsy’s horse is his meal ticket. Most Gypsies make a living as farriers and horse traders. Some pursue other options. There are blacksmiths, tinkers. Women earn by fortune-telling. Or begging. They are so poor, it is difficult to condemn them. We generally treat women well. Much better than Latvians. They are not allowed to step over, though.

– Step over what?

– You see, if a man is sitting with his legs outstretched, God forbid, a woman step over them. The man is going to be considered tainted. Or over kitchenware, or even worse – over a harness. No way. These things aren’t supposed to happen.

Gypsies used to live better, they used to look down on everyone. A Gypsy would put on something new and strut around, he was a devil-may-care good-timer. A real Gypsy should be fearless, invincible. He would never stab somebody in the back. Getting in a fight with a knife or an axe is no work for a Gypsy. They have picked it up from outsiders. Gypsy’s only weapon used to be a whip. Long as an arm, and both ends are filled with lead. If he wants to fight, he challenges his opponent like a gentleman. He would always allow the opponent to strike the first blow. I saw such duels when I was a boy. Ten men armed with knives are no threat to a Gypsy who knows how to handle a whip. Somebody told me, somewhere a Gypsy had a fight with an army officer. The Gypsy had a whip and the officer had a sword. So, what do you think happened next? The Gypsy won.

There are some sedentary Gypsies as well. The trouble is that Gypsies who manage to get an education and make their way in the world, they renounce their people and do not even mention that they are Gypsies. Right here, in the Opera, a Gypsy woman works as a dancer. They say she graduated from the gymnasium and studied in the university as well. However, she has lost touch with her people completely. Well, you will never know.

I would really like to unite all the Gypsies. Bind them together as a community. Help them find a way out. But it’s difficult. Gypsies themselves often do not wish for this, they shun culture. They often laugh at me: “You just want to be a king of the Gypsies, don’t you?” But I want nothing but to help them develop spiritually, help them create a language which could be a unifying tongue for all the Gypsies because they don’t have it yet.

For example, we would understand Lithuanian, Polish and Russian Gypsies. But when we met up with Austrian Gypsies during the refuge, we couldn’t understand a thing. There is only one word that Gypsies all over the world will understand. Ask: “Kontu Rom?” (Are you a Gypsy?). If he answers “Rom,” that means he is one of us.

– Does no one except Gypsies speak Gypsy?

– No. This almost never happens. Gypsies are usually reluctant to mix with foreigners. We even have different words in our language for our own Gypsy children: daughter is čhaj, son is čhavo, čhavaly is kids, but outsider’s daughter is rakle, outsider’s son is raklo.

Quite unexpectedly, the origins of the South Russian slang word for the petty frauds and hooligans ‘raklo’ is brought to light.

– Mixed marriages are rare. Every Gypsy woman knows – if she marries an outsider, she will be a severed branch for her people. But if a Russian or Latvian woman marries a Gypsy man that is a totally different story. She will always be welcome in the camp. She is worthy of respect if she is not afraid to go after her husband. Here, for example, one of the founders of our society, Oswald Chuka, has a Latvian mother. He is one of the sedentary Gypsies, works as a carpenter.

Our founders are very passionate about the cause. There are five of us. Me, Oswald Chuka, my niece Lina Eva Pelts, Valdis Palach [3] – he has a fearsome surname, but he himself is the sweetest man. By the way, he is the only one of us engaged in the age-old Gypsy trade: he sells horses. The fifth member of our society is Matvey Gindra. He has contributed a lot to the foundation of society. Perhaps organisational talent is in his blood. His grandfather was a famous Gypsy chief. Matvey Gindra works as a secretary of the fire society in Saldus. In addition, also a football player.

– So, the sports section in your society is ensured?

Leimanis grins.

– Of course. He is already dreaming about creating a Gypsy football team. If we live until then, God willing. We just have to get this going. We must win Gypsy people’s confidence, and then the rest will go like clockwork. When my sons grow up, they will help us.

I have two of them. The eldest, Kirill, is 20 years old. He is studying at the industrial school under the Railway Authority. And the youngest, Georgiy, is 15. Soon he will graduate from middle school, and I will send him to the normal school. Let Gypsies have a teacher of their own.

