The Thracian Female Whitesmith – Between Tradition and the Challenges of ModernTimes (Life Paths of Three Generations of Women) Eugenia I. Ivanova and Velcho Krastev Assoc. Prof. Eugenia I. Ivanova PhD in History in The Regional Museum of History, StaraZagora, Bulgaria. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;http://www.balkanethnology.org/files/cv/E.Ivanova.pdf Velcho Krastev is a PhD student at the section “Bulgarian Ethnology” at The Institute ofFolklore and Ethnography of the Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. E-mail:email@example.com; http://www.balkanethnology.org/files/cv/V.Krastev.pdf The social and economic changes in Bulgaria that started in the second half of the XXcentury and continued until the beginning of the XXI violate the traditional stereotypes of gypsygroups. This report traces the life paths of three generations of women. They are from a strictlyprotected gypsy/ Roman group called Thracian whitesmiths („тракийски калайджии”(Bulgarian), [tra`ki:ski kalai`dji:] – Thracian whitesmiths). The report examines the changes that have taken place: - In the planning of a family and in the choice of a marital partner - In the gender relations – the most conservative field in the traditional gypsy culture. - In the interfamilial relationships of the extended family and the influence on the upbringing of children. - In the life style as a factor for the changes in the family. - In the economic conditions that have led to the development of new forms of employment - Responses to the modern needs for education. The various excerpts from the lives of the three generations of women are indicative of thechanges that occur within the group. Some of the young people have started to overcome manystereotypes, slowly and with difficulty, in the last decades. Changes occur, but they areimplemented slowly over time, they are limited in scale and have relatively little social impactcompared to the requirements of modern times.
The Thracian whitesmiths are a strictly closed group and discriminate themselves from therest of the gypsy subdivisions. Their language is from the Vlach language group of gypsy dialects.The numerous adopted Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian words confirm their long time habitation ofThrace (geographic region in the Balkans). Their verbal history tells that their forefathers camefrom the Komotini region, Greece. Their semi-nomadic way of life is linked to certain territories and places. The regulargeneral annual meetings of the group are also a characteristic feature. The Thracian whitesmiths are Orthodox Christians and baptize their children in a church.They honor the traditional Bulgarian holidays. They are strictly endogamous and almost never marry other people outside their owngroup. But if this were to happen, they say that the person “has made a big fool of themselves” . While researching the history, way of life and culture of the gypsy groups in Bulgaria, wehave had the opportunity to be in contact with the large whitesmith families for many years. Weobserve the processes that develop among the younger members, and especially among thewomen; the changes that take place in the most conservative field of the traditional gypsy culture– the gender relations. This work traces the individual life paths of three generations of women ina traditional whitesmith family – that of Ivan and Anka Kolev (73 years old) from the village ofKolarovo, near the town of Stara Zagora. They come from the “vlahorya” [„влахоря” (Bulgarian) –[vlaho`rya] – vlahorya, gypsy subgroup] subgroup and they say about the other subgroup: “Theothers, the “salatsi” [„салаци” (Bulgarian) – [sa`latzi] – salatsi, gypsy subgroup], are inferior to us”(granny Anka). They come from large families – Ivan has four brothers and three sisters, and
