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THUNDERS OF WHITE SILENCE 

CHAPTER X: FROM GRAVES TO CRADLES


http://www.gofundme.com/1txc2s
Or, better, http://www.florin.ms/pp.html
https://vimeo.com/139962781 'Daniel in the Island of the Dead' Film by Emio Lanini
WhiteSilence

To write a blues song
Is to regiment riots
And pluck gems from graves.
                                                                                                   Etheridge Knight



Now bless thyself: thou mettest with things
dying, I with things newborn.

                                                                                                   Shakespeare, Winter's Tale, III.iii.115 


When I became custodian in 2000, now fourteen  years ago, this is somewhat what the Cemetery looked like. The photograph below was taken twenty years ago. At least by the time I arrived two laurel hedges had been planted which hid some of the worst of the neglect but these were damaging tombs with their powerful roots and their sap deeply stained the marble. The thirty-years' continuous use of weedkiller likewise was also damaging the cypresses of Arnold Böcklin's Island of the Dead and as well eroding the 
pietra serena bases of the tombs. Our visitors expressed anger at the neglect, criticizing us for it.



Tombs had been grossly vandalized, piled one on top of the other, particularly their crosses wilfully broken. The marble was black with pollution, the cemetery being surrounded by heavy continuous traffic. Some tombs had even been stolen, including that for Maria B
öcklin of the 'Island of the Dead'. Syringes were everywhere. There were traces of Black Masses. The soil had been poisoned with the thirty years of weedkiller and also covered over with gravel to discourage any greenery. Only stinging nettles flourished, so it was an agony to walk amongst the tombs in summer in sandals. The erosion on the hill was extremely serious from the dry wall having collapsed in 1966's heavy rains, and the lack of plant roots to hold it, tombs in Sectors D and E leaning dangerously like Easter Island figures, particularly that of THEODORE PARKER (D108). The iron railings were broken, rusting, many stolen. Suicides were attempted beneath its walls. It was a place of despair and ugliness.

We placed the accounts of the tombs on the Web and descendants and scholars came and found us, some from as far away as Africa, Brazil, China, Australia, New Zealand, helping us with information and donations for the PARKER (D108), DELISSER (B94), CHECCUCCI/GARINEI (E82,86), LYON HERBERT (E48), REID (F71), LUMLEY (E63), GOUGH (A90), LOGAN CAMPBELL (E54), SAVAGE LANDOR (A29) and BARRETT BROWNING (B8) tombs. Maestro Franco Zeffirelli telephoned us with his support and had the Mayor give us a crossing and traffic lights where there had been none before. Others encouraged us to restore the garden, Vieri Torrigiani Malaspina, Anna Porcinai, Katherine Goldsmith, Nicholas Dakin-Elliot, the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West. The garden now abounds with wild purple irises, Florence's fragrant lily, with lavender, with roses, with papyri, with myrtle, with wild strawberries, with narcissi from Sissinghurst, with hedges of the original box instead of the later laurel.
To do these restorations we consulted old engravings and old photographs. Our library, the Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei', with its archive, in 2005 was decreed a member of SDIAF (Sistema Documentario Integrato dell'Area Fiorentina) by the Comune of Florence. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale housing the coeval loot from the Champollion and Rosellini Expedition to Egypt and Nubia created an exhibition on the Egyptian motives in the English Cemetery in 2007. The Gabinetto Viessuex held an international conference, 'The City and the Book III: Marble Silence: Words on Stone, Florence's 'English' Cemetery, in 2004, on the Cemetery, and then we held another, The City and the Book V, The Americans in Florence's 'English' Cemetery, in 2008, in the series of international conferences on The City and the Book, organized by our Aureo Anello Associazione, founded to sustain our library, the Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei, and to restore the 'English' Cemetery. We gathered 6000 signatures internationally to save the Swiss-owned so-called 'English' Cemetery from closure and included these in our presentation in 2011 when we were a candidate for UNESCO's Memory of the World.  I had already spoken of the Cemetery and the Roma at the UNESCO WSIS conference in St Petersburg in 2005. We are a founding member of ASCE, Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe, to which I gave several presentations on Florence's 'English' Cemetery, the latest in Cluj, Romania, and thus we are part of the European Union's Cemeteries Cultural Route. I was invited to speak to the EESC/European Economic and Social Committee on the Roma and the Cemetery in Brussels in 2011, having already spoken on Roma and education in Antwerp in 2008, and this year, 2014, on the Romanian Roma and the cemetery in Cluj, Romania. Eugenio Giani of the City of Florence awarded us first the laurel wreath to honour Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 2006, then even the laurel wreath and the Gonfalone, the great Banner of Justice of the Comune, in 2011.


Florence's Gonfalone of Justice at Thomas Southwood Smith's tomb (C3)

Eugenio Giani's initial visit, when the cemetery was still bleak and grey from thirty years' of poisoning, with tombs leaning precariously, some smashed to pieces, was because of THEODORE PARKER
(D108)'s grave. Obama had just become President and had ordered a carpet for the Oval Office in the White House with the words from Martin Luther King Jr.: "The arc of the Moral Universe is long, but it bends toward Justice", words taken from Theodore Parker's sermon: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice." President Obama would then quote these words again in South Africa at Nelson Mandela's funeral. Years before, the ex-slave Frederick Douglass had visited the graves of Theodore Parker and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence to acknowledge their work against slavery. Buried here also are NADEZHDA DE SANTIS (B58), the black slave from Nubia, brought here from Nubia when she was fourteen by the Champollion and Rosellini Expedition of 1828, her freedom bought by Rosellini's uncle, baptized in a Russina Orthodox family, then dying at thirty, her tomb telling her story in Russian in Cyrillic. Buried here are also FRANCES TROLLOPE (B80), author of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, the first anti-slavery novel, and RICHARD HILDRETH (D110), author of the second, Archie Moore, or the White Slave, both being next copied by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her 1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her book was immediately translated by Theodor Codrescu into Romanian and printed in Iasi in 1853. The Roma, having come from India a millennia earlier, had been enslaved by the monasteries and the nobles in Romania since the Middle Ages. This novel's translation into Romanian brought about their freedom, along with the scandal of a double suicide of a slave owned by the KANTAKUZIN (D81) family and the French woman whom he was forbidden by law to marry.

