Paperback, First Edition, published in 2000 by University of Hertfordshire Press. White card covers with title in black on front cover and spine.. Photograph of author on front cover. Spine and part of front cover slightly discoloured. Inscribed on frontis. pages slightly tanned towards edges. tightly bound and clean.
Ilona Lakova's darked skinned illiterate Gypsy father fell in love with her pale skinned Polish mother whilst a prisoner in Russia during the First World War. They returned to his mothers house in a Gypsy settlement on the edge of the village of Saris in Slovakia where their family of nine grew up, despised and mocked by the peasants on whom they depended for work. Ilona describes in simple unaffected language what it was like to be part of a tight knit community bound together by language, customs, music and a love of family, the spirit of "Romipen".;Like all respectable Romani girls she was married early to a husband chosen by her parents and moved into the house of her mother in law and at the outbreak of war was a mother herself. Fear of the fascist Hlinka Guard who shaved the heads of Gypsy girls and sent the men to labour camps dominated their lives.;Dawn came with the arrival of the Russians and the hope of a new life in a socialist society where all were equal. Life changed. Good money could be earned on construction sites in the Czech lands. She and her husband joined the Communist Party but Gypsies were the last in line for equal treatment. Ilona wrote a play about life in a Gypsy settlement during the war, formed a theatre company with friends and family and for two years toured the country. Fame brought new opportunities, a job for her husband, a flat for the family, intensive training and the chance to help her fellow Gypsies whose conditions in their settements were even worse that before the war. She was the first Gypsy woman to be appointed a Communist Party official, was active in the Red Cross and met the country's President in the former Castle of the Hapsburg emperors in Prague.;But it was a false dawn which saw the Roma forgetting their own language, abandoning their traditions and pride in their way of life. her people had lost their self respect, were filthy and sometimes starving. The peasants no longer employed them in the Socialist state and they had lost all hope. She struggled to get them work, ration cards, clean water and they called her their partisan. Ilona describes all this in the words of an educated woman who went on to study at Charles University but remained in tune with the vanishing life of the Gypsies.;Her story was recorded in Romani over many years by her friend, the sociologist Milena Hubschmannova of Charles University, who translated it into Czech, adapted it for radio and eventually arranged for its publication as "I was born under a lucky star" in 1987.