Farida Lazartšuk

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Farida Lazartšuk

Paide, Eesti


Back when I was a child, I lived with my parents in a small one-room apartment in Paide. But my grandmother was living a bit outside of town, in a big yellow house, and I loved to go there. Sometimes we stayed overnight, and my grandmother would tell me stories. I remember how she would take me on her lap, smelling slightly of cigarettes. I felt warm and safe. She would say “Now, I’ll call a little mouse to come and bring you sleep!” and then she would start telling the story.

This is an old Romani story about why you should not wear the clothes of a deceased person. The Roma people say this is a true story. Whether it is or not, I do not know.

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who lived with her mother. The mother was very ill. When she was about to die, she called her daughter and said: “When I die, do not wear my clothes, my jewelry, or my shoes! Swear that you won’t do this!” The girl swore, and soon her mother died.

Six months later, a friend came to see the daughter and wanted to go together to a ball. The daughter said she did not have a dress to wear, but the friend was not giving up so easily. “You have your mother’s clothes! Take your mother’s dress!” she said.

The daughter thought a bit, and then foolishly took her mother’s dress and went to the ball with her friend. The ball was wonderful!

That same night, the mother came to the daughter in her dream and said: “What did you do! You should not have worn my clothes!” The girl was so frightened that she could not sleep that night. She promised herself she would not do it again.

But after some time her friend came again and wanted to go together to the ball. This time she suggested wearing mother’s shoes, and the daughter did so. That night, in the dream, her mother came again, and was very, very angry.

Of course, when the daughter´s friend came for the third time, the daughter could not resist, and went. She went to the ball, wearing her mother’s jewelry. This time, however, her mother was so furious that the daughter had broken her promise again, that in the dream she strangled her daughter. When daughter´s girlfriend came to visit again, the daughter was already dead.

This was my favorite childhood story! And indeed, the Roma people say that the clothes of the deceased are not to be worn. After a person dies, their clothes are burned, as it is believed that all the clothes go with them to the spirit world. There are many other customs, too. Even back in time when there were not so many phones, when someone died, all the Estonian Roma would hear about it on the same day. They would immediately harness the horse and go to support the family.

And you know, one of my relatives really loved having guests, but he lived so far away that almost no one came to visit him. So what he did? He told his wife and daughters to let everyone know that he had died! The daughters did so, and said that their father had passed away.

Since funerals are such an important event for the Roma, all the Roma in Estonia came, dressed in black. The tables were already beautifully set… and then my relative came out from somewhere around the corner!

The guests were absolutely terrified because people are so afraid of the dead! Then the daughters smiled and quickly said that their father was alive, that it was just a joke. So that people would not have a heart attack.