  

By 2012 a miracle had happened. I believe intensely that research and restoration must be carried out simultaneously, in depth. And also humanely, Jeremy Bentham's concept of 'the greatest good for the greatest number', that I was taught in my Anglican convent school. Roma from Romania, of Europe's largest, poorest minority, have far more than half restored the Florence's Swiss-owned so-called 'English' Cemetery and its garden. Our visitors from all over the world no longer criticize us but instead lavish praises on how well it is maintained. Our telling the story of how this happened is another miracle. It educates global visitors away from prejudice and fear to appreciation and joy, and they quickly draw analogies: if they are Americans, to the Abolition of Slavery and to the Civil Rights movement; if Canadians, Americans, Brazilians, and Australians, to the Lost Generation of Native Peoples; if Europeans, to the Holocaust, even, if South African, to apartheid, if Israeli, to Palestinians. This Cemetery, this small but very cosmopolitan island, a dream of a League of Nations, a United Nations, filled with tombs having 'Hope' as their theme (NADEZHDA DE SANTIS/ B58, HOPE HAYWARD/ B93, REGINALD ROUTH/ E25, among others), undoes crimes against humanity. I once had a student at Princeton who had been selected to inherit all the Hopi sacred lore. His people believe that their sacred mesa and its rituals are the microcosm of the universe, this their moral responsibility toward the cosmos. The ancient Egyptians dreamed of Paradise as a garden they tended. Elderly ladies told me that when they were little girls wild strawberries grew in the 'English' Cemetery. When we stopped the weed-killing the wild strawberries came back. A garden can be a microcosm, a dream vision. So can a cemetery. It is God's Acre, a 'camposanto', in Italian, or 'holy field'. Though it is Protestant, often Orthodox and Catholic visitors cross themselves upon entering and leaving it.



The Roma from Romania started coming to Florence in 2001. The Yugoslavian Roma were already here, refugees from their devastating war. I had fled to Italy when Anglican bishops stole
from my convent and its nuns, who had sold land to build a hospital, two million pounds sterling. The English Protestant bishops, who live in palaces and are driven by chauffeurs, had the cloister, the cells, including mine, and the chapel, bulldozed, secularizing the rest of the buildings to sell them off for money. So I found myself in exile, living in one unheated room in the hills above Florence, walking on foot. Once a month I would come down to the bank for my too-small pension. One day, in the street outside the bank, a ten-year-old Yugoslovian Roma girl was beginning to steal that from me. I said in a panic, in English, 'That was bad!' Relieved a second later that I had not said 'You are evil'. And, realizing what she had tried to take was infinitely less than what bishops had already taken, looking into her frightened eyes, I recognized she was my sister. On that day my friendship with Roma began, dispelling the fear I had had towards them. That night I mentioned this story on the Thomas Merton discussion list. Chesko wrote back, 'I am glad you were kind to my little sister', he said, explaining she would have been beaten had she not stolen, her family needing her help for their mutual survival, also explaining that he, Roma, had come from China at twenty to America to be a Carthusian monk, then a hermit, then married. For gypsies with their language, Romaně, are truly World Citizens, are global, yet without an army, without a country, without civil rights. They migrated by way of Iran and Turkey from India a thousand years ago, their Romaně language being Sanskrit, with Persian and Turkish words added to it. Skilled with their hands, with very strict rules about bodily cleanliness; yet everywhere they go they are feared and rejected, forced into atrocious poverty, denied a roof, water, light, heat.

Hedera was our first Romanian Roma mother. I used to see her in 2001 when she was pregnant with her second child, desperate, without Italian, in the little square by the Casa di Dante, near the Badia church. I used to give her Florentine postcards and blessed bread from the Badia's Mass for the Poor. Then she started coming to the Mass for the Poor herself, angry, afraid. When Robert was born she put him in my arms, all wrapped in swaddling bands. She became pregnant again and this time I made her a rocking cradle.



When Leonardo was born, as soon as she and her baby came out of hospital, they and her husband came to our gate, but would not come into the Cemetery. So I carried the cradle out to them. They smiled, seeing it, but could not take it as they were living in a camp with no room at all. Then, when Leonardo was eight days old, on St Lawrence's day, in the midst of a tremendous storm, Andre, her husband, telephoned: the police had sent them away from the abandoned warehouse where they were with their new-born into the pouring rain. I walked to the Badia under a large umbrella to persuade Hedera and her child to come home with me. She explained it would be too dangerous to have the unbaptized baby in a cemetery. As we walked past the Duomo. I thought 'Can we enter there and ask a priest to baptize the child?' But, as I knew in my hearts of hearts, sadly, no priest would have done so. So I said to Hedera, 'I will baptize this child tonight'. I knew that in Canon Law baptism can be performed by any person, this Sacrament of the seven of Catholics, or of the two of Protestants, uniquely not needing an ordained priest to perform it. Andre came too, and we baptized the peaceful swaddled Leonardo at my prayer table in my cell, with water and the Holy Trinity, including in the words of the service 'Orthodox' as well as 'Catholic'. I slept on the couch that week while this young couple with their child had my room.


Leonardo

Hedera would sing lullabys to Leonardo of  'Alleluia' and lay icons beside him on the bed.
It was as if we were living in Paradise. One day she narrated, 'He was so poor he was born in a stable with the animals, with the horses. The people were hungry, and he gave them bread, and potatoes. And the envious killed him.' The Gospel, Romaně style. She cannot read but explained that the old people who can no longer work tell stories in the families. And these are the stories they tell. André told me his mother could read and that she would read the Bible, crying, in the middle of the night. My Italian colleague helped them with the bureaucracy for the documents for returning to Romania. But not before they all, cousins and brothers, had expertly repaired our collapsed dry wall, many metres of it, by first cleaning away everything, then, with the women, who held the baby in turns, directing the menfolk, the brothers and husbands throwing the stones to each other, catching them and putting them in place, in two hours. Those stones that had once been in the Ghibelline towers of pride and bloodshed, then used in the Guelf city walls built by Arnolfo di Cambio for the common defense and peace of Florence. The hill has since held perfectly for twelve years and we have now righted and stabilized the falling Easter Island tombs, including that for THEODORE PARKER (D108). In return for this valuable work I helped them buy their house in Buzau.

Before we could finish the dry wall we were ordered to stop. Roma from Romania were then 'clandestini', illegal aliens. I could be imprisoned for giving them work. Also, I asked San Lorenzo's Prior about the baptism of the Roma baby. He in turn asked the Curia. A long discussion. No, they would not have baptized Leonardo. The parents, poor, the mother illiterate, Romanian Orthodox, deeply pious, would not have been prepared to raise the child Catholic. They agreed it was a valid baptism sacramentally, but not a legal one. There would be no paperwork done on it. In God's eyes, yes; in men's eyes, no. I was to promise not to do this again. But I did record Hedera singing 'Alleluia' to her child. Years later I gave that MP2 recording to RaiUno for their Easter Sunday 2008 national broadcast where it became the background music for their filming of the Mass for the Poor at the Badia. We also tried to teach Hedera the alphabet and she wrote out the Lord's Prayer, learning how to write letters but not grasping that they are sounds, that they are building blocks for words. We taught her how to marble paper and gave her a kit, buying her beautiful papers sent to us from Romania.

