BAIA DE FIER, GORJ
Situated about 50km from Targu Jiu, in southwestern Romania, Baia de Fier consists of two villages – Baia de Fier and Cernadia.
From ancient times the extraction of graphite or iron ore from the mountains was the most common profession and the main source of employment for residents.
Here as in other areas of the county of Gorj, Baia de Fier is an attraction for enthusiasts due to its spectacular natural surroundings. A major tourist attraction is the Pestera Muierilor (eng: Women's Cave), used to shelter women and children during the second world war.
Today, it represents an important source of income for the village economy with thousands of tourists visiting annually.
The 2011 census shows the population of Baia de Fier to be just under 4,000 including around 500 Roma people. The Roma neighborhood is located in the foothills, about 4 km from the centre.
Isolated and impoverished, almost every feature of a normal, settled neighborhood is absent from the Roma community at Baia de Fier including, critically, water and electricity. Many choose to drink water directly from the Galbenul river that crosses the village.
In communist times Roma people were employed in mining and were offered housing so as to be closer to the graphite mining galleries – hence their location today in the foothills.
Education among Roma is problematic due to lack of financial resources, early marriages and lack of interest in education. The outcome is a high dropout rate from schools.
The Roma community has one school built on private land and could therefore be closed at any time.
During Romania’s communist era, Baia de Fier was one of the country’s most important sources of graphite and iron ore. In 1991 the mines were closed and consequently life for many residents of Baia de Fier became increasingly difficult.
Currently people in the area are active in agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism and wood processing.
Besides working in the mines, Roma in particular produced objects in wood that proved extremely useful in households and that had been in great demand in days gone by, such as spoons, chairs, tables, wheels, spindles, baskets, brooms and rakes, yet a lack of marketing outlets for these items have forced many Roma to give up their ancestral craft practice.
Today the majority of income for Roma from Baia de Fier comes from the seasonal production and marketing of berries, mushrooms and nuts collected from forest areas.