The ‘Friend of Gypsies’ walks me to the door. Snow covers a modest lodge – “the cradle of the Gypsy culture”. Perhaps, someday the new Gypsies will come out of it, the ones who will exchange the clank of the timbrel and the guitar’s groan for the Department of Pedagogy or a football.

Ki-Ra

[Photo]. Jānis Leimanis, the guard at Edinburgh Orthodox Church, the founder of Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’.

[Photo]. Jānis Leimanis, his wife Elizaveta and youngest son Georgiy [4].

Notes

1. ‘Tribe of Pharaohs’ – in the same way, Gypsies were designated also in other countries in the studied region.

2. The Church was located in a place historically known as Edinburgh, which is nowadays called Dzintari – a neighbourhood of the resort town of Jūrmala. It was called Edinburgh in honour of the wedding of Alexander II of Russia’s daughter and Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh.

3. Palach, from Russian ‘палач’ – hangman.

4. The article contains two photographs of Leimanis and his family.

Source: Ки-Ра. (1932). Другъ латвiйскихъ цыганъ. Сегодня вечером, An. 8, No. 61, 1932, March 16, p. 3.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

The interview with Jānis Leimanis, the head of the newly founded society, contains valuable information about his family, ideas and activities (organisation of Roma relocation during the First World War, translation of religious texts into Romani language) as well as about the language, customs and current state of Latvian Roma. Leimanis argues against the myth of “natural” Roma nomadism and expresses the wish to unite all the Roma and to encourage their cultural revival.

Ieva Tihovska

10.2.2 The Gypsy Songs from the Bushes Come to Riga

Kārlis Krūmājs

Čigānu dziesmas pārnāk no krūmiem uz Rīgu

Kāda labvēļa privātdzīvoklī Iekšrīgā čigānu kultūras biedrības ‘Čigānu Draugs’ nenogurstošais priekšnieks Jānis Leimanis savācis kopā savus izkaisītos tautasbrāļus, lai kopīgā darbā izveidotu īstu čigānu kori.

“Čigānu kori te bijuši daudz”, viņš saka, “Bet viņos nebija neviena čigāna un tie nedziedāja nevienu čigānu dziesmu. Tās bija krievu dziesmas un tikai rets čigānu vārds pa starpām. Mēs gribam samācīties savas dziesmas un dejas un tad parādīt jums, ka mums, tāpat kā visām citām tautām, ir sava īpatnēja kultūra. Zināms, mēs esam panīkuši,”

Leimanis skumji piebilst, “Par mums radusies sliņķu un krāpnieku slava. Mēs jau paši pie tā bijām vainīgi, bet nu mēs gribam līst ārā no krūmiem uz dižā ceļa. Piepalīdzat mums! Mēs visi nebūt neesam tādi sliņķi un krāpnieki. Daudz jau sen atmetuši klejošanas paradumus un dzīvo savās mājās, strādā tāpat kā latvieši, un jaunā paaudze iet skolās un grib būt derīgi Latvijas pilsoņi.”

Istabiņā sapulcējušies ap 30 čigāni – jaunā kora pamats. Brūnās sejas, dedzīgās acis, sarkanie lakatiņi ap galvām un krelles ap kakliem sievietēm piedod gleznainu eksotisku noskaņu šim korim, kas klausa Leimaņa mājienam. Leimanis tāds savas tautas darbinieks, kas no sava mērķa neatkāpās, kaut gan līdzekļu trūkuma dēļ kultūras biedrības labā jau pārdevis šo un to no savas nelielās mantas.

Nav viegli šos dabas bērnus savākt vienkopus. Viņi dzīvo izklaidus un pa lielākai daļai ļoti nabadzīgi. Braukt uz kora mēģinājumiem tramvajos un autobusos iznāk par dārgu. Atrasta cita izeja: noīrēts smagais važonis Ungaitis no Šampētera un tas atved un aizved šos dziedātājus. Bet dziedātāji nedzīvo no dziesmām vien, tāpēc pamatos jāliek praktisks aprēķins.

