The Romani people have lived throughout Europe and the Americas for centuries. Until the 1930s, they actually had a succession of kings, known as “gypsy kings” before the derogatory term was officially dropped. Not unlike most other monarchs, the king of the Roma acted as the liaison between the Romani people in a certain country or region and the gadje, or non-Roma. The royal leaders were most powerful around the early 20th century, uniting most of the Romani people in Poland under one leader. This changed during World War II, as the Nazis saw the Roma as undesirables and exterminated them by the tens of thousands alongside Jews and other persecuted members of society. It was during this time that Rudolf Kwiek held the title of “gypsy king,” and he was the last Romani leader in Poland ever to do so. Later, under the communist regime, Kwiek renounced the title of king and named himself “president of the gypsies.” It is said there have been new Romani kings in Poland appointed since then, but only representing small groups and communities and never an entire people or country. For this reason, Kwiek is known as the last “gypsy king” of Poland. His grave can be found at the Orthodox Cemetery in Warsaw.


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