  
Nadia, Leonardo, Robert in Romania with our cradle.   With Hedera and Andre                              


Hedera's 'Padre nostro'

After Hedera, our next Roma family became Doina, her husband and her baby Stefano. By now we knew we could not give work to Roma if we did not wish to see the inside of a prison. Doina came to me, her hospital bracelet still on her wrist, trying to tell me her baby was being kept from her in hospital. The story was so strange I found it hard to believe. She came again and I asked which hospital. And went there to find four-month-old Stefano. He was about to be put up for adoption. We arranged for Doina and Luca, her husband, to meet with young lawyers and I then went with them to the Tribunal for Minors, having taught them to write their names the night before. The woman judge, hearing the story from us as well as from Social Assistance, awarded the parents their child. We had already found the necessary carrying-cradle, clothing, money for the travel documents and tickets so they could return with Stefano to Romania. We went with them straight to the hospital from the courtroom and next on the bus to the train station, the whole time Luca kissing Leonardo in his carrying basket. The photograph they sent from Romania shows us the most beautiful, clean and gorgeously happy child, completely different from the little expressionless institutionalized baby I had seen in the hospital.


Stefano, Buzau

Already we had helped Hedera not lose her two babies to Social Assistance. We have now saved 28 Roma babies for their parents. Taking them away from their people is a form of genocide, the 'Lost Generation' of the Native Peoples in Canada and America, of the Aborigines in Australia, children who are robbed of their parents, their families, their languages, their cultures and their skills for ecological survival. We say they steal our babies. The truth is we steal theirs. To prevent this we help with the necessary documents and photographs (using the same borrowed camera with which we document the restoration of the tombs), procedures which these illiterate parents cannot manage or afford otherwise. And we have made sixteen cradles, keeping one in the library to explain the project, where it is used where a baby is present for the Alphabet School, the others being in use in families that have returned to Romania. Though one I sent to my great grandson, Luke, in Philadelphia. Another went to Iceland for a baby there.

These babies hardly ever cry, feeling secure in the ancestral wisdom of being swaddled, rocked, held, nursed and sung to, and are a joy to have under one's roof. Their parents, too, make a room beautiful, keep everything clean - Hedera even cleaned our Teflon frying pan down to the silver metal! - and their courtesy comes from thinking of the other more than of themselves, reading one's mind as to what needs to be done and doing it before one asks. They are right-hemisphere people, living in the present moment, the past and future too dreadful to contemplate, of slavery from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, longer than were Blacks in America, and then the horror of the Gulags in the Ukraine, next the Holocaust, with no reparations being paid, all these put aside, loving beautiful colours, music, dance, celebrations of funerals, weddings, christenings.


Marcella, Vandana, Maria

 
As models for artists

Next, Vandana, her mother, her sister and her sister-in-law, came and gardened at the same time we persuaded the hired gardeners that the use of weed-killer must stop. Vandana and her sister also built bookcases with me for the library and another cradle.
With what Vandana earned with her family gardening they bought land for building a house, explaining they were twelve living in one room with no windows. We asked them to show us where they lived in Osmannoro and went there, seeing the five rooms they had built for seven people, two of them married couples, the food, which they ate at a table outdoors, hanging from the tree outside, likewise water so they could shower and drink.


Osmannoro

Later the police would bulldoze that sturdy shack as unfit for human habitation. Our library, the Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei', is hung with photographs of the Roma in Florence, Bologna, and Romania, photographs taken by Karen Graffeo, whose own family had been photographed by Walker Evans in James Agee's Now Let Us Praise Famous Men.




Karen Graffeo is friends also with the Muslim Roma from former Yugoslavia and created two chuppas for American Jewish weddings with the help of the Roma who embroidered the ancestors' names in gold thread on white silk. One bride said, when being told it was Muslim Roma who were doing the embroidering with a Catholic nun pencilling the letters of the names for the Jewish chuppa, 'Well, I guess that's world peace'!


The Romanian Roma in 2007 became European Citizens.
I
would no longer have to go to prison if I gave them work, but I still was not allowed to employ people who had no fixed address and who were not insured. However the Constitution of our Aureo Anello Associazione written by our lawyer allows for economic activity amongst its members. Thus the answer was to have Roma become members of the association we had formed for the library and cemetery as its readers and restorers. Many, writing their names in our membership book, did so for the first time, side by side with noble English descendants and international scholars.



And all our members accepted this as valid. We pay the insurance for them. Most are still sleeping in the streets with no fixed address. But the new system of vouchers now permits their working legally. I am only allowed to house one person, at the very most three in a family working in the Cemetery where there is an emergency with a newborn until they receive the birth certificate needed for next getting the travel document from the Romanian Consulate for returning home with the baby. The baby would be taken from them by Social Assistance and put up for adoption if they lacked a proper address for it. If they begged with the baby in the streets of Florence for their survival they would be imprisoned.

The following year, 2008, Vandana returned with her husband, Daniel-Claudiu. I found this odd as she had claimed she was unmarried and we knew Roma marry very young. They had in fact married when they were very young. She explained later she had lied because she thought I would not have approved. I give Roma a test, a task, and if it is done well, following that, real work. Syracuse University had wanted the four tombs of the two Counts MARIO AND GIOVANNI GIGLIUCCI and their English wives EDITH MARGARET AND CHARLOTTE SOPHIA GIGLIUCCI (C19-22) restored. I asked Daniel, who is the grandson of the top coppersmith in his part of Romania, to conserve their rusting iron railings. He did this work by hand, scraping off all the rust and finding there were also brass knobs on the tops of the railings. Our restorer, Alberto Casciani, said to now give the iron two coats of anti-rust and two coats of enamel, and for the brass to have a clear varnish. The work was done so excellently
that we arranged a work contract for him with our commercialista. I gave Daniel my electric sander and over the summer he conserved all the iron in the Cemetery, both the wrought and the cast iron work. Among many were these forty-one burials which can be seen in PowerPoint of the following in order, giving both before and after images: AGUET (D17), CROSBIE (A20), DELLA TORRE (E97), FIERZ (D3), GILLES-GERMAIN (AB14), GIGLIUCCI (C19-22), GOLIKOVA (F9), GRAY (E40), HARRIS (E36), JARVES (C5), DENNIS (D111), KELLETT (B111-113), TOD (C32), KOEMMETTER (D153), LEMMI (F33), KLEINKAUF/MACDONELL (B96-B97), D'OUSSOW (B12), POWERS (B32), POWERS' children (E56), ROSE (E43), REBESOV (E18), ZUKOVSKY (D36), BERNOVA (D78), WOOD (A98), MEYRVEIS/MEJEAN (D140-142), TRINGHAM SMITH (E23), VIDLER (E42), MORGAN (A96), UNKNOWN (E106), WITAL (D125).  Immediately the cemetery began to look better. Daniel and Vandana were commuting by bus from outside of Florence where the Roma had built shacks to come to work. On the first of May they even returned on my bicycle because there were no buses. It was illegal for them to stay under our roof. Daniel and Vandana built a cradle for their not-yet-born child.