“Ja tādiem salasītiem viltus čigānu koriem netrūkst klausītāju, kāpēc lai mūsu īstajās čigānu dziesmās nenāktu klausīties?” saka Leimanis. “Vasaru te Rīgā reklamējās viens ārzemju čigānu koris. Es uzmeklēju vadoni, lai aprunātos un redzētu, kāda viņiem tā čigānu valoda. Visur jau nav vienāda. Mūsu tauta tā izklīdusi, ka es nezinu, kur tagad vairs runā īsti pareizi čigāniski. Es aizeju, bet tas kungs ne bī, ne bē čigāniski. Viņš saka: “Vai jūs apsolāt klusēt, tad es jums izstāstīšu, kas par lietu. Vēlāk jūs varat runāt, tikai tagad kādu laiku ne.” Es apsolīju. Un viņš man pateica: “Mēs neesam nekādi ārzemnieki. Mums nav arī neviena īsta čigāna. Mēs tāpat šo to sagrabinājām un gribam maizīti nopelnīt.” Kālab tad nu mēs – īsti čigāni nevarētu mēģināt savu maizīti nopelnīt ar godīgām čigānu dziesmām?!”

Varbūt tas izdosies, bet pagaidām brūnās skaistules ģitāru pavadībā skandina dziesmiņu:

Le tu man čavoro,
poskil me som čorori, –
keļi java barvali,
pirdal tuke dikhava …

Tulkojumā tas skanētu apm. tā: “Ņem tu mani, zēn, kamēr esmu nabadzīga; kad es būšu bagāta, – pāri tev skatīšos.”

Un dziedot brūno meiteņu acis deg tādās ugunīs, ka jāsaka: paldies Dievam, ka vēl viņas visas nav bagātas! Citādi nabaga zēniem būtu pavisam bēdīgi ap dūšu …

Kārlis Krūmājs

The Gypsy Songs from the Bushes Come to Riga

Somewhere in inner Riga in a supporter’s private apartment the tireless chairman of Gypsy culture society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ Jānis Leimanis has gathered his dispersed folk in order to form a real Gypsy choir.

“There have been many Gypsy choirs,” he is saying, “But there haven’t been any Gypsies in them, nor Gypsy songs. Those have been Russian songs with few Gypsy words in between. We want to learn our own songs and dances, and then show you that we, the same way as all other cultures, have a unique culture.”

“It is known that we’re quite decadent,” Leimanis admits sadly. “We’re known as lazy and deceiving. That is our own fault, but now we want to get out of the bushes and on the honest road. Help us! Not all of us are loafers and cheaters. Many of us have dropped the vagabond customs and live in our own houses, many are working like Latvians do, and the new generation is attending schools because they want to be useful Latvian citizens.”

Some thirty Gypsies – the core of the new choir – have gathered in the room. The brown faces and the fiery eyes, the red scarfs around heads and the beads on the necks of the women give an exotic charming look to the choir that follows the direction of Leimanis. He is such a cultural worker among his folk who does not give up on his mission even if he has had to sell a few of his belongings to financially support the culture society. It is not easy to gather these nature children together. They live dispersed and many of them are poor. It is too expensive to travel by bus to the choir rehearsals. But they have found an alternative and hired the driver Ungaitis from Šampēteris, who brings the singers to and from the rehearsals in his truck. As the singers do not live off of songs alone, they have to have a coherent plan.

“If the fake Gypsy choirs have lots of listeners, why would people not come to listen to real Gypsy songs?” says Leimanis. “In the summer there was an advertisement of a Gypsy choir from abroad. I reached out to the conductor to see what their language sounds like. The language differs. Our folk is so scattered that I don’t know which is the true Gypsy language now. When I met the guy, he knew no Gypsy language at all. I promised to keep quiet for a while, and he told me his secret. He said: “We are not from abroad and we have no Gypsies either. We just pulled something together and want to earn some money.” Why then couldn’t we – real Gypsies – try to earn our daily bread with true Gypsy songs?!”

