“I grew up in a family of Roma musicians- violinists. My grandfather was a musician and also a trained shoemaker during Soviet times.
My father was also a violinist. He died at thirty-three when I was only five leaving my twenty-seven year old mother to raise four children. “
“Because I grew up in an integrated community, not a traditional Roma community, I did not experience a lot of discrimination unlike my darker skinned brothers. When I completed school at sixteen, I had a chance to continue my education, but my mother needed me to help her so I had to go to work. I began work at a shoe factory in Cluj Napoca. Because I was only sixteen, I had to get permission to work from communist party. I worked there until 1998. At that point I received skilled training and became a master shoemaker. My wife, Terezia and I opened our own firm, making and selling shoes.”
In 1993, soon after the fall of Soviet control, Pavel joined a Romani political party. In 1996, his son Dan founded an NGO “Amare Phrala” (Our Brothers). Pavel has now been involved with Amare Phrala for over twenty years.
Pavel and his wife have four sons. He knew it would be difficult for his children to remain in Romania after the end of Soviet control because Romania has no tradition of democracy. The Roma were the first to lose their jobs in Cluj. They moved back to the rural areas, but without land they had no livelihood. “Non Roma were given back the land taken away by the communists, but the Roma did not own the land they worked.”
Pavel’s eldest son Dan is currently in Budapest, Hungary where he is Higher Education Program Manager with the Roma Education Fund and a member of the board of the European Roma Rights Centre. Pavel credits progress in his own career to his son’s encouragement.
Paul, the second son, is in Sweden with his family working in construction. He has obtained a technical degree and plans to open his own firm. His third son Alin has been living in Northern Ireland for the past fifteen years. He is working in the IT field. He is married to an Irish woman and has one child. The youngest boy, Tiberiu is the only son still in Romania. He and his mother, Terezia, recently opened a produce market in the neighborhood where the family lives.
“My work with Amare Phrala has allowed me to fulfill goals that I never dreamed possible. Funds maybe limited and inconsistent, yet we persist.” An example Pavel cited to illustrate the human rights work of Amare Phrala, is a recent court settlement regarding the eviction of a Roma neighborhood in Cluj near a garbage dump. Municipal police, with the mayor’s tacit support, burned down the settlement in the middle of the night to force families to evacuate. Houses and property were destroyed, and people injured. The NGO petitioned the municipality for restitution. The European Roma Rights Centre provided Amare Phrala with a lawyer. The court ruled that the municipality must pay damages of 2000€ to each family and provide housing for Roma within the city of Cluj Napoca.