Anka – two brothers and three sisters. The period of their life path spans from the 40’s of the 20th century until the beginning ofthe second decade of the 21st century. The economic and political conditions in which thegenerations live are different and have substantial influence. In the second half of the 20thcentury, in Bulgaria existed the so called socialist society. It was characterized by plannedeconomy, closed within the borders of the socialist states community and the totalitarian politicalleadership of BCP (The Bulgarian Communist Party). The democratic socio-economic changes inthe country, which started after 1989 and continue to present day, violate the traditionalstereotypes of the gypsy groups. The impact of the world economic crisis is also substantialduring the second half of the first decade of the 21st century. The Thracian whitesmiths coordinate the choice of marital partner and the wedding withthe seasons of active labor. In the nomadic years, these processes took place in the period from the end of August (theAssumption of Virgin Mary church holiday) until about the beginning of October. Then, at differentplaces were held the traditional annual meetings of the group – “pero”, “pera” [„перо”, „пера”(Bulgarian) – [pero],[pera] – annual meetings of the gypsy group]. The young members saw eachother there. The father and the mother of the boy chose the daughter-in-law, they negotiated withthe girl’s parents. “Ivan desired me a lot, but I didn’t want him. There were many who wanted me.One family insisted very much before my father ‘Give her to us…, give me Anka’, but my fatherdid not agree. And I wanted very much a boy from our own. But his family travelled faraway in the
summer and my parents did not give me there. Ivan’s father liked me for a daughter-in-law, andIvan was also already a master. He lives near. This made my father agree… I am pleased frommy life with him” shares granny Anka with a smile. Today, the traditional annual meetings of the Thracian whitesmiths are more commonlyknown as “bride markets”. Until the late 50’s of the 20th century, on the Assumption of Virgin Marychurch holiday (August), they were held in the village of Belozem, Plovdiv. They were stoppedaround 1970 and were moved to the town of Nova Zagora. In the town of Stara Zagora theystarted as of the early 90’s of the 20th century. The meetings happen at the Station Garden (inStara Zagora) from the middle of September until St. Lazarus’ Day and Palm Sunday (April). Thebiggest one is on St. Theodore’s Day. As of 2008, the “market” was moved to the village of Mogilanear Stara Zagora. During the last 30-40 years to a certain extent is changed the way the young meet. Thebachelors and the maidens can mutually look each other over and like each other. The mothers ofthe girls prepare them carefully for the meeting. Their faces are always whitened: “… the girl iswhitened, our tradition is such”, and the makeup – lipstick, rouge, eyeliner – is with bright colors.The mothers-in-law themselves are positive that: “the woman must wear makeup. She is notbeautiful, if she doesn’t wear makeup. With blue on her eyes, with ointments, with red on thecheeks”. Mandatory for the maidens is the white “feather” bunch – a flower made of fabric, whichis a sign that the girl has come to the brides market and is offered as a bride. If the young want each other they exchange “signs” – a handkerchief, a ring or other small personal
object. They share their wish with their parents and the in-laws negotiate regarding the new family. If theydon’t want to get together – they let their parents deny the request. These meetings serve the purpose of not only maintaining the contacts within the group, but also ofintroducing the newly born, the newlywed (in this way they are practically legitimized before the group).This is also the time of weddings. The Thracian whitesmiths have preserved even until today “baba ak”(„баба ак” (Bulgarian) – [baba ak]) (“the right of the father”) – the father must be paid for the girl. The wedding of the eldest from the large family – Ivan and Anka, was in September 1958 in thetown of Sadovo, Plovdiv, where the whitesmiths had made a camp. The wedding continued three days –from Saturday until Monday. Her hair was dyed with henna on Saturday. Under the pretence that theywere getting henna, Ivan’s lovers (the girls, who liked him and wanted him for a husband) plucked off herhair. They were jealous of her that Ivan was taking her for a wife. He drove them away from the tent. “On Sunday the wedding had already begun. My brother took a good horse that belonged to Ivan’sfamily and rode him. He made the horse dance. It danced, danced. If only you could see how it danced.He lifted me up behind him and continued riding the horse on the meadow, where the wedding was. I wasafraid of falling, but my brother calmed me down and told me that there was nothing to be afraid of. Welead the round dance [„хоро” (Bulgarian) – [ho`ro] – horo, Bulgarian folk dance] with the horse. My father
