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is a website dedicated to Romanian Roma families and culture and language preservation who come to Florence. It is hosted by
the Associația 'Agrustic Somnacuni' ('Golden Ring' in the Romany language) in Romania and its sister Aureo Anello ('Golden Ring' in Italian) Associazione in Florence which supports the Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei' and the Cimitero 'degli Inglesi' ('English' Cemetery) in Florence. It welcomes further essays, contributions, particularly from Roma.

Florence's Swiss-owned so-called 'English' Cemetery has Orthodox as well as Protestant burials. Amongst its Russian tombs in Sector D are the tombs of two Romanian nobles, Joan Kantakezin, descended from the Emperor of Constantinople, and Paul Ventura, a child, both of the slave-owning aristocracy. These tombs were impossible to visit - until Daniel-Claudiu Dumitresch built the terraced path by them. He also identified these tombs for me as Romanian. At the beginning of that path is that of Theodore Parker, the Unitarian who preached eloquently against slavery. Frederick Douglass, the formerly illiterate ex-slave, came from America and visited the tombs of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sector B)  and Theodore Parker to honour them for their work against slavery. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's other heroine in Aurora Leigh, Marian Erle, is Roma. Also buried in our Cemetery are Frances Trollope (Sector B), who wrote the first anti-slavery novel, and Richard Hildreth (Sector D), who wrote the second anti-slavery novel. Harriet Beecher Stowe copied both of them to create her Uncle Tom's Cabin. The Roma in Romania were the slaves of the nobles and the monasteries from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, when Uncle Tom's Cabin was translated into Romanian.

Our archives document these burials. Our library collects these books.

Van Gogh, Gypsy Caravans. When Roma lived in these they did not get TB, in crowed social housing they do.

As were Black slaves in America, the Roma in Romania are kept in illiteracy. They may not legally work unless they have a decent and registered house and the diploma. Lacking work, they cannot afford the materials for their roofs or the payment to the schools for heating and books. They come to Florence, where again they may not work from lacking a legal address, and beg in the streets annoying tourists and citizens. They have no country, no army, no power. They came from India a thousand years ago and speak an Aryan language. Their flag is green for the earth, blue for the sky with a red wagon wheel. They are no longer allowed their traditional caravans. But I have found that they are skilled and excellent craftspeople, both women and men, as blacksmiths, stonemasons, carpenters and gardeners. They restore the 'English' Cemetery, repairing and cleaning its tombs under expert supervision, and planting and weeding its garden. To teach literacy they are encouraged to explore the books in the Mediatheca, like the intermediate technology shown in the engravings of Diderot's Encylopedie, to marble paper and to hand-bind books, and to use the computer. Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu, who has the diploma, writes booklets in four languages, Romań, Romanian, Italian and English, with his drawings, on how to rebuild roofs, with drainage for storing water and with solar panels for electricity, which are placed on this website. Daniel has also conserved all the nineteenth-century cast and wrought iron work in the Cemetery and built the shelving for the Cemetery's Swiss archives, many of the library's bookshelves, and many wooden rocking cradles, one for his own new-born daughter, another for the Cemetery's library, where it mirrors photographs on the walls of Roma families, one of which shows such a rocking cradle with a child asleep in it. I have said on Easter Day on Rai Uno (Italian national television) that to bring Roma into a library is to bring them into the world of the book, to give them literacy. In this library we teach Roma how to sign their names, so they may become members of our Aureo Anello Associazione, and the alphabet. With that membership it is legal for them to work for us. We have formed a sister association in Romania of which Daniel is President which is called Asociația 'Agrustic Somnacuni' (like 'Aureo Anello' meaning 'Golden Ring') and whose mission is to preserve Roma families and the Romań language with mutual help in roof building with drainpipes and windows and with schooling for adults as well as children.