Then the carabinieri forced Vandana into their car threatening her and she went into labour prematurely. At this point the Swiss who own the Cemetery allowed Vandana and Daniel to have my cell with the tiny new-born Gabriela while I slept on the couch again, as before with Hedera, Andre and little Leonardo, and Daniel finished working on the iron. I registered the family at the police station, required in Italy to make their presence legal. They cared for the little Gabriela beautifully, as had Hedera and Andre with Leonardo.
I get up early to pray the Offices and would find Daniel in the kitchen lovingly warming milk for the prematurely-born baby at four in the morning. They studied books in the library and also while here wrote booklets with their drawings in four languages, Romaně, Romanian, Italian and English, a Romaně dictionary, a booklet on house building, a booklet on solar panels, and a booklet on health care, which we printed out on my computer. This is Daniel's drawing in the Romany Vocabulary booklet for the word for church in Romani, Romanian, Italian and English: Cangheri, Biserică, Chiesa, Church. 



Daniel then drew on our library table the plan for the house they wanted to build with four windows and three rooms.



Wanting to know if their stories were true, Karen Graffeo and I travelled to Romania and found they were. In Buzau we visited Daniel and Vandana's family and, yes, there were twelve people sleeping in one windowless room, the horse lodged next to them in its stall, and they offered us a potato each of their meal which was only half-boiled potatoes cooked on a fire in the open. Thus Hedera's story (
'He was so poor he was born in a stable with the animals, with the horses. The people were hungry, and he gave them bread, and potatoes. And the envious killed him.'), that she had told us, deepened to a new dimension with the horse, with the potatoes. We also visited the widow Constantsa in Ramnicu Sarat, seeing her caring for ten babies in a house whose roof leaked. We saw Hedera's beautiful three room house we had made possible, she no longer living in a shack. In Buzau we photographed Vandana's sister and brother-in-law holding aloft the photograph of baby Gabriela in the flower-filled field that was the land they had bought for building the house.



Then, when they went home, Daniel, his mother, his wife and his in-laws built its walls.





The following year, 2009, was a disaster.
Cruel, racist jealousy had arisen. We were not allowed to have the Roma come. They needed to work to earn the roof or the walls would be damaged. We were 'in cantiere', the Cemetery shut down while loculi for ashes were being built. Vandana, her sister, and Daniel-Claudiu came anyway, showing up at the gate, having used a people smuggler who had taken their passports until they could earn back €300,00 to pay him. On the days when the Italians were not working I had Daniel re-build a path destroyed by the erosion of the terraced hill alongside the Russian and Romanian tombs and paid him the €300,00 for the work so they could have their passports and return home. He identified for me the tombs on that path of the two Romanian nobles, JOAN KANTAKUZIN (D81), and POLYDORE VENTURA (D83), who had owned Roma as slaves until the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin in Romanian. The roof did not get built that year. Instead I sent them money for plastic to protect the walls.

The next year, 2010, Viscount Gough wished to have the tomb of his almost ancestress, SARAH ELISABETH GOUGH (A90), restored. It was black with dirt and a large piece broken off. I arranged for its restoration from Alberto Casciani, one of Florence's top restorers, who took Daniel on as apprentice, teaching him how to clean it, and how to make the mould from the opposite corner for the broken one, filling that with epoxied marble powder. It is almost impossible now to tell what is restored and what is original. Alberto Casciani was content to restore just the tomb for €3000,00. Daniel, who was only being paid €300,00 of that amount, insisted on restoring the marble columns and iron railing surrounding it as well, repairing it totally. See the PowerPoint documentation of this project. A Russian tomb for ELIZAVETA PAVLOVA FROLOVA (A74), next to it, is still  black, and the difference between the two tombs is that of night and day. Immediately afterwards Daniel, now trained to work with marble, proceeded to clean tomb after tomb in the cemetery. Meanwhile other families came into our project. Margarita would come and garden and wash her family's clothes so her son could attend classes to learn stonemasonry. We asked her to show us her shack. She had had it built by another Roma for €50,00. It was unacceptable as housing, snakes in the grass and rats everywhere from no rubbish removal. She would borrow our sickle to cut the grass to protect her family from the snakes.



I telephoned the Mayor's office in Sesto Fiorentino asking why there was no rubbish removal. And got told 'They don't work. They don't pay taxes. We won't remove their rubbish'. But they are not allowed, by Italian law, to work, they are only allowed to beg. Then Osmannoro, the camp where once Hedera and her family and Vandana and her family had been, was bulldozed by the police on the coldest day of the year, so Margarita and her family had to move to live in the street at the Santissima Annunziata. So also did Lupascu Copalea who has TB and his family, while Nicolae and his family who begged outside our gate were sleeping near Santa Maria Novella Station. The police take their blankets from them on the coldest nights of the year to discourage their presence in Florence.

I started Alphabet School for these families, in the summer Lupascu teaching them under the cross by THOMAS SOUTHWOOD SMITH
(C3)'s tomb and its epitaph on the need for fresh air and sunlight in the homes of the poor. Lupascu's family in Constantsa are 28 to two rooms lacking windows and many under that roof, children, adults, have TB. I have now paid for them to have a window in their house. Windows are cheaper and better against TB than are hospitals and medicines.

 

 
                                                                                                                 Lupascu, Gheorghe, Mihai

Margarita's brother Gheorghe and her sixteen year old son Comitet repaired three tombs Italian restorers said could not be repaired, carefully fitting their vandalized pieces back together, using the letters of the inscriptions, one in Russian (A55), and two Swiss tombs (B13, A99), to match the pieces, allowing us to record the inscriptions and identify the tombs that earlier we had thought would be forever anonymous. Both Gheorghe and Comitet are illiterate. Gheorghe had bought land and a run-down house with his earnings. Social Assistance in Buzau threatened to take their children from them because of the state of the house. Gheorge's work for us earned enough for him to repair his home and save his three children.