was also in the round dance. Ivan got on a mare, also a very good mare. He was wearing boots that hadspurs. He also made the mare dance. He gave me a hand and pulled me on his horse behind him. Afterthat he stepped at the head of the round dance. This happened at noon. In the evening my father gave meto Ivan. Then all guests were at the table, they gave us gifts. Then, also, we were together for the first time.They left us alone in a tent, the tent of my father-in-law. There were rugs hanging from here and there. Noone inside, only us. Everyone waits outside…” tells Anka about her wedding. The result from the marital coitus is awaited impatiently. The mother-in-law goes in to getand take out the white cloth with the red stain, the symbol of virginity. She shows “the honor” foreveryone to see. “When we see the honor, when we see the linen and when the bride goes outwe decorate her with red right here (points behind the right ear) – a stem of geranium, red thread,a red flower, but a little one. Everyone has to see. Everyone has to know. She wears it until shetakes off the veil, until Wednesday”. The wedding in the gypsy groups is legalized through thecoitus. The entire behavior regarding the coitus and the announcing of the result is regulated bythe tradition. That is how the new status of the girl in the community is legitimized. By taking hervirginity, she is already an acquired valuable for the man and his family. Ivan and Anka were also legally wedded later. They have five daughters, 16 grandchildrenand 13 great grandchildren. “When the time came for my daughters, men started looking at them, but they themselves
also looked around… I asked them whom they wanted, because some girls get ill from the desireto be with a certain boy, if her parents don’t give her to him. Me and Ivan knew the families of theboys. My daughters considered our wish…” (granny Anka). The weddings of the first two –Mariika and Elenka, in 1979 and in 1980, were held in the village of the husband. Animals werebutchered, “kurban” [„курбан” (Bulgarian) – [kur`ban] – kurban, sacrificial meal] was made.“Everything is as it should be. Meals, drinks. Gifts are given – money, clothes, kitchenware”. Aftereating, everyone goes to the center of the village, on the village square, and there they do rounddances. The weddings of the next two – Ruska and Katya, which were in 1986 and 1987, wereheld in a restaurant in town (Stara Zagora). Guests were invited – relatives, friends. They orderedgrilled meat – meatballs, kebabs. The dancing and the merriment happened in front of therestaurant, outdoors. Gradually, as of the early 90’s of the 20 th century, the weddings began to beheld entirely outdoors – at the place, where they gathered for their traditional meetings. Thewedding of the youngest daughter – Donka, in 1995, was held on the landing next to the StationGarden in Stara Zagora. There everyone danced, there they gave gifts to the young. The acknowledged rule – outdoors, on a meadow – was observed also for the weddings ofthe granddaughters towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century. All whitesmiths, whowanted to be there, were present. Before the gift giving, it was announced when and where thenext wedding will be. Everyone, who wanted, could go. The wedding of the granddaughter Violeta was in May 2011. It was held in the village ofMogila, on the meadow, where they gathered on St. Theodore’s Day. “A big wedding, there were