These are the relevant essays on the Ring of Gold website:


In Romań: Romany.html, doctorvisit.html, panourisolare.html, roofs.html

In rumeno: Romany.html, doctorvisit.html, Statut.html, panourisolare.html, roofs.html

In italiano: alfabetotalk.html, apprendistato.html, badiaalfabeto.html, Bianco Silenzio. Capitolo Finale Come i Rom hanno restaurato iil Cimitero degli Inglesi in Piazzale Donatello, Firenze, caritas.html, CaroObama.html, doctorvisit.htmlpanourisolare.html, paolarom.html, PonteRosso.htmlRomany.html, RomEU.htm, romfir.html, rommichelucci.html, roofs.html, scapegoatital.html, zita.html,'inclusione-dei-Rom-ecco-le-priorità-dei-deputati

In English:
alphabet.html, apprentice.html, ArabesqueUniversity.html, White Silence. Chapter Last How the Roma restored Florence's Monumental English Cemetery, Brussels.html, Brussels.ppt, charleskemp.html, childmother.html, chuppa.html, cradle.html, Digest.html, doctorvisit.html, education.html, goldring.html, GriffinPoster.html, gypsy.html, Haiti.html, hedera.html, house.html, karengraffeo.html, Lancet.html, literacy.html, lords.html, newborn.html, Osmannoro.html, panourisolare.html, prague.html, Romaboxes.html, Romany.html, roofs.html, scapegoat.html, SorosRoma.html, wilcock.html, zita.html

The European Commission, Parliament and Council of Europe, cognisant of the Holocaust's inclusion of the Roma and the denial to them of reparation payments, are all intently working on solutions to Roma poverty, but are blocked at local government levels which discriminate against Roma. In particular, in Italy and in England, Roma are barred from having a legal roof over their heads, access to water or electricity, and consequently from work. A prisoner-of-war in international law has more rights than does a Roma who is a European Citizen. In Italy and England, planning permission is used against Roma from living on land they have bought and own. In Romania, where land has been legally bought, and a house built by themselves and legally registered, even that will be taken from a Roma family. The poverty from lack of power for Roma is expressed in poor housing, poor health, high illiteracy, and blocks against employment, which results in high infant mortality and a shockingly low life expectancy.


Apartheid/Inclusione in italiano

Hearing at the EU European Economic and Social Committee, Brussels, 14 January 2011 on Roma Education and Integration 

Its verbal presentation

§* Lo stesso, ma in italiano


§Marco Filipetti. Rom e l'UE. In italiano

Caritas in Veritate: il Vaticano e i Rom italiano

§George Soros on the Roma 

          Caro Obama, ti scrivo italiano

'Gypsies' in Florence English

I Rom e Firenze italiano

Fondazione Michelucci italiano

Ponte Rosso italiano

Case rom italiano

Ex-Osmatex, Osmannoro, 2010 English

Scapegoat English/ italiano

Transnistria: When we learned of the trauma that is still ongoing for these families of their failure to bury the dead in the killing fields of Transnistria, the grandmothers of both Diamanta and Ionel having walked back home to Romania with most of their family dead and unburied, no grave, coffin, cemetery, priest, candle, bread, wine or feast, we invited a Romanian Orthodox priest to celebrate these dead, naming all of them, in our cemetery. Diamanta cooked the traditional meal, for Romanians believe the dead are hungry and eat with us. We recited all the names below. These dead members of their families had died of starvation in WWII: Veta Curte, Constantin Durac, della famiglia di Daniel-Claudiu Dumitresc;
Panta Danila, Margica Danila, Verda Danila, Caizer Mundeanu, Lenuta Danila, Bicusa Danila, Tiberean Danila, Ivanciu Danila, della famiglia di Diamanta Danila; Sofia Copalea, Sivirino Copalea, Verige Copalea, Dod Copalea, Duga Copalea, Cosia Copalea, Bisa Copalea, Cristi Copalea, Hortanza Copalea, Pomelnic Copalea, Grafian Copalea, Grecu Copalea, Madita Copalea, della famiglia di Ionel, Mihai, Gheorghe Copalea..
The herding of Roma into rat-infested camps today outside of Roma, Florence and elsewhere in  Italy, then bulldozing them as at Osmannoro, is part of this pattern. See  Politically both sides become hostile to each other, we acquiescing in the creation of these 'hostile environments'. While we are jointly responsible for their evil, Lord Caradon, who served in such crisis spots as Cyprus, Palestine, Jamaica, Nigeria and the United Nations, nevertheless explained to me that 'the evil of the oppressed is less evil than that of the oppressor'.

See Michelle Kelso, ‘Hidden Sorrows’ on deportation to Transnistria of Romania Roma and its genocide of them, the Porajmos of Romanian Roma.