 

Aurica from Buzau has land but her house on it collapsed from water entering its walls, its roofing lacking drain pipes to protect them. Though in such a dreadful state its walls have been carefully whitewashed every Easter. Daniel wrote the booklet on how to build better housing in four languages, using this image. We dream of this family, whose women and children participate in Alphabet School, of which she is the grandmother, earning enough to rebuild their home, instead of begging in the streets of Florence.



Nicolae from Ramnicu Sarat and Bancuta from Iasi gardened in turn with each other, Margarita and her family, threatened with imprisonment, having returned home from the square of the Santissima Annunziata, the bulldozing of their shack at Osmannoro having blocked Comitet from continuing his schooling.


Immediately after Daniel cleaned SARAH ELIZABETH GOUGH
(A90)'s tomb he also cleaned that of Sir DAVID DUMBRECK (A48), Robin Dumbreck sending us colour photographs of the Crimean medals gained from being head of the hospitals there where Florence Nightingale worked, medals which the sculptor had borrowed from the widow to sculpt in the white marble.

       
Sir David Dumbreck         Commander of the Order of Bath  Crimea medal with 4 clasps                      Turkish medal, Crimea               Order of the Medjidie

 

In that year of 2010 Daniel, under the supervision of the greatly respected and admired restorer, Alberto Casciani, cleaned the tombs of GOFFREDO BETTINI (A61), ROBINA WILSON CAVALCANTI (A3), Captain JAMES CHUTE (B14), PHILIPINA SIMONA CIAMPI (F27), ARTHUR HUGH CLOUGH (F8), SAXON COCKER (F1), Major MICHELANGELO GALEAZZI (A77), JAMES LORIMER GRAHAM (E12), ELIZABETH DAUBENEY (F3), ROBERT DAVIDSOHN (C1), SEVERINUS GOEDKE ZIMBOWSKY (F7), JEAN DAVID MARC GONIN (the Cemetery's first burial, C106), FANNY HOLMAN HUNT (B9), ANNE SUSANNA HORNER (A15), LOUISA FLORENCE LOWE (B122), MARIA MERCADANTI (D52), CESARE PAGANINI (B23), EDWARD PORTEUS (B65), HELEN FLORENCE OLDHAM (sculpted by HIRAM POWERS, B101), GYULA PULSZKY (A60), Revd GEORGE ROBBINS (E101), HARRIET ROBBINS INGHIRAMI (F21), GEORGINA SLOPER (B102), ELEANOR AUGUSTA TULK (B103), Principessa LAURA TEMPLE BOWDOIN PANDOLFINA (E141), SOPHIA TENNANT (D18), AUGUSTUS WALLIS (A64), CHRISTOPHER WEBB SMITH (A14), MARY YOUNG (A6), as well as those of SARAH ELISABETH GOUGH (
A90) and Sir DAVID DUMBRECK (A48), a total of 30 large marble tombs. The project for restoring the EDWARD PORTEUS(B65)' tomb was funded with €400,00 from the Waterloo Committee, for which see this PowerPoint presentation. With what he was paid Daniel was now able to build the wooden part of his roof, the beams that would eventually hold the metal roof to keep off the snow. Social Assistance had threatened to take their children from them and so this was essential in order not to lose them.

In January 2011, I gave the presentation
to the EESC/European Economic and Social Committee of the European Commission in Brussels, at their invitation, titled 'From Graves to Cradles', about our work/study project with Romanian Roma in Florence. It was well received, our project said to be 'best practice', the most concrete. Our Aureo Anello Associazione formed a twin association in Romania, Asociaţia Agrustic Somnacuni - Inel de Aur, of which Daniel is President and Vandana, Vice-President. While ours is to maintain the Mediatheca 'Fioretta Mazzei' and to restore the 'English' Cemetery, theirs is to preserve Roma families and the Romaně language (while acquiring many others), through mutual house repairing and alphabetization. Then on the 29th of June 2011 the Comune of Florence invited all the autoritŕ of the city and presented us with the Gonfalone, the great lilied banner of Florence in honour of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and of the restoration of the Cemetery by the Roma, Daniel taking fine photographs of the event.

In that year Daniel brought his grandfather's tools he had inherited and replaced the lead lettering that was missing on the tombs, a fuller account of this work being seen in this PowerPoint.
   


