Serban, second left, a young Roma artist, poses with other performers in front of the Tranzit exhibition space in Bucharest during a rehearsal of a play about Roma slavery. AFP / DANIEL MIHAILESCU
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The Roma are believed to have left an ancestral home in northern India around 1,500 years ago and arrived in mediaeval Europe about six centuries later.The dark-skinned nomadic folk, called Romani, became known as "Tzigans" – from the Greek word Athinganoi, which became derived, often pejoratively, into "Gitans" in French, "Gitanos" in Spanish and "Gypsy" in English.The centuries of slavery in Romania lie almost forgotten.Their self-esteem is very low," Grigore said.Their status is so murky that even the number of Roma in Romania is unclear. There are officially some 620,000 Roma in the country, although rights groups put the figure at around 2 million, or roughly 10 percent of the population of 20 million. According to U.N. figures, 90 percent of Roma households live in poverty. UNICEF estimates that 35 percent of Roma children in Romania live below the threshold of poverty, compared with 8 percent among non-Roma counterparts, and 75 percent of them quit school before finishing secondary education.
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