10 Most Famous Romani People
Their names are as diverse as their populations are widespread: Often called the Roma or the Romani people, this minority group is also known as Gitanos in Spain, as Gitan in France, as Tsingani in Central and Eastern Europe, and by several names across Scandinavia that translate as “Travelers.” Roma also refer to themselves by various names: Kale in Finland and Portugal, Manush in France, and Sinti in Germany and Eastern Europe. The Romani, colloquially known as the Roma, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, traditionally nomadic itinerants. They live in Europe and Anatolia and have diaspora populations located worldwide, with significant concentrations in the Americas. They left India in the 10th century, and today mostly inhabit Europe. Historically, in nearly every country where the Roma have lived, they have also been referred to as gypsies, a derogatory term used to describe an ethnic group that has migrated throughout the world over the course of several centuries.
After arriving in Europe, the Romani were enslaved in many regions, a cultural heritage that continued into the 19th century in countries like Romania. In England, Switzerland and Denmark, the Romani were put to death throughout the medieval era. Many countries, such as Germany, Italy and Portugal, ordered the expulsion of all Romani. The most devastating persecution of the Romani occurred during World War II, when they were among the first targets of Nazi atrocities, according to the BBC. An estimated 2 million Romani died in concentration camps and through other means of extermination. They are not united in religion but they have free spirit, no one can beat them in joy, dancing and singing. In recent years we have seen Roma organizations and individuals working to secure rights for Roma worldwide, to preserve Roma traditions and culture and to provide resources for Roma communities. Many famous artists, scientists and performers are proud of their Roma origin. This article will enlighten you about the 10 Most Famous Romani People in the world.
1. Agnes Osztolykan – Political Activist
Agnes Osztolykan is a Hungarian politician and Romani activist. She was a member of the National Assembly of Hungary for the LMP – Hungary’s Green Party between 2010 and 2014. She was the first and only Roma woman elected to parliament in Hungary and received the 2011 International Women of Courage Award. At the awards ceremony, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton paid tribute to Osztojkan: “For overcoming racism and discrimination to emerge a leader in elected office, serving as a proud defender of the Roma people and culture, and tirelessly pressing for equal rights and the inclusion of minorities in society, we thank you for your work, we thank you for your example, and we will stand with you.” During her university years, she spent a lot of time with friends and relatives in Budapest and in 1996 I met with Horvath Aladar and the young Roma intelligentsia who had set up Romaversitas, and they invited her to work with them as an organizer. This influenced her thesis which dealt with the plight of the homeless and planted the seed of activism in her.
2. Andrea Pirlo – Footballer
Andrea Pirlo of Italy is the pacesetter for Juventus Turin and “the blue team” – Italy. He was the world champion in 2006, a World Cup silver medalist in 2012, a two-time winner of the Champions League with AC Milan, and is on his way to his 100th game with the national team. He too is not afraid he to say is an ethnic Roma and Sinti. Andrea Pirlo is an Italian professional football coach and former player who is the head coach of Süper Lig club Fatih Karagümrük. Considered one of the best playmakers ever, Pirlo was renowned for his vision, ball control, technique, creativity, passing and free-kick ability. At the international level, Pirlo played 116 matches for the Italian national football team, which is the fifth-most of all time. He made his senior debut in 2002 and captained his nation to a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics.
Pirlo was instrumental in Italy’s triumph at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, winning the Bronze Ball and being elected to the Team of the Tournament. He repeated similar success as he led Italy to the final of the 2012 UEFA European Championships. Pirlo also represented his country at the 2004 and 2008 UEFA European Championships, the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, and the 2009 and 2013 FIFA Confederations Cups.
3. Dr. Emil Scuka – Politician
Emil Scuka is one of the most famous Romani politicians in the Czech Republic. He’s a graduate in law and worked as a public prosecutor. Scuka’s activism and charisma came to fruition during the revolutionary and post-revolutionary years. Together with Ladislav Rusenko, he represented the Romani people during the fervent days of the revolution. He became the co-founder of the first Romani political party, ROI, which he led for several years. The constitutional assembly of ROI elected him chair on 10 March 1990. By the June 1990 elections, ROI, which had 20 000 members in the Czech Republic, joined the OF platform and won eight seats in parliament.
It was Scuka who instigated the proposal to anchor Romani nationality in the new constitution, to make the Czech and Slovak Roma members of the International Romani Union, and to create the first united Romani political party. Dr.Scuka, today owns a network of high schools from which several thousand Romani students have already graduated. He is the head of an international music conservatory where even “gadje” (Non Romani) from all over the world are studying.
To learn more about Czech republic, click here
4. Charles Chaplin – Silent Films Comedian
The famous comedian Charles Chaplin was half Romanichal. The discovery of a document that confirms that one of the greatest filmmakers in world cinema Charlie Chaplin was actually Roma and that he was born in a Gypsy caravan was shocking. The letter was found in the drawer that Chaplin’s daughter Victoria inherited.
The letter was sent by a certain Jack Hill from Tamworth, who reveals his knowledge of the actor’s origin as learnt from his aunt. The caravan belonged to Roma Queen, who was my aunt. You were born in the “Black Patch” iset in Smethwick near Birmingham – wrote Hill. Otherwise, “Black Patch” was a wagon settlement from the era of industrialization in Birmingham in 1880, and Chaplin’s birth certificate was never found, although at the end of 1880 this was a legal obligation.
