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Polish Romani (gypsy) surnames

18 Mar 2024 #61
Many people in Poland today don't really think about the origins of surnames as much as they did in the past. Centuries ago, surnames were used to differentiate where you were from or what your occupation was, which also defined your (sub) culture more or less. Today, there are plenty of Polish people with surname Cygan who don't identify as Roma at all, nor would they want to. They tend to trivialize the weight surnames used to hold in society, since people aren't really too judged about their names today thanks to Polish society modernizing for the most part.

Despite centuries passing, there is still HUGE stigma against Cygan in all of Europe. Very huge. I could describe in detail the reality that many cygan face across Europe, but you can read more about this at places like European Roma Rights Centre ( But the fact is, no one would have AND keep the last name Cygan over generations, unless it was something they felt strongly for/proud of despite the discrimination and adversity they face.

People who wanted to hide their Roma origins would either change surnames or in modern day, just say it was a nick name in their family that stuck because people "acted like gypsies and were given this surname." This is just a modernist view of how significant (and what a negative association) it would have been to have the last name Cygan in Poland. It would affect how society perceives you, affected job prospects, marriage, etc. UNLESS you were in fact, Roma. Then Cygan doesn't have a negative connotation, but one of clan/family/pride.

A lot of American 2nd, 3rd, 4th+ generation Polish do not understand the stigma that being cygan still means. So I've read a lot of Americans write about how the surname does not mean you are in fact, descended from Cygan, which is, by nature of what I've explained above, simply untrue. That being said, despite people having surname Cygan, unless you live as a Roma within Europe, it's hard to understand what being Cygan really is like on a daily basis.

Being Roma is romanticized in America, but it's much deeper, complex, and historically difficult topic, so if you want to understand this history and current issues based on your origins, please do. And consider advocating for people living as Roma currently who didn't have the ability to hide their identity, assimilate, or move out of Poland to flee discrimination.

I hope this helps people looking to understand surnames and what it means to claim Roma descent!
18 Mar 2024 #62
Despite centuries passing, there is still HUGE stigma against Cygan in all of Europe.

That`s unfair life. Gypsies refuse to assimilate, prefer to live in their own communities. Societies view such isolating minorities as dangerous outcasts.
Jews have been treated in a similar manner.
18 Mar 2024 #63
Jews have been treated in a similar manner.

Well, we have festivals of Gypsy and Jewish music. That's folklore.
18 Mar 2024 #64

Attended by descent minorities from non Jewish/non Gypsy societies.

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