‘Foretold’ podcast Episode 7: ‘A Prism’
In the beginning, Faith thought Paulina was giving her a hot news tip about psychics and scams. Years of investigation revealed something else.
Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.
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Faith Pinho: What you’ve heard so far has been everything. Everything that happened in Paulina’s story up to the moment she came to me that day in the cafe.
Paulina was in the midst of every mother’s nightmare: uncertain of whether she’d be able to keep her babies. The girls had already disappeared once.
Paulina Stevens: They were gone. I broke down after that. It was crazy. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever been through in my life.
Faith Pinho: Paulina felt like her entire community was stacked against her, so she took extreme measures. She went to court. She went to the media. She went to me.
Paulina Stevens: And I went against my family because my family didn’t want me to do things the American way. If I did do it the American way, they said, they’d disown me. And I said, “I don’t care. I’m not losing my kids again. So everyone could disown me. I’ll live without you guys.”
Faith Pinho: Paulina knew the repercussions of what she was doing. Going to the courts and going to the media are two of the biggest betrayals in her culture. She was seen as a disgrace. But Paulina didn’t care. She was disillusioned and done. So she was willing to tell me, a reporter, just about anything.
Paulina Stevens: I got to go to school up to sixth grade. At 12, it’s like you’re supposed to know who you’re getting married to. The wedding lasts for three days long. I am a scam artist.
Faith Pinho: That day in the cafe, Paulina seemed to be unapologetically spilling secrets about everything, including the ancestral trade that had sustained her family for generations: fortunetelling.
Fortunetellers and other spiritual advisors are in the business of selling human connection and opportunities for introspection.
Paulina Stevens: You tell them little things, which, these things to us don’t matter whether we get them right or not. We don’t care.
Faith Pinho: Paulina revealed how she used to draw in her clients: She spoke in a deeper, more serious voice, she’d notice clients’ body language and she’d point to the cards to keep their eyes off her.
Paulina Stevens: Just like a person likes to be tricked by a magic trick. That’s what — we’re entertainers. That’s what we do. You’ll believe anything we say, you know what I mean? It’s horrible, but that’s how you get them.
Faith Pinho: When we met in the cafe that day and Paulina gave me the highlight reel of all the most salacious things that would intrigue a journalist, I thought that maybe there was some egregious scam story to uncover. So I went looking. I combed through every claim Paulina made from her childhood, her marriage, her profession, her history, looking for the central story here.
But instead I discovered a story that changed color and dimension the more I turned it over. It was like a prism. When I shined a light on it, I could see a whole spectrum. One story from all different angles.
Ian Hancock: Keep in mind that the Romani American population is not monolithic.
Faith Pinho: To some, Paulina’s story is an example of the slow death of a culture.
Nick Wildwood: You do this for the next hundred years, goodbye, Romani.
Faith Pinho: To others, it’s a story of a desperate mother yearning to be free.
Nasta Lee: She’s got to protect her kids. Hey, I would’ve did it.
Faith Pinho: And to others, it was a path forward for a culture that has been hidden too long.
Brenda Lee: Don’t really see what’s the point in it anymore. Our culture’s changing now.
Faith Pinho: There were so many ways to view Paulina’s story. Each person had a specific lens they were using to focus on Paulina, their own reflection of what Paulina’s story meant.
But here’s the thing. Years into my reporting, I never found that one central scam story I thought I was looking for. As far as I could tell, Paulina was no scam artist.
She’s no longer a panicked mom, either, willing to say just about anything to get custody of her daughters. In fact, she wishes she could take back some of what she said that day because she’s worried about the impact that one desperate day could have all these years later. And so am I.
This is “Foretold.”
The legend of the fourth nail can be told in a couple different ways. But here is one way: 2,000-something years ago, there was a Romani blacksmith, and he was ordered to make four giant metal nails, which would be used to crucify Jesus Christ. One nail was for the left hand, one for the right hand and one for the feet.
The fourth nail was supposed to enter Christ’s heart. But there was no fourth nail. Because God came to the Romani blacksmith in a dream and told him to steal it. Which he did. And if that fourth nail had been hammered, as the legend goes, Christ wouldn’t have risen on the third day.
Faith Pinho: “Searching for the Fourth Nail.” Here it is.
Faith Pinho: This legend is told in a documentary, “Searching for the Fourth Nail.” I found a DVD buried in the stacks of the Brookline, Mass., public library.
Faith Pinho: Is there a DVD player at this library where I can play? It’s a short film. It would just take a few minutes.
Faith Pinho: This documentary was created by the Romani filmmaker George Eli. It traces the history of the Romani people and chronicles his journey to show his two sons what it means to be Romani.
Romani spiritualists face negative stereotypes about our practices. But our traditions have deep roots and have sustained us for centuries.
[Clip from “Searching for the Fourth Nail”: George Eli: Alex, do you know what the word “Gypsy” means?
Alexander Eli: Yeah.
George Eli: What does that mean?
Alexander Eli: Steal.
George Eli: No, it doesn’t mean that, Alex.
Alexander Eli: What do you mean? I thought it was.
George Eli: Who told you that?
