Attempts at self-organisation
Ion Ghica came from the town of Piteşti, in the southern part of Romania. On the list of the 1,002 Roma in Piteşti ‘evacuated’ to Transnistria on 12 September 1942, the following names are to be found at positions 123–27: Ioan Ghica (39 years), his wife, Floarea (27) and their children, Maria (11), Barbu (14) and Ioan (3). The deportation of Ion Ghica was atypical; since he was eligible for mobilisation, he was exempt from deportation. On the day the Roma departed, Ion Ghica asked to leave with his family because his wife wanted to be with her parents, whose names were on the list.
In Transnistria, the family was settled in Kateline (from 1941 to 1944: Catelino) in the Ochakiv (Oceacov) district at the end of October 1942. Ion Ghica was appointed ‘mayor of the Roma*’, a function that had been created by the Governorate of Transnistria. This was to be a man who knew how to write and read, had performed military service and was respected by the Roma. He was responsible for keeping records, overseeing the Roma and bringing them to work the area. He mediated between Roma, the Romanian occupation authorities and the mayors in the area.
On 21 December 1942, there were 650 Roma living in Kateline. Besides rations of barley or corn flour, they received no provisions. Nor did they even have any pots in which to prepare their food. It is also reported that Roma had to sell their clothes to buy food. One report noted the high mortality rate among Roma, mainly caused by typhus. By the middle of 1943, there were just 203 Roma still alive in Kateline. Since the spring of 1943, the Roma of Kateline had been forced to work at the village kolkhoz.
At the beginning of August 1943, Ion Ghica addressed a petition to the district prefect about the harsh situation of Romanian Roma deported to the district. The results of the investigation are summarized in a report to the prefect of the Oceacov district dated 2 September 1943, which partially acknowledges Ion Ghica had stated. The petition shows that in Transnistria, security of provisions was a problem even for those who worked on a kolkhoz and for whose food rations, according to the orders of the Governorate, the town hall and the local kolkhozes were responsible. The deported Roma not only faced shortages of all kinds and the arbitrary behaviour of the Romanian occupation administration; they also had to struggle against the hostility of Ukrainian communes. Although Ion Ghica sought to be repatriated, he and his family had to remain in Kateline until the spring of 1944.