Veijo Baltzar, a leading and a world-known Finnish Roma author, was born in 1942 near Kuopio in middle Finland. His roots were strongly in Rautalampi, an old parish, where his ancestors had arrived in the 15th century. Veijo Baltzar is proud of his ethnicity and identity. He has lived in a close connection with the majority through his human relationships and work. Strong Roma identity and deep knowledge on the culture of the majority have opened strong and critical views on both worlds.
Arvid, Veijo and Armas Baltzar and the dog Rokko.
Veijo Baltzar's father was a horseman, mother a beggar and a craftswoman. He spent his childhood in wagons with his parents, six brothers and four sisters. The nights were spent under the stars, in saunas and sheds. The days they wandered. The food was obtained by begging or by working for farmhouses. Hunger, coldness, external persecution and fear were familiar visitors, like they have been for the Roma for hundreds of years when they traveled as a minority in every country. Still life itself, great emotions, safety and love were strongly present in the family. In between strong human relationships the children learnt their moral and identity, where from all the conventions naturally appear. The family had collective responsibility for its honour, it supervised its members and the siblings held each other in order. Blood revenge was a guarantee for the safety of the community when police or judicial system had no concrete position.
Fourteen-year-old Veijo Baltzar left his family and joined one caravan. He wanted to find real life from Northern-Finland: Kainuu, Kuhmo and Suomussalmi. The big Roma caravan roamed through rugged fir forests, wolves howled, drunken log-workers chased them and horses got stuck in the deep snow. For nights they camped under the trees in huts made of fir branches. During the wandering in north Baltzar found out what it really meant to be a Gypsy. Having spent a year in the north, Baltzar returned back to his family. The family with its thirteen members moved to a little red cottage near a railway. In those days he went to the local village school, where he soon though ran away. That was all the education Baltzar got, the rest has been thought by life.
Baltzar's parents were highly respected inside the Roma society. His father was a patriarch, a philosopher who could not read. Only traditions, culture and the civilisation of soul existed to him. His mother was a cultivated person, who was interested in classical literature. She taught her children to read when they were very young and led them to the world of literature. She even arranged literary meetings with her friend Liisa Peura, the richest woman in Kuopio. Already as a child, Veijo Baltzar attended to these meetings and got strongly influenced by them.
Baltzar's family members in front of the court of Haminalahti in the late 1950s.
"Veijo Baltzar is a great Finnish and European cultural figure. In addition to his diverse literal and artistic achievements, he is a dynamic cultural and social activist. Baltzar is one of the few Finnish personalities, who possess capacity in European cultural life, especially as the promoter of multiculturality."
Mr. Paavo Lipponen / Former Prime Minister of Finland