He also cleaned and repaired the following hundred tombs: JULES AUGUST AGUET (D17), EUGENIJ FEDOROVIC ALLISSOF (E116), ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (B8), Vicomte HENRI DE LA BELINAYE (A43), EDMUND BENNETT (E83), ISABELLA BLAGDEN (B42), EMILE EMANUEL BOSIO (A7), MARIE FANNY BOSIO (A8), EDUARD BOSSE (D107), ERNST GOTTHILF BOSSE (D107),
ELOISE BOSSE (D109), JAMES BOURNE (B21), EDWARD BRIND (C65), BEATRIX FANNY MARY CAMPBELL SPENCE (A10), KATIE ISABEL CAMPBELL SPENCE (A9), Vice-President SALOMON GUILLAUME COUNIS (D13), CARLO COUNIS (B48), ELIZABETH CRAFT (C64), JAMES CRAIGIE, M.D. (C99), Rev GEORGE BRICKDALE CROSSMAN (B99), LOUISE LAURIE SOPHIE ALICE DALGAS/ RODOLPHE GUILLAUME DALGAS (C39), ELIZABETH JUDGE D'ARCY IRVINE (C44), EMILY D'ARCY IRVINE (F24), JAMES LUKIN DAVIS (A63), PHILIPPE DELAPIERRE (A66), FREDERIQUE DUPLAN (C40), SALVATORE FERRETTI (AB27), ELEANORA FRAPPA (D14), Capt. JACOB ANTON GANZONI (D73), again JEAN DAVID MARC GONIN (C106), JANE MILLER DICKSON GORDON (A49), MARCELLINA AND VETURIA VOTA/GRECO (B86), Rev HENRY GREENE (A51), GRACE GREENWOOD (E115), ANNE HARRIS (C59), Lieut Commander ISAAC HARRIS (E36), JEAN CHRISTIAN HEINSMANN/GUSTAV HEINZMANN/FRANZ HEINZMANN (C88), RICHARD HILDRETH (D119), FRANCIS WEMYSS HOWE (C45), MARGARET SMITH BOYLE THOMPSON (A52), LUCY OLIVER IVES (A54), CONSTANT JACCOTTET (F25), HUGH WILLIAM JONES (A53), CHARLES EDWARD KERRICH (D143), Dr AUGUSTUS KIRCH (AB6), FREDERICH ADOLPH KLEINKAUF (B96), ARNOLD HENRY SAVAGE LANDOR/WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR ii, JOHN LANDOR, M.D. (F128A), PIERRE DE LARS (A87), LOUISE LEBRUN (E133), LESSONA tombs (C14-16), IVAN LEONTEVIC LEVITSKY (F6), MILLICENT ANN LLOYD (A11), CHARLES EDWARD LUSHINGTON (B61), BARTOLOMEO MALFATTI (C36), MARIA MALFATTI/LUISA MALFATTI (C35), PAOLO MALFATTI (C37), ANATOLIJ MICHAIJLOVIC MASLENNIKOV (A42), ROLAND JAMES MCDOUALL (E30), HUGH MCDONNELL (B97), MARY BEATRICE MCCLEOD (A56), MONICA SALVADOR MEGATTI (F), JENNY MORELL WALTON (B60), ELIZABETH ANNE MORICE (A50), ADOLFO MUSSAFIA/REGINA MUSSAFIA (C27), KALIMA NADEZHDA DE SANTIS (B58), CAROLINE BENNETT NAPIER (F23), ROBERT NICHOLSON (B44), Dott. BARTOLOMEO ODICINI (A47), Rev. GEORGE ALGERNON PEYTON (E39), an unidentified pyramid tomb (C70), EVGENII POLYAKOV (C8), HIRAM POWERS (B32), SAMUEL REGINALD ROUTH (E25), MARY ANNE SALISBURY (F2), HUGEN G. SCHMID (C68), WILHELM PHILIP LUDVIG SCHWARZENBERG (D76), JOHN CROSSLEY GAYLE SEYMOUR (E37), JOHN SINCLAIR (C41), JOHN MCHARDY SINCLAIR (C33), Captain ROBERT GEORGE SUCKLING SMITH (D21), Contessa ELEANORE EMILIE STENBOCK-FERMOR (D74), MARIA STEVENS (B72), ANNA/ANNINA STUPAN (E114), HARRIET THOMPSON (E13), ROBERT VINCENT THURBURN (B59), THOMAS TOD (C32), Hon. FRANCES TOLLEY (B131), THOMAS TRINGHAM SMITH (E23), PAUL VIEUSSEUX (C101), GIAMPIETRO VIEUSSEUX (F48), JOHN MAURICE WALKER (D75), LOUISE MARY YARNOLD (E84), EDWARD WILLIAM YOUNG (B29). For which see Restauri2011.

We find in our experience that Italian restorers charge between from €300,00 to €3000,00 to €10.000,00, even up to €40.000,00 to restore a tomb, work slowly and do not complete the task. Daniel has the technical school diploma. He earned €5000,00 for a year's work, worked carefully, completely, quickly, rising early in the morning, while also washing dishes and floors, painting rooms, repairing plumbing and electrical appliances, doing cabinetry work and bookbinding, co-directing the Alphabet School, and studying in the evening with the computer and with books. With what he earned that year he was able to roof his house with metal against the snow. The Opificio delle Pietre Dure wrote an estimate for the partial restoration of the Cemetery, the cleaning of some of the tombs, the gardening, as now carried out by Daniel and other Roma, as costing 800 million lire, the equivalent of 400.000,00 euro, while the architect for the Comune of Florence gave an estimate of 1.684.100,00 euro. Which Daniel did for around seven thousand euro raised from donations by descendants.

 

The year, 2012, he continued to work with CNR 'Nello Carrara' on their major research project cleaning the statue of Speranza/Hope by Odouardo Fantacchiotti with lasers on the tomb of SAMUEL REGINALD ROUTH (E25). He also cleaned the 38 tombs of ELISA MARIA STISTED WOOD (A98), LYDIA MATILDA GOFF (A97), ISABELLA SCOTT (A95), THOMAS TIGHE (B6), Captain JAMES JOHNSTON MCCLEVERTY (B88), CARL JULES HEINZMANN/ELISA ADELAIDE HEINSMANN (C102), JULES FRIEDRICH GENAND (C100), THOMAS TOD (C37), HENRY BROCKHOLST LIVINGSTON (C38), GIOVANNI STUPAN (C26), CHARLOTTE MARY FLORENTIA CLIVE (D20), EVERETTA LOUISA AULDJO (D162), ARTHUR WILLIAM CASTELLANI (D113), ANNIE DALLAS (F19), JAMES ROBERT MATTHEWS (E100), MARY ANNE OCTAVIA MATTHEWS (E99), FLORENCE, FRANCES, & JAMES POWERS (E56), Cavalier JOHAN HEDENBERG (E90), ALBERT, ERNESTO, EUGENIO REVEL (E145), ALICE MARY ORR SLAYTON (E143), MARY ISABELLA JEFFERSON PAGE (E142), JOHN EDWARD ELLIOTT (E10), EMMA MATILDA BALL (E2), CHRISTINE TEMPLE-BOWDOIN (E1), ANN ALICE HOLT (F4), DOMENICA PEER, LETA, PLACIDO STALVIES (F126), ESTHER SUSAN AMELIA BANKES (F125), FRANCES JANE WHYTE MOYSER (F31), FLORENCE FLETCHER WALKER WHYTE (F30), EMIL OTTO ADOLF ALBERT VON PARPART (F81), CHARLES THEODORE GIPNER (F130), EMMA GAMBREE CAPEI (F67), ELIZABETH OKELL GRAZZINI (F133), JOEL TANNER HART (F28), SARAH LEE (F107), ANNA HERMANN (F109), using water and small brushes. For which see Restauri2012.

  

At the same time Daniel was cleaning Hope, the sculpture by Odoardo Fantachiotti (E25), he and I were told of another work by the same sculptor, a tomb
for Teresa Spence in a chapel in Fiesole's cemetery, that had formerly been in Fiesole's Villa Medici. It is extraordinarily lovely but was filthy with mouse droppings, the door broken, and the tomb's two sphinxes vandalized, broken off and stolen. A Blundell Spence descendant encouraged us to restore it and Daniel set to work, taking the bus up to Fiesole daily with his tools, cleaning the marble, and repairing and conserving the iron door. I gave him my book-binding gold leaf to gild the initials on the gate. Then Hebe and Agnes came and stayed with us for two weeks teaching the Roma how to cut letters on marble for tomb inscriptions and how to gold leaf them.