Alexander Eli: My mom. I think.
George Eli: No.
Another child: It means that you can tell fortune and stuff.
George Eli: No, doesn’t mean that.
Alexander Eli: What does it mean?
George Eli: The scary thing is I didn’t know what to tell my sons. There has to be more to the story of the Gypsies than an old wives’ tale about Jesus and a magic nail.]
Faith Pinho: I’ve heard this story throughout my reporting. To some, the Romani blacksmith is a hero for helping Christ rise again. To others, he’s a flat-out thief who prolonged Christ’s suffering. Others say it’s a mythical history that gives Romani people a pass to steal for survival, that the good outweighs the bad. And, sure, plenty of people I’ve talked to say it’s just a silly legend.
George really grapples with the legend of the fourth nail. For him, it’s shameful that a parable about thievery is a defining story in his community. He said that hearing this story over and over again and internalizing it limited what he felt he could aspire to as a Romani man.
[Clip from “Searching for the Fourth Nail”: George Eli: I feel up until recently that I am unworthy of life because I was told when I was a little boy by my grandmother that Jesus — somebody stole a nail from Jesus and that’s why we are allowed to steal. So I grew up learning that I could steal and I can get away with anything I want ’cause I’m Gypsy and I’m unworthy of life.]
Faith Pinho: George made the film in part to counter that belief. He never made it past elementary school and he has no formal training as a filmmaker, but he wanted to see media about Romani people by Romani people.
And George was especially equipped to do that because he grew up in a pretty tight-knit Romani American community. And he told me that as a spiritual advisor himself, he is directly impacted by how Romani fortunetellers are usually treated in mainstream media.
George Eli: Too often, journalists are not really looking to be fair and balanced. You know what I mean? So do I totally, totally, totally trust you? No.
Faith Pinho: George is tired of seeing his people painted with broad brushstrokes. In 2017 he was invited on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which was then the second-most-watched news program in the U.S. And he found himself broadcast on national television next to this:
[“Tucker Carlson Tonight” clip: Tucker Carlson: … is not going well, according to residents. The Roma have little regard either for the law or public decency.]
Faith Pinho: Not long after the live interview began, it became clear that Tucker Carlson had his own bias going into this conversation.
[“Tucker Carlson Tonight” clip: Tucker Carlson: Citizens say they defecate in public, chop the heads off chickens, leave trash everywhere …]
Faith Pinho: Tucker Carlson was doing a story about Romani refugees from Eastern Europe who were displaced to a small town in Pennsylvania. And in these clips you can hear him talking over George. He doesn’t really seem that interested in what George has to say.
[“Tucker Carlson Tonight” clip: Tucker Carlson: So I’m not, look, I’m, I’m not anti-Roma.
George Eli: Well, I hope not —
Tucker Carlson: But I am, I am pro-American citizen.
George Eli: And so are American Roma. I’m an American Rom, and my family’s been here for 100 years.
Tucker Carlson: I know that you are. But the group that has settled …]
Faith Pinho: So it shouldn’t have surprised me that George said he didn’t want to talk to the media anymore.
George Eli: They’re looking for that kind of promiscuous, sexy story and want the shock factor. And unfortunately for us, because we’re so unknown, it’s going to be the shock factor. And journalists can’t resist to take of that fruit and bite that apple.
Faith Pinho: Hearing how George talks about journalists kind of put a sinking feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t help but think that I would become one in the long line of journalists who have fallen for this. Who were entranced by the secrecy of the Romani people and then ultimately wildly misrepresented them.
Because it’s not just Tucker Carlson. The most sensational stories get the most attention. The worst of the worst rise to the top of headlines until a narrative forms, which then becomes a stereotype, until pretty much everyone has absorbed one opinion about an entire group of people.
And there’s one kind of story about Romani people that constantly rises to the top: about psychic scams. When I first started researching Southern California’s Romani community, one of the first stories I uncovered was about a local woman who, years ago, lost $1.3 million to a Romani fortunetelling family.
Karen Young: What happened to me is that I was under mind control.
Faith Pinho: In 1992, when Karen Young was a sophomore at Scripps College, a friend brought her to a psychic shop in Orange County. She met a fortuneteller. Karen described her as a petite woman with dyed blond hair and big round brown eyes.
Karen Young: She did hold my hands because she needed to read my palms and it was just so intimate. ’Cause I wasn’t close to my mom at that point. She basically said, “Your mom only gave birth to you. I’m your spiritual mom, and she’s not really your true mother.”
I do remember her breaking out in tears at one point. I was not in a family where we cried that much or showed much emotion at all. And this woman, she’s just meeting me and she’s already knowing what I think and what I feel and crying for me, and it felt very special.
Faith Pinho: Karen kept seeing this psychic. And as the weeks and months and years wore on, Karen became part of her fortuneteller’s family. She started coming to their home, sharing meals and playing with the kids.
Karen Young: I was Auntie Karen and I was just part of this family that just was like, “OK, we love you. You’re amazing.” And I ate it up.
Faith Pinho: She would take them out, go shopping with them. And Karen said she would foot the bill.
