Cork's first Roma bus driver: ‘I want to show people that anything is possible’

Luciano Ulita used to hide that he was from the Roma community for fear of racism. Now he is happy to tell the people of Cork about his culture as he drives them around the city for Bus Éireann.
Cork's first Roma bus driver: ‘I want to show people that anything is possible’

Luciano Ulita at Capwell Bus station. Luciano is the first Roma driver to take on a role with Bus Eireann. Pictures: Larry Cummins

AN activist locally renowned for helping stamp out begging in his community is leading the way as Cork’s first Roma bus driver.

Luciano Ulita, who lives in Silversprings, arrived in Ireland in 2002 and spent time working as a taxi driver. He initially told passengers he was from Italy to avoid hostility. Despite experiencing racism during his time in Cork, Luciano said he was now open about his Romani heritage.

He praised Bus Éireann for promoting a diverse workforce at a time when many Romani people continue to feel marginalised.

“I want as many Roma people in Cork to see me driving so they can say ‘wow’ and realise this is something they can do,” Luciano said. 

“I’d like to be an example to everyone in the Roma community who feels this is not possible for them.”

Luciano admitted that, in the past, he felt fear about telling people where he was from.

“People asked me where I was from. After years and years, I was no longer ashamed to say who I really was. When I’d say I was a Roma they’d say, “Oh, so you’re a gypsy?”

“Now I just reply ‘yes’ and that I’m proud to be a Roma gypsy. Most of the people in Cork are very nice.”

He explained why gaining employment with Bus Éireann was such a significant milestone.

“To find out more about Cork City you have to be out there and Bus Éireann has given me the chance to do that,” he said.

“I want to show the people of Cork that we are working hard so we can change people’s minds.”

Luciano is glad to have completed his first month with the company.

“Bus Éireann is a great company and I enjoy getting the people of Cork home safely every day.”

The bus driver continues to carry out charity work in his role as a pastor. Over the years he has been responsible for helping several Romani people turn away from begging.

“People started coming to the church,” he said.

“When they believe in God they start to realise that begging on the streets is not a nice thing.

“If you want something you can ask for God’s help. We also provide food and clothing for anyone in the community who needs these things, so they don’t feel they have to beg.

“No matter how hard things get we never give up. The Roma I have seen begging lately are not living in Cork City. I have never seen them before. If there are Roma people still begging, we want them to stop and see the great jobs that are out there.”

Luciano said he refuses to let racist remarks affect him and instead prays for anyone with such damaging views.

“I don’t care about this because it doesn’t affect me. All I can do is pray for them.

“It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, or Roma as long as you are a nice person. You have different types of people in a community. Some are good and others are bad, but you can’t put them all in the same bag.

“There are people in Cork doing so much to help the community — people like Bill Dunlea in Blackpool, who we are so grateful to. We’d like to see the children finish college and school.

“It’s not always going to be easy. It’s all about time and patience, but we know that one day everything is going to be different in the Roma community.”

He is enjoying life as a bus driver.

“Being a bus driver is hard work but it’s worth it. I want to show people that anything is possible. My hope is to encourage the next generation of Roma in Cork to become part of Cork City. They can be doctors, solicitors, or anything they want in life.”

He hopes that Romani culture can soon be celebrated in Cork.

“It is a very nice culture. We have good food and our own traditions. We would hope that one day we can be accepted in the community so we can show people what our culture is about.”

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