Saint Petersburg by Yanysheva (Romani/English).

Alex Foreman posted this video on Facebook, adding:

Me reading a poem by the Romani poet Lera Yanysheva, first in Xaladytka Romani, and then in my English translation.
This poem is based on real events. Since 2003, Romani neighborhoods in and on the outskirts of St. Petersburg have been repeatedly attacked by Neo-Nazi skinhead groups, with the reaction of the police and the public seldom rising above indifference.

It’s a powerful poem, and I find both his translation and his reading effective; you can see the Romani poem in Cyrillic with a Russian translation (which was helpful to me as I listened) here (scroll down about halfway, to “Петербу́рго”). Of course I was thrilled to hear Romani poetry read aloud, apart from all other considerations.

And if you’re curious about “Xaladytka Romani,” it’s in Wikipedia as Ruska Roma: “The Ruska Roma (Russian: Руска́ Рома́), also known as Russian Gypsies (Russian: Русские цыгане) or Xaladitka Roma (Russian: Халадытка Рома, […] i.e. ‘Roma-Soldiers’), are the largest subgroup of Romani people in Russia and Belarus.” They have a footnote for the translation “Roma-Soldiers” which leads here (scoll down to “Ruska Roma”): “Also called ‘Xaladitka Roma‘ (Gypsy soldiers).” But my Russian/Romani dictionary gives кэтана = kətana for солдат ‘soldier’ and doesn’t have a listing for халадытка [xaladytka], which looks like it should be a derivative of халавав [xalavav] ‘wash, rinse,’ past tense халадем [xaladem]. If anyone knows anything about this, please share.


  1. Dmitry Pruss says

    We probably need Studiolum here, for the different streams of Romani song and verse. I understand that халадэ isn’t just soldiers, but also police and government officials, and initially Romani used this word for all the Russians in the border provinces (who were, of course, soldiers and officials there).

    I also heard that parts of Ruska Roma are called Xaladitka because for their distant kin, they were “too official” (in the old times, they were all registered Orthodox serfs of their nominal landlords, and roamed Russia with official passports, which was just way weird for the more Westerly Romani tribes)

  2. Interesting, thanks. I have paged Studiolum — good suggestion.

  3. If you put “Xaladytka” into Google Books search you can find a chapter by Valdemar Kalinin in Scholarship and the Gypsy Struggle: Commitment in Romani Studies; A Collection of Papers and Poems to Celebrate Donald Kenrick’s Seventieth Year (ed. ‎Thomas Acton, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2000), where on page 141 (hopefully you can see it here) there’s an overheated passage beginning “Oh, I seem to hear some Roma from elsewhere mouthing, as if to contradict me, the name Xaladytka Roma… Do not dare to pronounce these words in the presence of true Russian Roma; they will flog you with their whips!”

  4. In Russian Romani xalado ‘washed’ is used figuratively for ‘soldier’.

  5. There you go — perfect. Thanks!

  6. By the way, кэтана is a borrowing from Hung. katona ‘soldier’, itself a loan from Italian.

  7. For the further etymology of Romani халавав, this site is suggestive: perhaps халавав is form of the verb that appears as xulav- in Welsh Romani.

    In his Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan languages (p. 210), R.L. Turner derives Welsh Romani xulav- “to comb out (hair), part, divide” (apparently further > “tidy up, clean, wash” in some other Romani varieties, following this analysis) and its Palestinian Domari cognate kṓlăr “loosens” from a root *kholl- “open”, a Neo-Indic root (that is, one not appearing in Sanskrit or Prakrit) of unknown origin. The cognates in the other modern Indic languages include Hindi-Urdu kholnā खोलना کهولنا “to open, untie, unfasten, let loose”, Kashmiri khōlun खोलुन् , Panjabi kholhṇā ਖੋਲ੍ਹਣਾ , Gujarati ખોલવું kholvũ, all “to open”, Marathi kholṇẽ खोलणें “to deepen (a well)”, Bengali kholā খোলা “to open, untie”, etc.

    The link to Alex Foreman’s Facebook page isn’t working for me, at least. Maybe he can post the content elsewhere?

  8. I’ve mentioned your request at his FB post; we’ll see what happens.

  9. I’m an idiot: his post links to this YouTube video, which is how I myself watched it.

  10. I kept digging and it turns out that Turner provides a much more satisfactory etymology for халавав under kṣāláyati in his Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan languages. Note Romanian Romani xalav here:

    (The heading of this page says A comparative and etymological dictionary of the Nepali language, but it is in fact the entry from Turner’s later work A comparative dictionary of the Indo-Aryan languages. The DSAL website crashed a while ago, and when it came back there were several problems like this heading problem, some of which they subsequently fixed. I informed the DSAL of this particular heading problem by email a while ago.)

    Thanks for the redirect to Alex Foreman’s YouTube channel, Hat!

  11. That is indeed a more satisfactory etymology; thanks for digging it up!

  12. That reminds me: there’s a nice digital version of Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India now available.

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