Part of our History, News from Villiers-le-Bel, among the Romanies,

 Old friends

The community of Villiers-le Bel opened in September 1998 with the aim of being in contact with the Romanies who had left Roumania to settle on the outskirts of Paris.

In our neighbourhoodIn our neighbourhood

Two Little sisters, Therese Brigitte and Jacqueline or 'La Roupish' who had already lived many years among both the Romany and other travellers in different countries of Europe accepted an invitation from the Bishop of Isle-de-France.

'We want quite simply to reflect the Gospel by our lives among the Romany, through friendship, prayer and in so far as is possible a sharing of life.

Although we have spent all our lives as Little sisters living in caravans we are now living on a large housing estate. It is another way of being alongside. On our estate there are people from every country.

Celebrating togetherCelebrations!

We have a small caravan too and our friends take us with them to the different sites so that we can meet their families and share their concerns. Like this we get to know each other well. From our flat we are free to make hospital visits and to be generally available to help out with papers and any support they may need. The ordinary events of life; bereavements, illness, anniversaries, births and religious feast days are all occasions to be together. Because we get to know each other well when we meet in the street we can share quite spontaneously and simply.

We are also in touch with different associations and also individual people who give their time and competence to defend the rights of the Romany.

Our friends are often rejected by society. After spending many years in France nearly all those we know are still without legal papers and are forced to beg or to work illegally. Many live in home made shelters or in caravans in need of repair. Their life is often very insecure. Sometimes though fear they live hidden from view where they cannot be found and many even build shelters in woodland areas on the outskirts of the city. Despite so many hardships they keep their dignity and their zest for life is an example for all.'

Although Romania is now part of the European Union the Romany still feel very insecure. They fear the police and immediate deportation and that there goods will be destroyed in the process. Many have their vans ready for a quick get away.

Some families have managed to find housing and regular work in various Boroughs with the help of social services and support agencies. In Lieusaint, in the south of Paris, families we know have been housed, their children go to the local school and their dads have found work in the local supermarket. How happy they are after spending fifteen years never knowing where the next crust would come from!

Matsa was born in Russia in 1944 in a camp for deportees. Sometimes her children share with us about their mother’s hard life. She is seriously ill and needs oxygen. She has experienced deportation after deportation. Today she lives with her son and family in Social housing. Her son has found work through the Town Hall in the local parks. Leaving hospital today in an ambulance and feeling well looked after and in safety she exclaimed ‘How lucky I am!’

It is Christmas time!It is Christmas time!