In memoriam József Choli Daróczi

The dedicated pedagogue and poet József Choli Daróczi passed away on 12th May 2018 at the age of 79 and is remembered by many with great respect. Daróczi was one of the first and the most important developers of the Lovari dialect of Romani language in Hungary. He greatly contributed to the preservation and also the modernisation of Lovari through both his poetry and a number of language books and dictionaries. He translated the New Testament of the Bible into Lovari for the first time in 1996. He will be remembered through his work and the gratitude of his students.

József Choli Daróczi

József Choli Daróczi championed for the emancipation of the Hungarian Roma at a time when the Soviet block governments did not recognize Roma as an ethnicity and even forbade the official use of Romani language. Despite the officially prescribed assimilation, some took the courage and the effort to push for a different type of advancement for their people and themselves: Choli was one of these rare ones.

Beside numerous publications he was a founder of the Rom Som Roma Club (RomSom Cigányklub) at an elementary school on the outskirts of Budapest (rákospalotai Lila Iskola), engaging distrusful Roma parents in formal education by cultural activities and fostering their shared culture. The club birthed a number of cultural ensembles which strongly contrasted the mainstream Roma representation of the time. Back then most cultural products concerning Roma were romanticized and tailored to entertain a majority taste of 'Gypsy music', a hybrid of folk and operetta culture, a symbolic field of assimilation. Rom Som, however, stood for an authentic culture which originated from within the Roma communities and served their self-representation.

Daróczi produced a program booklet as well in Romani language and even translated the Communist Manifesto to Lovari as a form of protest. Daróczi and some colleagues were then silenced; his first book of poems Pel devlesko bango muj was published only after the fall of the Soviet regime in 1990. Yet his carreer started way earlier.

Daróczi was working at the Tatabánya Mining Trust when the 1956 revolution broke out. After he was caught trying to flee the country he was sentenced to 10 months in prison, sharing a cell with József Antall, who later became the first prime minister of the third Hungarian Republic in 1990.

He completed his college studies at the Budapest Teacher Training College, his literary career in the seventies. József Choli Daróczi had been a member of the Hungarian Writers' Association and the National Association of Hungarian Journalists since 1975, editing Romano Nyevipe, Amaro Drom and Rom Som. His publications and poems were published both in Lovari and Hungarian.

Between 1985 and 1986 he was the president of the National Roma Council, and between 1987 and 1988 he was the executive secretary of the Cultural Association of Hungarian Roma. Between 1987 and 1988 he became the executive secretary of the Cultural Association of Hungarian Roma and later chairman of the Lifestyle and Leisure Association of Disadvantaged Young People. Since 1995, he had served as President of the Minority Self-Government in the District of X.

He returned to pedagogy in 1994, teaching Romology, Romani Language and History at Apor Vilmos Catholic College, where he worked until his retirement.

In 1999, Daróczi was awarded with the Small Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.

József Choli Daróczi is mourned by his close family. Public commemoration will be held by the Romani Jesuite College for Advanced Studies on Saturday 2nd June 7 p.m. at Jézus Szíve Jezsuita Templom at 25 Mária street, VIII. district, Budapest.