A Good Soul: The Story of a Resilient Roma Woman
“There’s something when you’re a good soul. I’m a good soul,” says Arieta Bajrami, a Roma woman from Graçanicë/Gračanica.
She is a single mother of three children, the youngest is only two years old. Her husband passed away two years ago. “Then we were hit by the pandemic,” she explains. “But we found salvation in good people who were willing to help us. I’m telling you, there is something when you’re a good soul.”, started Arieta our interview.
Every day, Arieta must think about how to secure food and clothes for her children. Their house has been renovated, so that her children can have decent living conditions, especially her two young daughters. "I didn't go to school. My father thought it was unnecessary. I'm ashamed when they ask me to put the signature somewhere. My daughter will learn to write and read, and I will do my best to make it possible for her."
Arieta says being a single mother is very difficult for her. She also has a mother-in-law, of whom she must also take care. She says she would love to go back to the old days, when she was smiling, happy and care-free. "Such was our childhood, barefoot, muddy... but happy. Now I have children who are not equally happy and that hurts me," says Arieta.
She says it has been a little easier since the beginning of this year because there are not as many casualties of the Covid-19 virus. “Also, people move and work more and that is good”.
Arieta likes to crochet and tie. "I'm not an artist,” she says laughing “but I try.” From time to time, Arieta receives orders for handcraft items. “It is nice to earn money, but it also takes a lot of work! I apply for seamstress courses wherever I can. It's hard because I don't have an education," says Arieta.
During the conversation, Arieta constantly reminds us that her children will attend school. "I want my daughters to be ladies who know how to talk, walk, write and read well, I don't want them to be like me! We, Roma, are hard to change. We are!" she says angrily.
She has been very emotional since her husband’s sudden passing.
“He was a great person,” she says as she looks at old pictures of him. “God took him away because of his greatness. And now, I have to move on for the sake of my children.”
We noticed that many neighbors approached us during the interview, encouraging us to help Arieta more. Apparently, this special “soul” is known for her kindness and her life story.
For Arieta, it is challenging to have to explain to someone that you need everything, and that anything could help. "The biggest help is when they don't forget you, when we are a part of everything that is going on. I am not educated, but I would also like to work and become literate! Not to be a simple soul," explains Arieta.
But what is it about this “soul” - as she calls it - that is so important to Arieta? “Everything is in the soul. It shows what kind of a person you are. That is why it matters,” she explains. “Good souls have helped me get through a difficult period of my life. I was left without a husband, and with three children to raise all on my own, when the pandemic started. But I want to get back up. I want to be able to earn money from my work; I can do everything from sowing to knitting, but I need a machine. I can also read cards and coffee cups too,” she says laughing.
“How do you do “coffee cup”?”
“I read someone’s future!”
“OK. Can you see yours? What does it say?”
“Happiness and friendships,” she says with a beaming smile.
Arieta is one of the many single-mother-headed households that have benefitted from the Voucher Scheme initiated by the “Response to Covid-19 Emergency and Early Recovery Support” project, funded by the European Union Office in Kosovo and implemented jointly by UNDP Kosovo and the Department for Social and Family Planning of the Ministry of Finance, Labor, and Transfers.
The aim has been to provide immediate support to families and communities most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, primarily targeting people living in extreme poverty or those struggling to make ends meet. The support has been targeted particularly on single-parent-headed households, non-majority communities, victims of gender-based violence, and people living in remote rural areas with limited access to social services.
The project is at the heart of UNDP’s Covid-19 recovery efforts and is based on the United Nations’ ‘leave no one behind’ principle. The disbursement of vouchers for those living on social assistance; the deployment of the UN Community Volunteers to Centers for Social Work through Kosovo; the interventions at the Centers and residential shelters, and the project’s other activities aim to provide relief to the most vulnerable groups, by providing temporary financial support and strengthening capacities in social work.
The article is originally published at the UNDP Kosovo site. https://undpkosovo.exposure.co/a-good-soul-the-story-of-a-resilient-roma-woman
Story by Danijela Mitic, photos by Arben Llapashtinca for UNDP Kosovo