The story of the Rudari

The Rudari are a little-known ethnic group in Romania. A very interesting fact about the Rudari are that they trace their origins to India. A female missionary has spent her whole adult life working among this oppressed and illtreated group, and her efforts have madeavailable more information on the Rudari. The missionary Hansen has worked among them for more than twenty-five years and she writes about the ethnic group and gives talks to different congregations to spread information. Her call to work among them began when she had a very distinct vision about them in her student days. She strove to find out the origin of the word Ruda that she has seen in her vision, and her search led her to the Rudari people. The name of the Rudari comes from the word ruda which means relatives. The Rudari live in Romania with a majority community in Manastirea. Nowadays, the Rudari are found in other areas of Romania such as Tulca, Chiselet, Oltenit and Spantov, as well as European countries like Austria, Germany, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. The early encounters of the missionary with the group showed evidence of great poverty and illiteracy. During the years 1935 to 1947, the Rudari had no settled home, and they wandered around in forest areas, living in temporary shelters. The families that settled in forest areas reared chickens, cows and pigs. The men were good at making wood crafts and produced high quality spoons, ladles, mugs, wagons, stools, tables and diverse household equipment with the timber of the white poplar tree. But their illiteracy meant that they had no opportunities for regular jobs and no access to income. The consequence of illiteracy was that many times they were duped by traders from the majority community. 

The war years of the Second World War were very hard for the Rudari and they suffered starvation, persecution and genocide because they were classified as gypsies. Many gypsies were killed by the Nazi regime. Even after the war, the Rudari were oppressed in Romania and highly discriminated against. They were seen by the Romanian population as non-Romanian, even though they used the same language and have lived in Romania for several generations. The animosity towards the Rudari was strongest amongst the youths. Romanian women who married men from the Rudari faced opposition from their own families. Besides the discrimination, the opportunities for education for the group were taken away and given to ethnically classified Romanian children. Those who were clever enough to get an education and a skill faced problems when it came to getting employment. This was still the situation for the Rudari many years after the Second World War. Government officials were often harsh towards the Rudari even after they became educated. The discriminatory treatment they received throughout life resulted in them not getting jobs suited to their degrees. Some young members migrated to the UK, and other countries to get jobs and earn money.  It was a long upward struggle for the group to get access to education, jobs, skills and a better way of life, something that other Romanians enjoyed as their privilege. The coming of Christianity to the group proved to be a great tool that uplifted their way of life. Men stopped drinking and women’s health improved. The quality of life improved for the whole community.  With the help of voluntary supporters, schools have been established for the Rudari, nutritious food and basic healthcare items have begun reaching the families and the improvement in their life quality slowly became visible. The attention they received showed that young Rudari students were very intelligent and in the next generation, there were many young skilled members. 

Today, the number of young Rudari members who are well educated are on the increase, and they are working in other countries where they do not have to face discrimination on a regular basis. This would not have been possible without the help from missionary organisations. Economic help that was extended has highly improved their living conditions and the infrastructure in their settlements. The dusty paths are a thing of the past as new roads have been constructed, and wells with good water supply meet the needs of the people. The ethnic group that received no help from the government for many years, whether it was the communist government or other governments in Romania, are now able to stand on their own feet and receive the advantages of modern living. None of this would be possible without Christian assistance, a fact that has come to be fully appreciated after many decades.