Magdalena Adebayo: “Love Knows Neither Boundaries nor Color”

Photo: Personal archive

Magdalena Adebayo grew up in Chișinau, Moldova, in a renowned Roma family of lăutari (musicians) with strong traditions. Her parents, however, insisted that their children acquire formal education.

“I didn’t have an easy time in primary classes. The classmates often mocked me because I was Roma. I had changed several schools until I found one where I had all the support from the teacher. That lady inspired me and encouraged my love for learning. So, after graduating, my dream of becoming a teacher has come true.” Magdalena completed her foreign languages degree at the State University of Moldova and became an English language teacher in an international organization. There she met her future husband.

“Just once in a lifetime you meet someone who turns your world upside down. You’ll want to share things, thoughts, and dreams with that person,” said Magdalena.

Fallen in love, they confronted prejudices, stereotypes, and obstacles from the community and from her family.  Magdalena's parents were uncompromising about the prospect of their daughter’s marriage with an African American.

“When Johnson and I were walking in the street, some people would cast curious eyes to us and some would even say horrible things. Parents tried to persuade me, saying that a Roma woman cannot marry an African American because such a marriage will never be accepted and nobody will understand my choice,” Magdalena recounts.

The Roma community is rather reluctant about mixed marriages, which are very rare within it. Older Roma say that this is because of the fear of losing their ethnic identity, culture, and traditions.

Despite the general resistance, they decided to get married. It took them a lot of courage to go to Magdalena’s parents and announce their wedding day. Eventually, the parents consented.

“I never hide who I am and where I come from. I have three children whom I adore and educate to be good persons, and to know the history and traditions of both my and my husband’s people. I'm a happy woman – I have a wonderful family, and I do a job that I've always dreamed of.”

Magdalena always wanted to work with children, to teach them to accept themselves as they are, and to be tolerant toward others. Now she is the principal of an international pre-school institution in Chişinău, which allows her to accomplish this desire on a daily basis.

“Love makes us better. I'd like to encourage everyone: do whatever you think is necessary for your own good and for society. Accept people, love life, be close to your families and friends,” says Magdalena Adebayo.

This article is part of the UN Women’s campaign “Zoralé Jiuvlia” (“strong women” in Romani) promoting success stories of Roma women and girls. The article was written by Elena Sîrbu in collaboration with UN Women Moldova.