Abhijit Banerjee 'On Poverty and Aid'

Roma have excellet traditional skills with metal, stone, wood, cloth and earth, being blacksmiths, stonemasons, carpenters, seamstresses, embroiderers, gardeners and cooks. Given sufficient funding for materials they can rebuild their housing with windows against the prevailing tuberculosis, with adequate roofing and guttering against water and snow damage, with handcrank/solar loght, radio and cellphone rechargers, with wells and latrines, to be self-sufficient.They learn these skills from the earliest age working alongside their parents. Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu, President of Asociația 'Agrustic Somnacuni-Inel de Aur', is the grandson of the most famous coppersmith in his part of Romania and has inherited his tools. He learned all these traditional skills as a boy as well as having attended school and attaining the technical diploma. He is now working with leading restorers in Florence, restoring the famous anti-slavery 'English' Cemetery, including the CNR project of restoring the Odoardo Fantacchiotti sculpture of 'Hope', Speranza.

  This is the House that Daniel Built

     Statut, Asociația 'Agrustic Somnacuni' Rumeno

How to Build Better Roofs with Drainpipes for Water Storage New

Panouri Solare/ Solar Panels Romań/Rumeno/italiano/English New

This is the House that Daniel Built English

Karen Graffeo The Chuppa English

How to Build Cradles and Libraries
English/ italiano

How to Make Romany Boxes English

How to do stone lettering English Newest

§Reader's Digest on the 'From Graves to Cradles' Project Work English

Rom Apprenticeship English/ italiano

White Silence. Chapter Last How the Roma restored Florence's Monumental English Cemetery

Bianco Silenzio. Capitolo Finale Come i Rom hanno restaurato iil Cimitero degli Inglesi in Piazzale Donatello, Firenze

'English' Cemetery Restoration English
Roma often cannot afford to pay for schooling for their children in Romania. But children learn from their parents important skills useful for survival, how to work with metal, stone, wood and earth. They work collaboratively in families with great courtesy towards each other. Taking the children from their parents at an early age to teach them Gadje (non-Roma) 'socialization' and in tellecuatl skills is not necessarily the answer. In America 'socialization skills' translate into unethical competitiveness, the Orwellian opposite of what the word seems to imply. Instead there should be projects of alphabetization of all ages, for women and men, which include practical hands on information for better health, nutrition and housing, so that children are not alienated from their parents by education. Statistically it has been found that where schools are held in Romani far better retention results. At the same time attention paid to the health, nutrition and housing of young children in families results in better academic work. Ideally Roma can be encouraged to retain their traditional manual skills while learning our intellectual ones, and even teaching their excellent skills to our young people who are in such great need of them. Our own education system has divorced us from centuries of traditions of manual skills' learning and teaching and has consequently caused children to despise their parents to the point where they now cannot work manually and are afraid for their survival in our current economic collapse. We can learn much from the Roma; our children could learn to work manually, gainfully and joyfully alongside of Roma. That is how Roma work.



Alphabet English

Alfabeto italiano


Alphabet Voice Recording of Romanian Roma in Mediatheca Fioretta Mazzei's Alphabet School reciting the alphabet

Alphabet School in Florence's English Cemetery and Library for Roma Families

School in a Bucharest cemetery, 1842, but not for Roma (who were then slaves), or girls.

Nigel Dickinson, Roma women at Helsinki University

How to do stone lettering English

Literacy English

Education English

Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu, Vandana Culea Romany Vocabulary with drawings by Daniel Dumitrescu. Romań, Romanian, Italian and English

Voice Recording of Romany Vocabulary by Daniel Dumitrescu, Vandana Culea and JBH at Romany.mp3 Romań, Romanian, Italian and English

Arabesquing the University, Antwerp, 2008 English/ In italiano

Women and the Lord's Prayer English

A suggested model for literacy, but from Ethiopia:

Haiti as paradigm

Among our prejudices against the Roma is the belief are that they are dirty. Instead they have strict rules from their Indian origins about the need to wash in running water frequently, about not washing the top part of the body with the same soap that is used for the bottom part of the body (a good recipe against cholera), about washing hands very thoroughly (including the backs of hands, the wrists, etc.), about not dressing in dirty clothes (if they are denied access to water they will throw dirty garments away rather than continue to wear them, to prevent diseases like typhus from lice). Their most serious health problems come about from the denial to them of water, of adequate housing with windows (leading to tuberculosis), lack of employment (meaning they cannot pay for medical care), lack of education, particularly amongst women (resulting in being unable to read medical information or to limit the size of their families), intermarriage and environmental pollutiion causing genetic defects, and alcohol and tobacco abuse, typical amongst oppressed groups kept in poverty, Native Americans, Irish, Blacks, Aborigine (leading to liver diseases and cancers). A major reason for the reluctance to send their children to Gadje schools is their exposure there to drugs. But when it is explained to women that where they become educated life expectancy increases and infant mortality drops they are eager to learn.

Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu, Vandana Culea Doctor Visit Romań, Romanian, Italian and English, with drawings by Daniel Dumitrescu  

Charles Kemp, Baylor University Medical School Doctors and the Roma

Lancet article on early childhood health and education English


The greatest value to Roma is the family. They marry young, are faithful, and care for their children. One can be in a Roma camp filled with babies, and not one of them crying. Often, Social Assistance desires to remove the babies from the parents because of their poverty, or at least the father from the child and mother, but better and less costly would be giving the father a job so he can support his family. Roma, lacking the right to work, are further handicapped in the modern economy by the high cost of disposable diapers and the premature births of their babies resulting in their being bottle instead of breast fed, both expenses they cannot afford. Enormous sums will be spent on funerals out of respect for the dead, a family even selling their home for the culturally required rites. We have much to learn from Roma about the care, nurturing and education of babies and children.

Alleluia italiano

Hedera's Family The Rom in Europe English

Florence and Gypsies English

How to Raise a Child English


Roma love beauty. Roma are deeply religious, whether they are Orthodox, Catholic or Muslim. A Romanian Orthodox Roma nursing mother will not drink milk on Friday nor will Roma touch iron on that day. Their music combines joy and sorrow.

Karen Graffeo Now Let Us Praise the Rom English

A Photographer from Prague English

Rose Lloyds An English Rose
The Autobiography of an Orphan Roma, Written by Herself English

Elizabeth Barrett Browning Aurora Leigh in mp3 recordings. Go to for complete playlist. English

Frances Alexander The Madonna and the Gypsy
English, italiano

A barrel organ is played in Piazza Beccaria. I have recorded its hauntingly beautiful music in mp3. Use it as background to these essays. New  


§ 'Cara Europa'

§ Look for this on the WayBackMachine for 11/5/2011. Only in Finland can Roma be wealthy, their women go to university

Patrin Web Journal: Romani Culture and History
This fine website goes to 2000 only.


European Roma Rights Centre §

Formerly, Baylor University §
No longer at that web address instead available at
An excellent essay on medical aspects with essential insight into Roma culture


The Stories Exchange Project § Funded by the World Bank, The Stories Exchange Project is an experiment in generating global dialogue about the Romany experience and tensions between the Roma and the white majority worldwide. Visitors to the site are invited to comment on articles and discussions and to share their own stories. Available in English and Cesky, the site offers summaries of workshop discussions, text excerpts from dramatic performances, video clips of the film Stories Exchange Project, as well as poignant passages from interviews of project participants. Artists for Roma Initiative Newest

And this suggested by a young Romanian Roma, but about Romanians: Go looking for all of Gheorghe Zamfir on the Web.

Keep Exploring Google, both websites and images

Please send Julia Holloway further links to include here

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's other heroine in Aurora Leigh, Marian Erle, is Roma, who travels from England, to France, to Florence. For the book see Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh and Other Poems (ISBN 0-14-043412-7) from: ;
Its royalties helped purchase books and materials for the the Biblioteca and Bottega Fioretta Mazzei and can help Rom families' house-buying and repairing. For further items, texts and textiles, see Florin and Shop .

Frances Trollope. Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw. Preface, Julia Bolton Holloway. Illustrations, Auguste Hervieu, F.R.A. 469 pp. ISBN 9798615560989.

Relevant Books in the Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei', Florence's 'English' Cemetery, where we have taught Roma parents to write their names so they will not lose their children

Roma Studies:

Shelved, GIMEL:

Alla perifera del mondo: Il popolo dei rom e dei sinti escluso dalla storia. Ed. Isabella D'Isola, Mauro Sullam, Guido Baldoni, Giulia Baldini, Gabriele Frassanito. Milano: Fondazione Roberto Franceschi, 2003. With CD. Università di Firenze, 2003.

Isabel Fonseca. Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and their Journey. New York: Random House, 1996. Father Matthew Naumes, 2001.

Gianni Berengo Gardin. La disperata allegria: Vivere da zingari a Firenze. Firenze: Centro Di, 1994. Paola Cecchi, Firenze, 2003.

