The temperature in Osijek has dropped about 28 degrees in the last few days. Last Friday, we sensed it coming and dove one more time into the Drava river and kissed it goodbye for the winter. Now, we are inside, long-sleeves are found again, and Elvira and I enjoyed some time together over a cup of tea.
Elvira is one of the writers for Kaskada Magazine. I always enjoy talking with our co-worker Elvira. She opens up her world and gives me understanding about her background. I decided to interview her, and I am happy to let you read along.
Elvira, you are a woman with a vision. What is your vision?
I want to change Roma perspectives on education.
Why are you so passionate about it?
As a Bayash Roma, myself, I have been surrounded by so many negative thoughts about education. I always knew I wanted to be different and change people’s perspectives on education.
What were the negative thoughts about education?
Especially females would say, “You do not have to finish primary school. Just get married and have children, and the government will pay you monthly.” But, I was thinking—thanks to my parents—that it would be good to be educated and work for my own money. There is so much value in it.
In what year were you born and in what place?
I was born in Sombor, Serbia in 1996. Sombor is a city near Apatin, where my mother still lives. It is close to the Hungarian and Croatian borders.
How is your family? Please tell us something about them and also about the village you grew up in.
My father sadly died two years ago, and my mother is now working for a living. She is selling chickens. So, she has a small business. My older brother is eight years older than me and also supported me in going to university. In our village are 5,000 Roma, and out of that number, only a few finished secondary school. I am the only one from the village who is going to university.
My generation is now married and has children. Every time I come home from university, I feel like an outsider. And, they also give me that feeling. I do not belong there anymore, even though it is my home. But, the distance is great. It is changing because I want to show them that if you keep going and do not give up easily, you will actually gain something. I cannot wait until I have my diploma in financial accounting and management in Novi Sad. I will be a businesswoman! I aim to graduate with honours. And, it looks like I am going to make it!
What made you decide that you wanted something other than getting married when you were 15? Why did you focus on your studies?
I saw that life was hard. Seeing everyone going to work in the field, being in the sun, and working so hard they passed out for only 8 euros a day made me want to give a brighter future to my children. I did not have many friends at primary school. One day, when I came home from school, I was crying, and my dad was home. He asked me why I was crying. I said: Nobody wants to play with me. Nobody wants to hang out. Teachers loved me because I spoke five languages and was smart. Because I was loved by the professors, my classmates did not like me.
My father used to say—and it meant a lot to me—You have to start small to finish big! Then you will be able to show others how valuable you are.
Which people have influenced your life and your thinking?
My papa, but earlier, as well, my mother. She is my biggest support—spiritually, physically. I cannot imagine my life without her. I miss her a lot.
I like to talk to Bob and Nancy. They have a big heart for the Roma, and I feel that when I spend time with them. My biggest fear was always of not being loved. When I was baptized, I knew: I am loved. When my father got sick and we knew he would die, I knew that I wanted confirmation from God that I am loved by Him.
What are your hopes for the future? What do you dream about?
I would love to finish my graduation. I want to get my bachelor’s degree. That will bring me one step closer to my vision. I want to change the economic situation for the Roma. I see myself finishing my master’s and, who knows—maybe, one day, my PhD! I hope that female Roma are finishing their degrees. I see Roma speaking different languages. And, I see people coming together with one goal: changing the world together. Change the perspective on education for Roma girls, especially the girls that think they are worthless.
Which life event has shaped you?
When my father died, I did not know what to do. I was so depressed and cried for weeks. I could not handle the pressure of seeing my mother’s grief. I was already close to my mother before my father died, but then, our relationship became even closer. This event also helped me also to stay close to my call because my dad said to me the day before he died, Do not give up. Finish your call! I know you can do this.
Is there a bible verse that speaks to you that you would like to share?
Rom. 8: 38–39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God’s love is available to everyone and is not limited by colour or background.
Thank you very much, Elvira. It was so nice to interview you!