many people. People came from everywhere. The entire meadow was full of cars. They danced alot. It was the whole day. Gifts were given from 5 am until 8 pm. The relatives gave the most – hermother, her aunts, the grandmothers and the grandfathers”. Almost all young families are alsolegally wedded. Some have a religious marriage too. One of the granddaughters – Temenuzhka,was married in 2009. An Orthodox priest baptized and wedded them on the day of the wedding.They didn’t go to the church, the priest came to the place. The Thracian whitesmiths don’t marry young – the girls, most often, after 18 years of age,and the boys at 20-22 years of age. Anka and Ivan were 20 years old. The daughters and thegrandchildren also married at 18-20 years of age. One of the granddaughters, Anka, 16 years old,says: “A-a-a, I’m still young, I don’t want to get married.” With time, the relationship between the young and the parents changes more and more inregard to choosing life partners. The parents more often take into consideration the desires of theyoung. “If they like each other, they talk on the phone, the boy visits her place. If not – you can’tforce it” (a young married whitesmith). The granddaughter, Violeta, shared when we met at her parents’ home the evening beforethe meeting on St. Theodore’s Day (March 2011): “The young nowadays are very different fromback then. When the parents are more flexible, they understand us, it’s different. They take intoconsideration the desire of the girl, they ask her. I liked him (points to her husband Ivan) and told
them that I wanted him. They agreed.” In January 2011 the 20-year-old Violeta was married tothat boy. Her father did not agree with her choice “because they [the family of the boy] werepoor”. She said that if they didn’t give her to him, she would run away with the boy and then herfather agreed. “They gave her cheaply – they [the family of the boy] paid only 5000 BGN, but theyare poor, don’t have much.” Her grandmother also brags “Violeta is pregnant, we’ll have a greatgrandchild, I’m very happy”. Two years earlier, on grandpa Ivan’s 70th birthday, in front of theentire family she “danced and presented herself” before another boy, a distant relative. Then theytold us they liked each other and would probably get married. “Now when the girls like a boy, they go to him. This year (2010) we have many runaways –five. And there is no “baba ak” – her father doesn’t get anything. A pair of shoes at the most. Backin the day such a thing did not exist” shares grandpa Ivan. “They have no money, they try torunaway. They run away there and give 100-200 BGN” adds another old whitesmith. In this family there is also a runaway. The granddaughter Katya was 16 years old whenshe ran away from home and went to live with a boy (2009). Her parents stepped in. “She wasunderage, we got her back with the police. She lived with the boy for four months, but not all thetime, she went there for a month, then came back and so on. We didn’t have a wedding. The boyis not good, he beat her, harassed her, listened to his parents a lot. She ran away a second timewith another boy. Now she lives with Vasil. This is his first marriage. It’s been a year now. Hedoesn’t mind that she’s been married. She is beautiful, he likes her. Soon we’ll have a wedding.They still don’t have children.” Shares her mother, Mariika. And grandpa Ivan adds: “There are also stolen ones. My brother’s granddaughter was
stolen. First she married a boy. She stayed there a little and her mother took her back. After thatshe was stolen – from the water fountain, a boy with his friend. They grabbed her into a car andtook her at their place. But she resisted and managed to run away through the window. Andnothing happened and she came home. The men went to their place in order for the two familiesnot hate each other. And the boy paid – he gave 2000 BGN (2007) After that they went to Greeceand work there now. The boys want her, but she doesn’t want to get married.” Regardless of the fact that the Thracian whitesmiths are still one of the most closedgroups, violation of the endogamy is observed in recent years. Three or four girls from thesubgroup of the “salatsi” in the Plovdiv region are married to Bulgarians. A young 20-year-oldwhitesmith from the subgroup of the “vlahorya” secretly shares that she wants to marry aBulgarian, but she won’t say this to her parents. The changes in the lifestyle bring changes in the family. Up until the end of the 50’s of the 20th century, the Thracian whitesmiths lead a seasonalnomadic life. They left after St. Theodore’s Day (March-April) and settled in different villages forthe winter around St. Demetrius’ Day (October). After the wedding, the young family of Ivan and Anka lived with a mother and father-in-law.
The prohibition of sexual intercourse ends with the marital coitus. The young woman has tobecome pregnant quickly and give birth to a child. “I married in September 1958 and got pregnantin May 1959. I was thin, I was small. My mother-in-law said “kasur” (“childless”) („касър”(Bulgarian) – [ka`sәr]). When I got pregnant she said “no kasurs” (granny Anka). Their sexual lifeis overseen and controlled by the adults. “When we travelled with the camp, we were alreadymarried, we lived in a tent together with my mother and father-in-law and the other youngchildren. At night we put a curtain in the middle. We have our own blanket and under it. We keptquiet. My in-laws were also quiet. Everyone finds a way (she means the other families in theother camps). I was not ashamed. You get used to it. The children slept inside. When they fellasleep, then” (granny Anka).The situation changes depending on the way of life – nomadic orsettled way of life. “When we went to the village of Graf Igantievo, Plovdiv, we rented a house andeveryone was there. Everyone had their own room and there… My in-laws separately. Myhusband’s sister also there with the child – her husband was in the military. I was with my ownone in the other room. Now everyone has their own room. The house is big. The children areseparately.” The mother-in-law is the one who communicates most closely with the daughter-in-lawduring the day. She defines and controls the duties and the responsibilities of the daughter-in-law,her daily work rhythm. She dictates the behavior of the young wife, who has to accept thisguardianship and take into consideration the habits in her new home. The conflicts often arise from the mother-in-law. When they rented the house in the village
of Graf Ignatievo, Ivan was in the military service. The mother-in-law, her daughter and thedaughter-in-law gave birth almost at the same time. “The children grew up together… My mother-in-law was a very bad woman.” One day, after another fight, Anka took her baby and someclothes and ran to the station to go to the village of Belozem to her parents. Her mother-in-lawcaught up with her and told her to leave her the baby “If you want to look after it, here, take it” andAnka went to her parents. At this time the mother-in-law was taking care of both babies. WhenIvan found out that Anka had left, he wrote to her “when I come back home I want to see youthere” “And I came back.” Ivan and Anka started living alone only after the death of the mother-in-law – their five daughters had already been born. A similar conflict between the generations happened also in the family of the oldestdaughter, Mariika. Her son, Kolio, and the daughter-in-law, Mariika, lived with them. When Mariikawas pregnant, her mother took her back home. “She was angry about something. I don’t know.Probably that we didn’t arrange the wedding sooner (they were not legitimized before thecommunity). She gave birth at her mother’s home. Kolio got very angry and got himself anotherwoman. For a short time. Only a week. Things happen this way. A few months passed and hetook back his wife with the child, the girl. It is his. After that they had another baby” (Mariika). With the execution of decree #258 from 1958 by the Council of Ministers “For settling theissues of the gypsy population of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria”, the Thracian whitesmithsstarted settling down. One or two families settled in each village. There they also bought houses.
The married sons with their families were also displaced. The youngest son (daughter) stays withthe parents, inherits their property and takes care of them (right of the minor). The eldest from theexamined extended family live in the village of Kolarovo, Stara Zagora. The families of thedaughters live in nearby villages. The youngest, Donka, with her husband, Gosho, and their twochildren lived until recently with her parents, but also left. She went to a nearby village, where herolder sister lives with her family. There they have better conditions for living. “We have a bighouse. Everyone has their own room. The children, Anka and Ivan, they have their own room.They sleep there” (Donka). It is a fact that for the women from the younger generation, the traditional large familymodel is being replaced more and more by the desire to have one or two children. This is arelatively new tendency in the attitude towards children. The aim is not only to raise them andkeep them safe, but also to provide a better future for them “I have two children, that is enoughfor me” (Donka). During the last decade, individual, younger representatives of the group, resort tocontraceptive methods for limiting the number of children in the family. “I gave birth to fivedaughters, but the youngest one has only two children… She doesn’t want more… one shouldn’tsay this, she uses a diaphragm. My granddaughter Todorka – also…” (granny Anka). The change in the economic conditions leads to seeking new forms of labor. Since they can remember, the traditional craft of the Thracian whitesmiths has been tin-plating, repairing and production of copperware, hence their name. This is done mainly by themen, and the women and children are always by their side, helping them. “Before we got togetherwith Ivan, I used to go with my parents around the villages to tin. I helped during the tinning –cleaned the utensils, prepared them. I went around the village to return the tinned utensils to thepeople. I went alone, alone, I was not afraid at all. I brought my little sister with me. They askedme if she was my child. I told them – no, she’s my sister” (granny Anka). Grandpa Ivan, as well asthe men from his whole family, are master whitesmiths. They say that he is the best one. Hissons-in-law can tin too, but only Ivan – husband of the fourth daughter, helps him.