Jean-Pierre Liégeois. Gypsies: An Illustrated History. Trans. Tony Berrett. London: Al Saqi Books, 1986. Jane and Philip Weller, Hampshire, 2003.

Le strage nazifasciste a Firenze e Provincia: Trasmettere la memoria. Catalogo della mostra fotografica 27 gennaio-10 febbraio 2002, Gallera Via Larga, Via Cavour, 7r, Firenze. Firenze: Amministrazione Provinciale di Firenze, Istituto Storico della Resistenza in Toscana, 2002. Michele Gesualdi, Firenze, 2003.

Romano Lil 4 (2001). Roma

William M. Sloane. The Balkans: A Laboratory of History. New York: Eaton and Mains, 1914. Syracuse University, Florence, 2005.

Antonio Tabucchi. Gli Zingari e il Rinascimento: Vivere da Rom a Firenze. Firenze: Feltrinelli, 1999. JBH

Portfolio on Hedera, etc.

Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald. Gypsies of Britain: An Introduction to their History. London: Chapman and Hall, 1946. Jane and Philip Weller, Hampshire, 2003.

Shelved, ALEPH:

Duncan Williamson. Fireside Tales of the Traveller Children. Twelve Scottish Stories. Illustrated, Alan B. Herriot. New York: Harmony Books, 1983. Arizona State University/Mesa Public Library, Tempe, 2004.

Our Mediatheca in Florence will always welcome further materials concerning the Roma

And on the Victoria Discussion List the following suggestions were made for leads for research:

The list of material about the Victorian Roma/Gypsies is long, indeed, but it's a rich and fascinating topic.  If you want contemporary accounts, the second half of the century saw the advent of the "Gypsyologists."  You might start with The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society.  It started in 1888, I think.

You might also look at some of the individual C19 Gypsy Scholars/Scholar Gypsies like George Borrow (The Zincali [1841], Lavengro [1851], and The Romany Rye [1857]), Richard Burton (The Jew, The Gypsy, and El Islam [1898]), Francis Hindes Groome, Charles Godfrey Leland, et al.

For more recent examinations of the "Gypsy Problem" in the century, see David Mayall, Gypsy-Travellers in Nineteenth-Century Society (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988) and Gypsy Identities, 1500-2000:  From Egipcyans and Moon-men to the Ethnic Romany (London: Routledge, 2004); George K. Behlmer, "The Gypsy Problem in Victorian England," Victorian Studies 28 (1985): 231-53; Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald, Gypsies of Britain:  An Introduction to Their History (London: Chapman & Hall, 1944); Thomas Acton, Gypsy Politics and Social Change:  The Development of Ethnic Ideology and Pressure Politics among British Gypsies from Victorian Reformism to Romany Nationalism (Boston: Routledge & Paul, 1974).

The book-length studies are quite good and offer longer, more nuanced considerations, but if you want a shorter and quite informative introduction to the subject, the Behlmer article is a fine place to start.

The past 10-15 years have also seen a handful of doctoral dissertations on the subject, including those by Audrey Shields, Michelle Mancini, Mary Burke, and myself.

I don't think it's out yet, but Deborah Nord's Gypsies in the British Imagination, 1807-1930, is listed as forthcoming this year from Columbia UP (I think), and based on an excerpt I heard her read at NAVSA, it promises to be intriguing.

Lance Wilder, Victoria List

And Gipsy Smith, His Life and Work (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1901). was also suggested. While the discussion list went on to mention Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Marian Erle in Aurora Leigh, Robert Browning's Pied Piper, George Eliot and Matthew Arnold.

© Nigel Dickinson

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All donations made to Aureo Anello on behalf of Agrustic Somnacuni will benefit these Roma families participating in work/study in Florence. Please specify 'Agrustic Somnacuni' in the description box. If you are buying a copy of 'Romany Vocabulary' send an e-mail to Julia Holloway, giving her your snail-mail address and she will post it to you. Or acquire a copy from Karen Graffeo in the States. Thanks.

'The world of the poor teaches us that liberation will arrive only when the

poor are not simply on the receiving end of handouts from government or

from churches, but when they themselves are the master and

protagonists of their own struggle for liberation'

Oscar Romero


To donate to the restoration by Roma of Florence's formerly abandoned English Cemetery and to its Library click on our Aureo Anello Associazione:'s PayPal button: