AP photo the Roma People, who live in refugee camps in the jungles of southern Italy, have traditionally had to forge documents and use counterfeit hand-writings to ensure their identities.
It was an easy task: Cyndi Cooper was sitting in her office at Children’s Health, a medical clinic in Park City, Utah, feeling “optimistic and happy about the future.” She was 22 and an attractive blonde who’d married her childhood sweetheart, Chad Graeff. Their kids were doing well, and her career was taking off.
When Cooper unexpectedly started hearing about murder and rape on the streets, she realized the normal, peaceful life she’d spent years building was at risk. Her husband later told her that he’d never told her about a secret he’d been keeping that began “a time of real secrets.”
He was worried he was Roma.
His family had lived in what is now Romania since the 1500s. The three children he had, all girls, were taken from his family when he was 14 because they were poor. His father moved them to Italy and gave them false names, passports and birth certificates. All of his four siblings died in the first century. No one knows if the children of the family that eventually adopted them were human or not.
Based on accounts of Roma rape, Cooper eventually uncovered that the family had beaten and killed many of their fellow Roma, adopting “rabbits” with fake memories to carry out the crimes.
Her findings led to a manslaughter case and extradition of one of the family’s members. But Cooper was unable to prove the rapes happened.
The tragedy of being Roma in the early 1900s can be summed up in a single word: disappearance. More than four centuries of persecution, cruelty and genocide forced most Roma into migrant camps. As the Allies, Americans and others liberated Europe, they displaced many Roma from their homes.
Researchers studying this trauma have done research similar to that done by Cooper. In the 1990s, scientists in Genoa, Italy, discovered thousands of near-dead Roma in factories in Italy, hard at work sewing woolen clothing. The factories kept turning them over as the sewers were cleaned.