Romania's Gypsies find an unlikely hero
Always one to court controversy, Madonna spoke up for one of Romania's most discriminated groups, Gypsies, way back this summer at her Sweet and Sticky concert in the capital, provoking her legion of fans to start booing her. Now, on a tour around the country, supporting a family charity which helps Romany children, actor Ethan Hawke has stated how brave she was and has placed her alongside pop legends Bob Marley and John Lennon, other superstars who took similar stands against racism.
"She transcended being a pop star," he said to reporters in Bucharest: "She drew international attention and shone the spotlight on a level of racism and the need for greater education," Hawke said. "I don't have an agenda, Madonna doesn't have an agenda. We aren't politicians," he added. Later at a charity ball in the giant palace of the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Hawke raffled a pair of Madonna's Christian Dior shoes with autographed skyscraper gold heels as well as a gold chain donated by actress Vanessa Redgrave, to raise money for the charity.
Romania has the largest number of Roma in Europe, numbering officially half a million, but it's believed there could be as many as two million. The fact that many gypsies are invisible adds to the problem. The European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency has said Gypsies face "overt discrimination" in housing, health care and education.