Because the market for their goods and services is quite limited, the whitesmith familiesare seeking new forms of labor. During the last ten years or so, they have been building andrepairing streets (all sons-in-law of grandpa Ivan do this), buying and selling animal skins. Theygo around the villages, buying skins and sometimes animals. Traditionally, the women don’t work. It is an exception to take up a job as cleaning womenunder programs for temporary employment for several months (e.g. the youngest – Katya andDonka). Donka, who is always with her husband when trading animal skins, wants to practice theso called “suitcase trade” (to sell clothes in the villages). The economic conjuncture, however,prevents her from doing this. After the fall of the totalitarian regime in Bulgaria, emigration is an option for finding a wayout of the difficult economic situation and an opportunity for raising the family standard of living.Almost none of the Thracian whitesmiths joined the migration flows during the first years. Therewere only several cases of travelling abroad and they were in connection with their professionalspecialization. Their first seasonal travels were in Greece. They made good money from repairingand tinning church and home utensils. They have a field for professional realization there,because “the whitesmiths in Greece, south of Athens, are from our kin, but they have lost thecraft.” In the last years, several families settled in Greece, others on the island of Cyprus. Theybring their instruments with them, tin, but also work everything in agriculture. Even though in individual cases, the women from this group also seek to make a livingfrom prostitution. “There are female whitesmiths from our own who have degraded… Most ofthem are from the ones around Plovdiv, they do many shameful things. Everyone knows them.This V., who ran away from her husband, she also went on the road for men. All whitesmiths
know.” (granny Anka). V. is from a neighboring village around Stara Zagora. She has beenmarried. Became a prostitute. Went abroad and turned to the evangelical faith. She hides herorigins. “I don’t want to show them the tape from my wedding, I don’t want them to see that I’m awhitesmith”. There is gossip about a woman from their own, who went to work in Greece and gotpregnant “No one knows who the father is”. She gave birth there and sold the child “For a lot ofmoney. For 50 000 Euro. There is also another, older girl, 16 years old. All whitesmiths know. Shedoesn’t have any shame” (grandpa Ivan). The internal relations within the extended family also change and this influences theeducation of the children. The traditional model of realization in life of the female whitesmith is still within thecommunity – to get married, to create a home and a family, to give birth, raise and educate thechildren, to wait for grandchildren, to pass on her experience and knowledge, to preserve theethnicity. Traditionally, one of the main concerns of the mother is to preserve the honor of herdaughters. With the first menstruation, the girl turns into a maiden and according to the gypsycustoms, she can now become a woman, wife and mother. Things are a little different with theThracian whitesmiths. They say “She has become a maiden /”Ачили чей” (Gypsy) – [achili chei]/.
The girls are still young, we protect them, we don’t give them away.” (Ruska). Usually the olderbrothers or the father are the ones who protect them. Grandpa Ivan guards his daughters byhimself, because he doesn’t have any sons “I was with them everywhere they went, to the store,to the cinema”. The maiden puts a red or pink “feather” (artificial flower) in her hair and when sheis ready to be married, exchanges it with a white one. The girls, who offer themselves formarriage on the traditional meetings, wear white flowers in their hair. In every whitesmith family the eldest woman (mother, aunt, mother-in-law, grandmother) isa role model for the young to follow her example. Anka’s father-in-law always told repeatedly tohis daughters-in-law to learn from their mother-in-law how to raise the children. And hergranddaughters say: “I want to be like granny”. “Granny, I learned everything from you – to cook,to prepare ‘banitsa’(„баница” (Bulgarian) – [`banitza] – traditional pie with white cheese), toprepare ‘tikvenik’ („тиквеник” (Bulgarian) – [`tikvenik] – pumpkin pie)”.
