Stefan was born to Gypsy parents in the capital of Moldavia in eastern Romania. The family lived in a mixed neighborhood of Gypsies and Romanians. Stefan’s father made a living playing guitar in local restaurants. As a child, Stefan learned to play the violin and he often performed with his father.
1933-39: When I was a teenager and old enough to branch out on my own, I left my father and teamed up with another young man to perform in restaurants. We performed all over Moldavia. The outbreak of war in 1939 was bad for business and many restaurants closed down, so I had to resort to farm work to support myself.
1940-44: In 1942 Iasi’s Gypsies were rounded up by the Romanian police and sent eastward by cattle car. When we disembarked in Transnistria, we were marched to open fields and left to starve with inadequate rations. Urged by my wife, I managed to run away. Of course, I took my violin. I hitched a ride on a freight train to Odessa and found work playing in a hotel, but all the time I couldn’t stop feeling guilty for leaving my wife and sister. In 1944 I was arrested and inducted into the Romanian army.
After the war, Stefan was reunited with his wife in Iasi. He worked as a musician until his retirement in 1983.
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