Petre Pandelică was born into a settled (meaning non-nomadic) Romani family from the south of Romania. He was one of nine siblings. His parents had animals and worked on the land.
After the deportation of Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina to the newly acquired territory of Transnistria in 1941, Marshal Antonescu, who ruled Romania at the time, ordered the evacuation of the Roma the following year. Although the order mentioned the deportation of the nomads and those considered dangerous (the unemployed or those with criminal records), many settled Roma were also sent to Transnistria. Among them were Petre and his family. They were put into cattle cars and transported by train to the camp, with very little food and water along the way.
When Petre and his family arrived in the Transnistrian camp, they had to live in makeshift underground dwellings. They were not allowed to leave the area and remained there for three years. Because of hunger, cold and diseases, only Petre and two of the brothers were able to survive the camp.
1944 and Postwar Experience
When the German and Romanian armies started to retreat, Petre was able to return to Romania. He had to walk for weeks to reach his home only to find out that he had been made homeless. He joined the army and moved to Transylvania in northern Romania. After being discharged from the army, he got married and started working as a shoemaker.