Bogdan Chesaru – Roma Informal Settlers
Since their arrival in Europe in the Middle Ages the Roma people, also referred to as Gypsies, endured poverty and persecution. Enslaved or hunted for sport up to the 18th century, marked for extermination by the Nazi regime, facing forced assimilation in the former communist countries or discriminatory policies of expulsion in Western Europe, they are the largest ethnic minority on the European continent.
Ten-year-old Adrian wandering in search for scrap metal through an empty field near the Muntii Tatra settlement.
Forcibly evicted in 2000 from the centre of Constanta, eighteen families are trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, crammed into self-built, mud-floored huts on Muntii Tatra Street on the outskirts of the city. According to estimates, 2 to 2.5 million people of Roma descent reside in Romania, which has a total population of 22 million. Nearly 80 percent of them live below the poverty line. After the country joined the EU in 2007, many Roma hoped for a change of fortune. Instead, their situation significantly worsened; communist-era forced settlement being superseded by mass evictions.
Constanta, Romania – September 2011.
The Muntii Tatra informal settlement, Constanta, Romania, september 9, 2011.
Eighteen huts pieced together from scrap wood, ragged fabric and pieces of rusty sheet metal housing about 70 displaced Roma men, women, and children. Most of them were forcibly evicted over a decade ago from flats and houses in the city when buildings nationalized during communism were returned to their former owners.
Lina (46) with two of her ten grandchildren, Denisa (3) and Dalida (4 months), inside their hut.
Just returned from school, Maria, second grade, entertains her younger brothers with her readings from the day’s class. While free primary education is provided by the Romanian government, families are responsible for purchasing books, school supplies, and providing transportation. Fifty percent of the Roma children drop out school before graduating the 4th grade. Poverty and the lack of economic opportunities force many of them to follow in their parents footsteps as day laborers.
Ana-Maria (14). Her father passed away following a heart attack 4 years ago.
“Tomorrow is my first day of high school. I’m kind of excited, and kind of scared. I will probably be the only one who will not bring flowers to my new teachers. My mother said that with the money spent on flowers she can support the entire family for 2 days.”
Natalia serving dinner to her family.
Three-year-old Denisa having her hair combed by her grandmother after bathing in a plastic basin inside their hut.
Roma disproportionately, almost exclusively, make up the population of informal settlements across Romania.
More images on Bogdan Chesaru’s website. Bogdan Chesaru was born in Romania in 1978 and studied engineering before turning to photography.
In 2009, he started working as a contract photographer for Jurnalul National and the Bucharest-based press photo agency Intact Images.
For the last year, Bogdan has been focusing on environmental and social issues.