The eldest woman keeps and preserves the traditions. She passes them onto herdaughters and granddaughters. Anka remembers when she was about 10 years old (1948) shewas dressed as a “butterfly” for the first time. Her clothes were new, with many adornments. Hermother, aunt and other close women performed the ritual in the camp (this is performed whenthere is continuous drought, so that it may rain, a type of prayer for rain. Spread on the Balkans).They poured water on her and told her the words she had to say. They did this because of thedrought, there wasn’t enough grass for the horses. Later, in 1965-1966 in the village ofBozduganovo, Stara Zagora, where Anka was living at the time with her husband and children,they also performed “butterfly”. The idea then came from the Bulgarian women, also due to thedrought (August). Anka said she knew what to do – she dressed her oldest daughter (5-6 yearsold) in new clothes, poured water on her and pronounced certain words with a prayer for rain. Anka’s mother and aunt (sister of her mother) impress the young with their abilities to callupon the dead and talk to them. “I’ve seen daddy after he died. On the 40 th day we went withmom and my sisters to his grave. At 12 o’clock at noon. Mom took a white bottle and filled it withwhite wine, removed the cork. She put it in the middle of the grave and said: “Kosta, showyourself, show yourself”. And saw him in the bottle, coming out of some woods, the way he wasdressed when we last saw him. I saw him too, and my sisters saw him. Before that I didn’t believeI could see him.” “You can see the dead on Easter or on St. George’s Day at noon, between 12 and 1o’clock. We went to the water well with my aunt and took a mirror. She put it on top. Tilted, so that
you could see the water and also we could see in it. My aunt called upon the dead: Elenka,Donka, come here so we can see you! And this is how I saw them in the mirror, passing by in acircle, dressed the way we last saw them (wearing the clothes they were buried with)”. The contemporary needs of education also change the attitudes of the Thracianwhitesmiths. One of the hardest stereotypes to break is the one for higher education of the girls. It istrue that today they finish primary education (8th grade), unlike their mothers and grandmothers.But after that, their parents prevent them from going to school. On one hand, due to the fear thatsomeone might steal them (“Many people want her, she is young, her mother won’t give heraway. A Bulgarian also wants her…” – granny Anka, about one of her granddaughters). On theother hand, this is the time when the girl has to become a good housewife, to be prepared formarried life (“At home I cook, wash, clean. My brother Ivan is hungry when he gets back fromschool. I tell him: ‘Sit at the table, I’ll bring you food, I’ve cooked…’ – Anka, 16 years old”). Unlikethe girls, if the boys want to study, they continue and finish secondary education. Grandpa Ivan, granny Anka, as well as their brothers and sister, have not been to school.They learned reading, elementary calculation and writing on their own. From all of their fivedaughters, although they were already settled, only the youngest went to school until 8 th grade.The rest are self-educated. The situation with the granddaughters is different now. All girls study
until 8th grade, and the boys continue in professional high schools. Living in a different socialenvironment from the one of their parents, they are children with contemporary needs. They wantto learn foreign languages, to possess and work with a computer, to drive a car. Due to thedeeply rooted wedding traditions for the girls in the group, they realize that they don’t have a rightto choose. “I want to study, but they won’t let me. I finished 8 th grade. I’m at home all day. Washthe dishes, cook, sweep” (Anka, 16 years old, child of the fourth daughter, Katya). “They, theBulgarian children, have the right to choose. We don’t. I wanted to study in Stara Zagora somuch. They wouldn’t let me. I want to get a driver’s license, to drive a car… (shrugs hershoulders, gesturing that she knows this cannot happen) I didn’t study English very well atschool, I am sorry for that. If I could take it back…” (Anka, 16 years old, child of the youngestdaughter, Donka). The different moments from the lives of the three generations of women from the group ofthe Thracian whitesmiths show the changes that occur within the entire group. In the lastdecades, part of the young people start to overcome slowly and painfully various stereotypes.This costs a great deal of effort. Changes occur, but they come slowly in time, limited in rangeand with relatively weaker social effect compared to the contemporary requirements. Научното съобщение е прочетено на годишната среща на The Gypsy Lore Society,проведена в Грац, Австрия, 1-3 септември 2011 г.