MAYBE you’ve never interviewed o gipsy queen. Zeldo Reed has. Yesterday she visited Rosa Sterio, at the gipsy camp at Mona Vale. . Says Miss Reed: – The camp is full of noisy, shouting children… gesticulating, quarrelling women … with a couple of tents, a pile of bedding, a few greasy pots and pans, and a new Ford. After a harangue over money — always dear to the heart of a gipsy — I settled, down to the business of extracting Rosa’s life story. Rosa was aided with shrieks of laughter from her friends, and bad advice from her elders. The children climbed all over me, and finally succeeded in removing my hat and shoes. The direst threats hang over I my head if I write anything bad about them… as if I would do such a thing! Anyway, this is Rosa’s story, not mine. Let her tell it in her own way.”
My name is Rosa. I am fat, and the mother of many children, though now I do not have a husband. Do you like my new gold teeth? I think they are beautiful, and I smile often because of them. But I smile, anyway, because I am always happy. This is Pupulo and her little son, Johnnie, who is three months old, and very black. And this is Mara and Lola and Stephano and little Jo. Now wait until I light my pipe, and I will tell you my story— It is the story of the children of Romany all over the world. I was born in Melbourne many years ago, but I do not know how old I am or anything about my birth. I cannot read or write, nor can any of my people here. I have travelled all over the world. In my camp there are about twenty men and thirty women, and fifty children. People think we are quarrelsome when they hear us talk together; but it is just with our mouths— we are like children together. I liked Los Angeles. We had a big camp there — thousands of gipsies were camped there, and we had dancing and singing and eating every night. There was often a wedding then. Here— not many, only three In the six weeks we have been here.
I DO not like England, for it is too cold to camp, and we have to live in houses. But once a year at Easter time all Romany people get together and have a big celebration.
Our chief lives In England. We call him Dinya Bimbo. He has another name, but I am afraid to tell you that. Our chief tells us what we must do and what we cannot do, and we obey him. We make our own clothes of many bright colors. We love beads and jewellery. Each costume costs £3, and we have many of them. On our head we wear the “diclaw,” or scarf, which the English women are now copying from us. Our men do not have to dress according to the chief’s orders. They wear clothes like Englishmen— made by a tailor.
None’ of us have grey hair. Perhaps it Is because we put lard on it, but I think it Is because we do not worry about anything. We have no housework, and we do not work at all. We eat and sleep and dance and sing and play with our children. Sometimes our men work, and there is always money in our pockets. You would not like the way we cook our food. It Is when we have a wedding we have the big feast. Then we have everything, and wine, too. We eat and eat, and then we have music, and sometimes we play cards. We all like to gamble at poker, and some of our own games. Our men play the piano accordion, the violin, and the saxophone. We sing gipsy songs like “Ohari Don,” which is about a young girl getting married, and “Maroushna,” which is about gathering sheep on the hillside.
Sometimes we get married in the church — we go to the Greek Church in Australia. The bride cries, for she is very shy. Then we bring the new couple home and have the feast and the dancing, and the mother of the bride presents everyone with flowers and a scarf or some other gift. Gipsy women never marry English men— it is a law of the Chief. But gipsy men sometimes marry outside the tribe. We say we like to have outsiders in our camp, but it is not so— we like only gipsies.
The men are the bosses, and sometimes they hit us over the head to prove it. We drive the cars as well as the men. We travel usually in a Ford V8, a Packard, a Pierce Arrow, and a Locomobile. One day we just say, “Let us go from here,” and we pack up. There is no boss in camp. You do not like our camp here at Mona Vale? Do not forget it who are the gipsies, not you. It suits us perfectly. I am very simple, really. I cannot read or write. But I live without working and without worry. I and all my people live on the fat of the land— your land. Good luck— I would like to say “My friend,” but no one Is a friend to the gipsy. So I shall say Malashebuc —
Good Luck follow you.