This is a portion of the writing, “Youth” that Jan wrote we estimate sometime in the 1950’s. He started to edit this writing at a later date but did not finish but it offers a wonderful glimpse of why he chose certain paths for his life. You can read the whole writing here. He only edited the first 6 pages and never completed the rest. We have compiled the edits so the reading of this work is easier to get through.
After following the horse-drawn covered wagons for a long period I would quite suddenly one day feel the impelling eagerness to go back to the gieja world I had left behind. I would leave as unherald and as unpredictably as I had come to stay with them in the first place. My father’s large studio, his many works in progress, the long and intimate talks with my mother, the little baby sister playing and laughing, were a long lost haven. I would not conceive that I had been capable to deliberately turn my back on all of them and walk away. For many months I had been spell-bound, intensely happy, living in this world of the gypsies utterly different from the one I now yearned to go back to.
I have the impression of waking up from an unbelievable and wondrous dream that I must tell and share.
The wagons are rolling on in one long row over the hill road. As far ahead as I could see and as far back they were gypsy wagons moving peacefully and the sound of horse hooves. I felt very detached from it all. And I wondered without understanding what could have fired m willingness to share this strange, vagrant primitive life. I wonder.
My feet were bare, my clothes colorful and in rags, my hair unkept and long; I felt healthy, sunburned, hungry and I want to be lone and to think; to think and to run away.
Pulika, Rupa Gidsheeka, Yojo, Kore, they all were the same as ever, but I was changing, I was changing at a dizzying pace and made everything about me look unfamiliar and reasonless.
I knew this was not the sudden effect of a sunstroke or of swamp fever. I could not understand how I had been able to live all those months without the accepted forms of comfort and ease, I had been brought to consider normal desirable and indispensable. How could I have lived and enjoyed living tricking wildly across many countries, part of a band of human beings unwanted, ununderstood, without apparent goal besides survival and self perpetuation, devoid of the feeling of security that grows out of routine, the accumulation of material possessions and the delusion of being part of a majority.
For months I had slept under the open sky. I had eaten irregular meager fare and over abundant feast. I had been scorched by the sun, drenched by the rain, shaken by storms and at the same time deeply grateful for life. I had been part of the dream and envy of all healthy boys in established society; to share the hard adventurous life of pioneers, of early settlers. But there was no end to this trail. There were no green pastures, peace or work to hope for on the other side of the horizon.
It is a strange fate these people were doomed to live as eternal wanderers. I left the travelling caravans. I said farewell to Rupa and I wondered and am grateful for the understanding she and Pulika showed me. They exchanged a glance and said I was the Vadnir Rasa, The wild goose of the Romany legends. They said they knew I would leave, they said they also knew I would come back. I stood by the waysie and watched the wagons pass, one after the other til they fade away in the distance and familiar sounds died away. Once again the countryside was without the noises of rattling wheels, horses neighing, yapping dogs, babies crying and singing obys. A great perceptible silence filled the air.
I remained stationary, while they traveled onwards. Making a shortcut straight through the fields, I walked to the nearby village. Nearing the non-gypsy world again I decided to put on the shoes, which I had carried dangling by the shoelaces on a stick on my shoulder. I took the faded purple and vermillion kerchief off that was knotted round my neck, Lowari fashion, and stuffed it in my pocket. I brushed back my hair and washed my face, neck and hands at a running brook. I could feel the expression on my face change as if my sun and wind burned skin was stretching in some places and shrinking in others.
The red roofed stone houses became homes in my eyes, pleasant homes, once again, instead of the dreary prisons the Rom had made me believe them to be. What makes them not the stone walls prison but the spirit of those living inside it. I heard shouting across a garden wall. It is strange to hear the native language spoken and to realize that fro now on I too will express myself in a different idiom then the wild, tragic, archaic Romanes, unfit for small talk. I will no longer need to use ingenious parables, forceful plastic descriptions of the Rom to translate life and daily events in the intense, adventure filled existence. I realize how much I will miss the intensity and fecundity of Romanes speech and concepts.