PRESERVING age-old traditions is perhaps Colleen Rogers’ single most important mission.

She was born in Lancashire in 1964 to two Romani Gypsies, who were a fortune teller and scrap-metal dealer.

And since then, the 55-year-old has witnessed many traditions in Romani Gypsy life being eroded – with others under threat.

“I was brought up in a wagon,” said Miss Rogers. “We had a stove in there to keep us warm. We had no electric or running water. But that was our way of life.

“I was one of five and we travelled all over the country when I was small.

“My mum would go around doors to earn money for us to eat. She would tell people’s fortunes and that was to provide food on the table. If we had a dog, it would go and catch food.

“We had no car pulling the wagon when I was young. Instead we had horses.

“But times are starting to change. Technology has changed our way of life in many ways. You hardly see wagons anymore because caravans were made. You also don’t see Gypsies sleeping under wagons at night.

“Seeing some traditions disappear does make you think what will happen to the others. I fear that the general public could soon start to forget about our culture.”

South Wales Argus:

(Inside the wagon.)

As a result, Miss Rogers, who runs the Northern Hay Stables, in Brickyard Lane, Newport, now dedicates much of her time inculcating the public of traditions and norms within the Romani Gypsy culture.

“There are quite a few Romani Gypsies out there who no longer follow a nomadic way of life,” she said.

“I do believe that people should be aware of everybody’s traditions. But unfortunately, that does not happen.

“Who knows that if a member of our family dies, we will not eat meat until that person is buried?

That is just one of many traditions. But not many people know that.

“I moved to Newport 14 years ago and quite often go around schools to show them of our life.

South Wales Argus:

(Colleen Rogers with a family member.)

“We need to make sure as many people as possible know of us.

“In the past, people have tried to destroy my people and our traditions. That is why I care passionately about this.”

Nazi racial policy dictated that Romani Gypsies were Untermensch – meaning 'inferior people' – and as a result were to be exterminated.

By the time the Second World War had come to an end in 1945, Nazi Germany had systematically murdered an estimated 17 million people who were deemed “racially inferior”.

Those who fell victim were primarily Jews, ethnic Poles and Romani Gypsies.

In desperation, hundreds of thousands of Romani Gypsies fled Germany and sought refuge in Britain.

Miss Rogers’ ancestors were among those who were fortunate to escape.

South Wales Argus:

(Colleen Rogers' ancestors.)

“My great-grandparents were Russian and German Romani Gypsies,” she said.

“Some of them managed to escape before being gassed.

“We know there were family members who never got out.

“My family would never talk of what happened. You could see that it hurt them too much to talk about it.

“My daughter goes back to Germany once a year for an event to say: ‘We survived.’”

She added: “I am proud of who I am and will continue to teach the public of our culture.”

To read more about travellers and Romani Gypsies, you can read our recent article here