In 2013 we created the facsimile of the cover of Florence's Libro del Chiodo, the book condemning Dante Alighieri to exile and death three times and we presented it to the Museo Casa di Dante to replace the black and white flat reduced photograph of it they had previously displayed. UNESCO next asked us to submit two photographs of Florence to celebrate the 40 years of the UNESCO World Monuments project. I photographed Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu and Alberto Casciani in their white lab coats beneath the beautifully cleaned statue of Hope and I photographed Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu with Enrico Giannini and the facsimile of the Libro del Chiodo in Enrico's Oltrarno workshop. Both photographs were accepted by UNESCO.




Enrico Giannini and Daniel-Claudiu Dumitrescu


Facsimile, Libro del Chiodo, Casa di Dante Museum

In the same year Daniel acquired a block and tackle from Romania and also the iron for the tomb of JOHN LOGAN CAMPBELL (E54), while the Swiss bought for him scaffolding equipment he could use. In this year Daniel straightened the tombs of JAMES LORIMER GRAHAM (E12), MARGARET HOYLE THOMPSON (A52), EDWARD WILLIAM YOUNG (B29), MARGARET MCNAB (E4), ERNST JONAS FREDRIK KJELLANDER (F39), restored the tomb of JOHN LOGAN CAMPBELL (E54), cleaned the tombs of ZAIDA FFRENCH (B1), BENTINCK AND MARY YELVERTON (B2), CECILIA MARY YELVERTON (B3), ELENA NIKITCINA DIK (B4), ANTHONY MEEK SAPTE (B5), ANNA BROWN (E24), BIANCA BALDELLI (F14), FLORENCE EVELYN JULIA FLEETWOOD-WILSON (F13), THOMAS BRUNKER (F72), THOMAS WATSON AND CHARLES OTLEY (F47), FREDRIC GOODBAN (E28), MARTHA REBECCA MOORE (F12), RALPH HENDERSON MOORHEAD (A12), THEODORE & GUILLELMO D'OUSSOW (B12), MARIA DOROTHEA JAFFRAY (B11), and rebuilt the collapsed dry wall, repairing the tombs of SOPHIE MEYRVEIS (D141), GEORGINE MEYRVEIS (D142), and  FLORENCE AMY CHARLOTTE HAIGH (D137). See Restauri2013. In this year Esprit blocked most of his work in order to have him participate in formation in a project which they never started. In the end, with Vandana ill from the loss of their home, we were forced to renounce the extremely bureaucratic and rigid project that would pay him only €3,00 an hour, in order to return to the real work of restoring the cemetery. I can only say that what Daniel is doing is miraculous. Everyone is pleased with his careful and efficient work at the very top level, whether it be the Opificio delle Pietre Dure or the Committee on National Research (CNR) for restoration. He and I work together on the schedatura, the descriptive catalogue, of the tombs for the Belle Arti (MIBAC), the Italian government ministry for monuments, he measuring and photographing each one, and also digitizing the Swiss archives for this project.



Then in 2015 Daniel was recruited by Alberto Casciani to work with him on the restoration of Donatello's Renaissance pulpit in Prato. He has arrived at the very top of his profession seven years following his apprenticeship in working with marble with Alberto Casciani, beginning with the tomb of Viscount Gough's almost ancestress in our cemetery. It disturbs me greatly that he is not receiving a living wage for what he does. €5000,00 a year of which a quarter is paid to the government in taxes, is not enough for a family of six, now become seven, he, his wife Vandana and their four daughters, Elena, Alexandra, Gabriela, Anna Maria, and the grandmother Amanda.

In this e-book's first chapter we discussed the likeness of this cemetery to the human brain with its two hemispheres. The Roma, I find, owe the excellence of their work, their ability to understand the whole of a project in a gestalt, to their harmony between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. They understand the total, work carefully with the details in that whole, and see and act on aspects that need to be done that are neglected by the specialists intent on applying only one taught technique. In part because they are pre-literate, their left hemisphere not tyrannizing over their right hemisphere, they are Renaissance women and men. In many ways our education cripples and hobbles our brain, impoverishing, rather than empowering, us. For which see Elizabeth Barrett Browning, An Essay on Mind (whose publication was paid for by the family's slave from Jamaica, Treppy), Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, and Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. Perhaps I am incorrect in seeing a way out of poverty for the Roma being education. Perhaps, though, if we can teach this aspect and insist on maintaining the balance between the right and left hemispheres, the harmony of manual and intellectual work, we and they, our Other, could enjoy the best of both worlds.


​The Alphabet School, held on Sundays when the Carabinieri are less likely to come, from seeing the women's skirts, and who check all our documents, convinced the Roma are stealing, is now flourishing. At first I had so wanted the women to come, knowing their acquiring literacy would reduce infant mortality and increase the life span of both Roma men and women, but they held back.



Then Daniel explained to me that Roma women won't tolerate being in a room with men not their husbands and that if I held the school for the women in our library with the men outdoors at a table under the arch the women would also participate. He was right, widows, mothers, children now flock to attend. And when, if it is raining, I ask if a man can join them, their chorus is resoundingly 'No!' Roma women are very chaste, very faithful, very strict. From their Indian heritage, they will not remarry when widowed. So I sat Nicolae down in my office with a clipbaord to write on, instead of in the library.

  


Both men and women have fine mind/eye/hand coordination and love copying out the alphabet's letters, the words of the Lord's Prayer and 'Alleluia' in Italian which they know orally. They are Christian, Romanian Orthodox, and yearn to participate in churches - which they may not enter.  I don't formally teach them. I give them sheets of paper printed in reds and blues with the Alphabet and the Lord's Prayer and 'Alleluia'. I use ideas from St Jerome, 347-420, Galfridus Grammaticus of Lynn, 1440, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, 1746-1827,
Joseph Lancaster, 1778-1828, Elizabeth Fry, 1780-1845, Enrico Schneider, 1817-1864, Salvatore Ferretti, 1817-1874 (both these men buried in our cemetery), Agnes Mason, C.H.F., 1849-1941, Maria Montessori, 1870-1952, Jean Piaget, 1896-1980, Don Lorenzo Milani, 1923-1967, Paulo Freire, 1821-1997 (the majority's nations fittingly being Swiss and English), and the 1960s' Black Panthers breakfast project, in accord with the UNESCO World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress held in Paris in 2012. I give them sandwiches of nourishing chicken liver paste on blessed bread, apples, water, and two euro to each participant. They write in joyous silence. They also love books, the engravings of Diderot/D'Alembert's Encyclopedia, an illustrated children's Dante, art books whose Madonnas and saints they kiss like icons. And when they finish the children spontaneously, without being asked, sweep the library, the widows and mothers then weed the Cemetery, the children sharing in this, all being playful together. They take showers, for Roma, though denied water, love being clean. We keep all the lesson papers and pencils in the cradle we have built, Karen's photographs and this cradle prompting many questions and much learning by Florentines and foreigners about Roma culture and its values when visiting our library.

