Hungary’s ‘last’ Roma fortuneteller preserves traditions | World

A devout Catholic, he only removes his wide-brimmed hat — a trademark of the Gabor Roma clan of Transylvania — when eating or attending church.

“It’s terribly important to preserve our culture and traditions, because if we don’t have a culture, then the Gypsy community will cease to exist,” he said. “I try to pass them on to many people so they can really get to know us, because all they know is that there are Gypsies, but they don’t know anything about us.”

While in several cultures the word Gypsy is considered an offensive term, Sztojka prefers using it to Roma.

He and his family belong to the Lovari subgroup of Roma people, and speak the Lovari dialect of Romani — something he says is “on the verge of extinction.”

“People don’t really want to speak the Gypsy language. Everyone assimilates as if suddenly they wanted to be Hungarian,” he said.

Along with his clairvoyance, Sztojka inherited his 150-year-old tarot cards from his great-great-grandmother, who herself was a fortuneteller in a time when the tradition was a much greater part of Roma identity.

Beatrix Kolompar, one of Sztojka’s relatives, said that her people’s traditions “can distinguish us as Gypsies, as Roma.”

“Since we don’t have a country of our own, we carry on the world we live in, the Roma way of life, through our traditions,” she said. “The dancing girls, the colorful dresses, the fortunetelling and the fortuneteller, it’s proof of who we are.”

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