Maria Sava Moise

Maria Sava Moise

Born: June 1, 1925

Iasi, Romania

Maria was one of four children born to poor Gypsy parents in the capital of Moldavia in eastern Romania. The family lived in a mixed neighborhood that included Romanians and Gypsies. Maria grew up in a house with a yard where the family kept a pig and some chickens. Her father made a living by singing and by working at some of the many wineries that dotted the Moldavian countryside.

1933-39: Maria's parents couldn't afford to send her to school. To help make ends meet, Maria, her sister and older brother helped their mother pick grapes for a local winery. The work was seasonal and they were contracted by the week. They worked hard and long, from 5 a.m. until evening.

1940-44: When Maria was 16, her father was drafted by the Romanians to fight against the Soviet Union. The following year, Iasi's Gypsies were rounded up by the Romanian police and sent eastward by cattle car. When they disembarked in Transnistria, they were marched to a farm and left in open fields to die slowly. That's how her sister died. Maria's husband, Stefan, managed to run away. By coincidence, her father's unit was stationed nearby and on New Year's Eve of 1943 he smuggled some of them back to Romania on a troop train.

Maria survived the rest of the war in Iasi. After the war, she and her husband reunited and resettled in Iasi.

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