The Bergitka Roma
in Malopolska

Traditional Roma transport - the Gypsy caravan.

Remembering the victims of Hitler's criminals.

Examples of traditional Bergitka Roma dress.

We remember them. Always.

The Roma. Gypsies. They continue to be the victims of discrimination and persecution in Europe, stereotyped as being vagrants, thieves, and ne'er-do-wells. This wasn't always true, at least not in the Kingdom of Poland.

The earliest known Roma to take up residence in Poland were the Romowie Karpaccy or Bergitka Roma. Old texts mention them in Krakow in 1401 and in Lwow and in Sandomierz in 1496. Other Gypsies came to live in Poland - the Polska Roma from Germanic lands in the 16th-17th Centuries and the Kalderash and Lovari Roma from Romania in the 19th Century - but it was the Bergitka Roma who became our ancestral friends and neighbors in Malopolska. The Bergitka Roma's reputation as adept musicians and metalsmiths made them welcome wherever they went. About 300 years ago, they became sedentery and settled in a number of villages. They were Roman Catholic and appear to have had a good relationship with their ethnic Polish neighbors as parish records provide us with the evidence that intermarriage between Poles and Roma was not uncommon.

The Bergitka Roma population in Malopolska was never very high and probably never exceeded 20,000. The population figure for all Roma in pre-war Poland is estimated at 40,000. But that was before Adolph Hitler and the Porajmos - the Gypsy holocaust. In 2002, the population of all Roma in Poland was 12,731. 

The best known villages which once had a substantial Roma population are Zabno, Bielcza, and Szczurowa - all north of Brzesko and west of Tarnow. These villages were the sites of mass executions of Roma by the Nazis during World War II. In Szczurowa, 93 Roma residents were herded to the local cemetery where they were shot. Today, these villages are revisited annually by a memorial procession of Gypsy caravans and services are held for the victims of Hitler's criminals.

The legacy of the Bergitka Roma still lives on. The Ethnographic Museum at Tarnow preserves many Roma artifacts which are on display for viewing by the general public. Further, World War II survivors and their descendants can still be found living in the vicinities of Mielec, Debica, Jaslo, Chorkowice, Stolowa Wola, Krosno, and Przemysl.

For videos of the Bergitka Roma, CLICK KERE

Background music: A Gypsy Air
Dennis Benarz & Karen Wisniewski USA 2009