Interestingly, I discovered that schools in Romania were held in the nineteenth century in cemeteries by churches, taught by priests - but only for boys, only for non-slaves, not Roma, not women.



One Sunday ten-year-old Esmeralda came by my computer where I was transcribing a medieval Italian text by Dante's teacher. And she read it perfectly. In her third language, having already Romani and Romanian. It was Brunetto Latino, Dante's teacher, translating Aristotle's Ethics. On Justice. Another time her twelve-year-old brother Fernando found the illustrated children's book of Dante's Commedia and loved it. So did their mother.

 
Fernando and Esmeralda


Zoita with Dante

Another time they all crowded around my computer for the Feast of their great saint, St Paraskeva of Iasi, the twelve-year-old shepherd girl who stole her parents' food to give to the poor. They touched my computer screen in Florence as the pilgrims were touching her glass coffin in Iasi, all believing that this would heal them of their ills.
     

In this context of work/study with Roma it is also possible to mix them with foreign tourists visiting the cemetery and, as we see above in the photograph of Fernando and Esmeralda, also with American university students who participate with them in the Alphaber School. It is our hope to share these experiences with Florentines, Tuscans, Italians, to undo current and centuries-long prejudice.


 

I have learned in these fourteen years many lessons about Roma. I have much more to learn. Their greatest value is the family, their people. If one needs help another will give it, even at the cost of losing their work. Their priorities are for humanity rather than for wealth. I have learned that it is best and cheapest to preserve a family caring for a child with work, a roof, education, than to remove children from them. From years of slavery they do not care to live in our closed in structures, of being given orders and obeying these. I can remember when lecturing on Dante in Attica State Prison that when a prisoner's number was called out, that person would initially freeze, not making any movement, giving himself a small space of freedom, then obey because he had to. Roma are like this. Roma will read one's mind, knowing what one needs to have done and will have done it freely, excellently, quickly, efficiently, before being asked. Poverty creates ingenuity. Roma have excellent survival skills.
They will care for tools, mending them when they break. Roma are blacksmiths, stonemasons, carpenters, gardeners, using a minimum of machinery with a maximum of productivity. Ten-year old boys will ask for a needle with which to mend their pants. Men embroider, women build houses. They do not categorize into genders. Praise these initiatives. This is freeing. Rejoice with them. This undoes tragedy. Roma prefer working together in their own Sanskrit-derived language in groups. Alone, away from other Roma, they lose energy and will leave. Do not have Roma sit in rows in school at desks sequestered by age; instead they learn best together intergenerationally around a table. They are collaborative, cooperative, and not competitive. Women are chaste and will not want to study in the same room as men, or work together unless they are in the same family. Roma women may be destitute but they will not stoop to prostitution. Roma women would not wear trousers, instead have full skirts, head scarves and shawls, and in the home, beautiful aprons as well. One reason for the beauty of their skirts is that amongst Roma the bottom part of the body is about pollution, defecation, blood, and this is camauflage. See Charles Kemp's fine essay on medical care delivery and Roma. Roma, who marry very young, know excellently how to care for a new-born child, having them feel secure, swaddling, rocking, nursing, holding them, and their babies do not cry. The first months are when the child's character is most rapidly shaped; if secure their personality will be resilient, if abandoned, as in our culture, they will be mentally fragile and left hemisphere dominant. Roma know naturally how to convey, by example, all their skills to children. They do not become alarmed when a child touches dangerous tools as they know the child will copy their own calm care and skill in handling them. Roma are right-brained, loving colour, music, images, dance, the present moment, being in touch with the entire cosmos. They do not have a strong sense of ownership, of self. Everything belongs to everybody.  Roma have strict ancestral rules about cleanliness. Two pieces of soap must be used, the one for the top part of the body not touching the bottom and vice versa, and they wash their hands, wrists and forearms as carefully as do modern surgeons before operating. This prevents cholera. If they have no access to water they will discard their dirty clothing rather than wear it again. This prevents typhus, caused by lice growing in the seams of soiled garments. Roma do not like being forced to accept a particular garment chosen for them by another; instead they wish to freely choose which garment they need. Roma are like Jews, to whom we are Gentiles, to the Roma we being the Gadge, the ones who are unclean, uncivilized. Roma throw outside of their dwelling all that is polluting, physically and spiritually; which is why Roma camps appear to be so filthy. Inside, the dwelling space is spotless. Roma have their internal tribunals or law courts, the 'kris', and will not as a community tolerate criminality. Roma have a particular horror of death and a cemetery is a place for them of danger, of both physical and spiritual pollution. It is a miracle that this cemetery became for them a sanctuary that gives them dignity, respect, work, education. We have built this through mutually trusting in one another. We have much to learn from each other, we have much to give to each other. Daniel has now finished cleaning the formerly black and very large and beautiful sculpture of Speranza, of Hope (E25). She is glorious.



But our despair is that in the middle of the summer of 2011 Daniel's wife telephoned. The police had come to their house saying the land was no longer theirs and that it was being taken from them by the rich family who had possessed it before Communism. We had already paid €1000,00 to their municipality to register the land and the house. Now we paid €900,00 twice to lawyers for two trials to defend their right to it. But the wealthy have more power than the poor. Daniel and Vandana had to dismantle their three-roomed, four-windowed house by 15 September 2012 that they had built themselves; they lost their land that they had bought, and the six of them, with another child coming, moved to one rented room. There was no recompense. Further, Social Assistance and the police now threatened again to take their children from them, as seven persons to one room is unacceptable, Vandana hospitalized again from the shock. At the Tribunal hearing Daniel was able to demonstrate they have again bought land, and he promised to build the house as soon as humanly - and financially - possible. But the lawyer - to win this case - took €1200,00 euro - all they had - from them. The four children, the baby still being nursed at the breast, were taken from them by Social Assistance being placed in foster care. I scraped together the funds for the materials so Daniel could finish the house and the family is together again.
My prayers are that we find solutions, some just reparation, for these hard-working, manually-skilled, intelligent and very able people who have contributed so much to Florence and to her global visitors.

Above all, we invite film documentary makers. Andrea Sorani, Pia Brar and Emio Lanini have already made documentaries, but another more complete and up-to-date presentation is needed.





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