Maybe we will succeed, but for now the brown beauties are singing a song accompanied by the guitar:

Le tu man čavoro,
poskil me som čorori, –
keli java barvali,
pirdal tuke dikhava …

The translation would be something along these lines: “Take me, boy, while I am poor; when I will be rich, I will look past you.”

And while they are singing, the young women’s eyes burn with such a flame that I have to say: “Thank the Lord they’re not all rich yet. Otherwise the poor young men would feel rather pitiful.”

Source: Krūmājs, K. Čigānu dziesmas pārnāk no krūmiem uz Rīgu. Jaunākās Ziņas, An. 22, No. 261, 1932, November 17, p. 20.

Prepared for publication by Ieva Tihovska.

Comments

The article gives an insight into the foundation of the ‘Friend of Gypsies’ society choir. The leader of the choir, Jānis Leimanis, tells that they want to compete with the fake but popular ‘Gypsy choirs’ and expresses the idea of the revival of Latvian Gypsy culture. The available sources suggest that the choir was the major activity of the society (Leimanis’ activities did in fact reach a broader scope, but not all of them were associated with the society). The choir’s style corresponds to the tradition of Latvian choirs – a cultural symbol of Latvian nationalism that reaches back to the middle of the 19th century and manifests in four-part a cappella singing. The arrangements for the choir were made by Latvian composers Jānis Kalniņš (1904-2000) and Ralfs Alunāns (1902-1978); Alunāns also became the second director of the choir (Tihovska, 2013). The article contains a photograph of the society’s choir riding in a horse-drawn wagon to a rehearsal.

Ieva Tihovska

Summarising Comments

The set of documents presented above gives an overview of the foundation, activities and early liquidation of the first Latvian Roma organisation, the Gypsy Culture Promotion Society ‘Friend of Gypsies’. This was the only Latvian Romani society of the interwar period, and it came into existence thanks to the main Latvian Romani activist of that time, Jānis Leimanis (1886-1950), who worked within the organisation together with his family members and other Roma, mainly in the capital Riga and western Latvia.

Historically two linguistic Romani sub-groups have inhabited Latvia: Lotfitka Roma in Western and North-Eastern Latvia and Xaladitka Roma in the South-Eastern part of the country (Венцель & Черенков, 1976; Matras, 2002, pp. 5-13). The 1925 census shows 2,870 Roma in the country, and the next censuses show a gradual increase in the number: 3,217 in 1930 and 3,839 in 1935, when they reached 0.2% of the total population (Salnītis, 1939, p. 286), which, along with the actual numbers, may also indicate the increasing ethnic confidence of local Roma. Unofficial statistics published in newspapers show bigger numbers, up to 5,000 or 6,000 Roma (Jaunākās Ziņas, 1936, p. 20; Ventas Balss, 1937, p. 3).

Leimanis was a Rom from the western part of Latvia, where the linguistic sub-group of Lotfitka Roma has historically lived. He became settled in 1898 and received some education in the school of Kuldīga’s Orthodox parish and the Aizpute District School. His organisational activities started in 1915, when he advocated for the needs of Roma during their relocation due to military action in the First World War. He is known also as a translator of religious texts into Romani language – Gospel of John (Leimanis, 1933) and Excerpts from the Catechism, Prayers and Spiritual Songs (Leimanis, 1936) – and a collector of folklore; his folklore collection contains 75 notebooks of parallel texts in Romani and Latvian (LFKDA), the conductor of the ‘Friend of Gypsies’ Society Choir, and an activist for Gypsies employment in Riga and Western Latvia (Latviešu konversācijas vārdnīca, 1935; Vīksna, 2005).

The selected documents are important sources of public Roma civic and cultural activities during the interwar period. Leimanis was a visionary who did much to activate and unite Latvian Roma. His activities went beyond the foundation and leading of the society ‘Friend of Gypsies’ – he also tried to help Roma survive the difficulties of the world wars, collected folklore, did Christian missionary work among Roma, organised work groups to involve Roma in regular employment, etc. He was not always supported by the local Roma, and the documents as well as other newspapers of that time and even contemporary Roma memories show some criticism of his activities. The controversies surrounding his activities is a topic for further research.

Ieva Tihovska