5. Yul Brynner – Actor
Hollywood actor Yul Borisovich Brynner, according to his own testimony, had a quarter of Roma and a quarter of Jewish blood. Naimly, the father of Brynner’s mother Marousia Dimitrievna Blagovidova was a Russian Jew and her mother was Russian Roma. The famous American film actor was also an Oscar winner and was named honorary president of the International Romani Union, a position he held until his death at age 65 in 1985.
It is among the Roma where Brynner has learned to play the guitar and play on the trapeze. He secured roles in great film hits such as The Magnificent Seven and became famous after the role of the prince and the pharaoh Ramses in the cult film adaptation of the story of Moses and the 10 commandments of God in the eponymous film.
6. Cecilia Maria Sara Isabel Ciganer-Albeniz – Former first Lady
One surprising ethnic Roma is Cecilia Maria Sara Isabel Ciganer-Albeniz (whose father, the Jewish-Moldavian Rom Aron Chouganov took the name Andre Ciganer) who was the First Lady of France for five months. She was married to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, himself of Hungarian origin before he divorced her and married the world-famous model and singer, Carla Bruni. She dropped out of her law degree course to become a parliamentary assistant. In 1984 she married television personality Jacques Martin, 26 years her senior. Officiating over the ceremony at the town hall in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy Paris suburb, was the young mayor Nicolas Sarkozy. The pair did not meet again until three years later, when Mr. Sarkozy, who at the time was still married to his first wife. By then she had two daughters with Mr. Martin, but Cecilia left him in 1988 for Mr. Sarkozy. The pair married in October 1996 and, the following year, their only child, Louis, was born. While her husband was a minister, Cecilia occupied an office next to his and was said to be his most trusted advisor.
Suggested Read; France and 2022 World Cup.
7. Michael Caine – Actor
Michael Caine is an English actor who has appeared in over 130 films and has had multiple television appearances. Caine’s acting career began in the 1950s, when he was cast in many small, often uncredited roles in British films. According to the magazine “Gypsy Roma Traveller”, one of the best British film and theatre actor Sir Michael Caine is of Roma origin. His full name is Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. In the Roma tradition of his family, the first-born son should be named – Maurice, hence, he and his father had the same name. Caine is a double Oscar winner – 1987 (for Woody Allen’s accomplishment “Hannah and Her Sisters”) and 2000 (“The Cider House Rules”) when he was awarded the Order of the Knight by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to the film industry. Caine gained recognition as one of the most famous actors of the 1960s through his breakthrough role in the film Zulu (1964). He then portrayed spy Harry Palmer in the films The Ipcress File (1965), Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967). He also had starring roles in The Italian Job and Battle of Britain (both 1969).
8. Pablo Picasso – Artist
One of the greatest painters, sculptors, writers and graphic artists of the 20th century, the founder of cubism (along with Georges Braque), Spaniard Pablo Picasso was proud of his Roma origin. A painter who has created more than 6,000 paintings, sculptures and drawings. He was married twice and had many mistresses. Picasso’s ability to produce works in an astonishing range of styles made him well-respected during his own lifetime. After his death in 1973, his value as an artist and inspiration to other artists has only grown. He is without a doubt destined to permanently etch himself into the fabric of humanity as one of the greatest artists of all time. As an artist and an innovator, he is responsible for co-founding the entire Cubist movement alongside Georges Braque. Cubism was an avant-garde art movement that changed forever the face of European painting and sculpture while simultaneously affecting contemporary architecture, music and literature.
Visit the Pablo Picasso Museum in Paris.
9. Alba Gonzalez Villa – Actress
Alba Flores is the only daughter of musician and composer Antonio Flores and Ana Villa, a theatrical producer. Hers is a family of Gitano (Romani) performers, musicians, and actors: She is the granddaughter of Lola Flores, known as “La Faraona” (“The Pharaoh”), niece of singers Lolita Flores and Rosario Flores, and cousin of actress Elena Furiase. Her paternal grandfather, Antonio González [es] referred to as “El Pescaílla” was also a Spanish singer and guitarist, and is considered to be one of the fathers of Catalan Rumba he was of Gitano ethnicity. Alba González Villa (born October 27, 1986), known professionally as Alba Flores, is a Spanish actress. She is best known for her roles as Saray Vargas in Vis a Vis (Locked Up) and Nairobi in La Casa de Papel (Money Heist).
Spanish castles to see.
10. Katarina Taikon – Activist
Katarina Taikon-Langhammer was a Swedish Romany activist, leader in the civil rights movement, writer and actor, from the Kalderash caste. She was the sister of Rosa Taikon. During Taikon’s childhood Romani still lived in camps in Sweden and had to move often, which made it hard for the children to get any school education. Taikon did not learn how to read and write until she was in her teens. She dedicated her life to improving conditions for the Romani people in Sweden and throughout the world. Through her tireless work, debating, writing and talking to Swedish authorities, the Romani were granted the same right to housing and education as all other Swedes. In 1953, the 1914 ban on Romani immigration ended. This led to other Romanis seeking refuge in Sweden and the population grew. She realized the only way to end the prejudices against her people was to address the young, so she started to write a popular series of children’s books about her own childhood, Katitzi (in 1979 a TV series based on the books was produced).