“Putting me into care didn't stop me being gypsy.”

This tells of a tale of one Liz Stewart who, at the age of three, was taken away from her family by an anonymous figure in uniform.

What she didn’t know at the time was that this was part of an ‘ethnic cleansing’ programme initiated by the government carried out in the late 50s and early 60s.  It is believed that hundreds of children were removed from their parents during that period, just like Liz, and put into care homes.

Why?

Because children like Liz were gypsies.

"I've got gypsy blood in me, I'll always be a traveller," she says defiantly.

Despite being thrown into eight care homes over the course of ten years, where she was forced to forget her roots, constantly criticized and ridiculed by those around her, she still holds her heritage close and strong. After facing constant abuse from the care homes she eventually decided to run away and become a Traveller, doing cash-in-hand jobs to survive on the streets.

She witnessed countless instances of maltreatment upon gypsies.

One time a gypsy woman came to the care home to sell pegs and she was chased away. People don't treat us like humans.”

Gypsies are seldom treated like humans by the majority who appoint themselves as ‘civilised’ members of the society.

She faced decades of hardship and abuse simply because she was proud to be a gypsy.

But all her struggles paid off; recently she joined Amnesty International and a large group of Travellers in a rally to highlight the discrimination and abuse they have experienced. She worked actively on a campaign that sought to gain an apology for what was done by the government in the 50s-60s.

Liz says: "In the late 1950s and early 1960s they wanted to eradicate the gypsy culture. Lots of us were taken away - me, my sister, my brother, my cousins. I don't think that would happen now. I hope it wouldn't.”

Liz never did manage to meet her mother or father. Both passed away during her quest to find them. She was however reunited with her sister some 12 years ago. They both promised one another when they can get away, they would both take a couple of years out to travel and be back on the road.

“…there's gypsy blood running through us. That'll not change." 

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/features/Putting-me-into-care-didnt.6728405.jp

Comments

Pearl Asaman

Liz is most definately an inspirational character. I've got nothing but respect for her pride and persistence to help those who experienced her similar plight. It is so promising to see how one person can make such a substantial difference to others.

13 March 2011 delete