Karen Young: We would go and buy music CDs, and we’d go to the Disney Store and buy stuff for the kids and …
Faith Pinho: While Karen was telling me this story, she started pulling out a stack of credit cards. She tossed them on the table one by one.
Karen Young: These are all the credit cards I opened up when I was with them, and they just were like, “All right, let’s max them out.”
Faith Pinho: Once Karen ran out of her own money, she turned to her dad. She convinced him she needed cash for film school. And then instead of using it for her education, she funneled it to her psychic. But the money was never enough.
Karen Young: My parents were like, “Do we have to move out of our house? We never know when Karen’s going to show up at like 9 o’clock at night, demanding money, not leaving until she gets it.”
Faith Pinho: Karen’s visit to a psychic shop as a college kid turned into a 14-year entanglement that eventually ended in a civil judgment against the psychic and jail time for Karen.
Karen Young: Because it was like, “If you come to my office or my home, the police will be called. There is no more money.”
Faith Pinho: Karen was arrested when she tried to corner her father in his office to get more money out of him. The charges against her were eventually dismissed, but only after she spent months behind bars.
Karen’s story is wild and is a lot more detailed than what is included here. But it shows that sometimes there are sizable judgments against fortunetellers accused of fraud — $1.3 million.
It’s just that Karen’s story is a standout case. And these standout cases are kind of the only stories out there about fortunetelling and Romani fortunetellers in particular. It’s the kind of story that journalists just can’t resist.
Frank Mickadeit: I’ve got to be honest and say that when I wanted to write that story, my first instinct was, “This is a great story.”
Faith Pinho: This is Frank Mickadeit. He wrote a five-part series about Karen’s experience, along with another series on a conflict over Romani fortunetelling territories. Frank wrote these stories when he was a columnist at the Orange County Register covering the same area I used to.
Frank Mickadeit: I virtually knew nothing about the Romani community before I started writing about them. I don’t even know if all Romanis are Gypsies or all Gypsies are Romanis.
Faith Pinho: I mean, I didn’t know anything about Romani culture when I first started working on this story either. It led me onto a long road of research. So, journalist to journalist, I was curious to hear how he navigated doing a story on this community.
Faith Pinho: Were you concerned at all that with this series about Karen, you’d be playing into stereotypes about the Romani culture?
Frank Mickadeit: That’s one of the evils of — or one of the downsides of — calling it out as part of the Gypsy culture. I just came to the conclusion that the greater good was to expose it, to say, “This is what it is,” and not try to sugarcoat it. The overriding thing in journalism for me was getting to the truth of something.
Faith Pinho: Even now, years after leaving journalism, Frank said he’s saved the newspaper clippings of Karen’s story. He was proud of these columns. And he still gets calls about them — including from one young fortuneteller who had just left her community.
Paulina Stevens: So I reached out to him. It wasn’t very difficult.
Faith Pinho: Because before Paulina ever reached out to me, she’d first contacted Frank to cover her story.
Paulina Stevens: I wanted to continue, like a followup to the story that was already written. To a degree.
Faith Pinho: Frank doesn’t recall hearing from Paulina, by the way. But it didn’t really matter, because at the time Paulina says she reached out, Frank had already switched careers.
But Paulina kept reaching out, kept trying to get someone interested in covering her story. So she called another newsroom. And that’s when I picked up.
Faith Pinho: Did you think at the time that you wanted a reporter to look into this scam world of psychic shops or something?
Paulina Stevens: I feel like because I’ve only seen reporters write about that and that’s what the previous article was about, I felt that was the only way for me to get into my story.
Faith Pinho: When we first met, Paulina knew to lead with the story that’s always in the news: Stories about dishonesty or thievery. Stories that journalists are only too eager to cover. Scams.
So, in a way, I was the one being had. I couldn’t resist the shock factor — taking a bite of that apple. And she knew that. But in hindsight, she can see what a desperate move that was.
Paulina Stevens: In my mind, that was the goal: help me win this custody battle. And never before that incident I would have reached out to the enemy, which is the media.
Faith Pinho: So Paulina decided to cross enemy lines. She was disillusioned with her culture, her fortunetelling practice. Disillusioned with her life. So at the time, Paulina did believe what she was telling me: that there was a dark side to fortunetelling. And she deliberately played up that angle, all in order to try to keep her kids.
Paulina Stevens: My only purpose back then was just to have my kids in my life and get away from my situation. So when I first reached out to you, I had nowhere to go. And so I was like, “Local newspaper. Maybe they could help.”
Faith Pinho: I think back to that time when Paulina and I first met and how in over our heads we both were. I thought I had a hot tip about psychics, and she thought she had a reporter who‘d write some quick, sympathetic story that might help her win a custody case. But I didn’t write that article, and her custody battle came and went. And yet she still kept talking to me. Why?
With all the bad coverage of Romani people in the media, I could understand why documentary filmmaker George Eli was reluctant to meet me for an interview. That’s why I could hardly believe it when I found myself, in the summer of 2021, in the fancy downtown of Westport, Conn.
Faith Pinho: Hey, there’s a sign outside that says “Faith makes things possible.”
Faith Pinho: Enlightenments of Westport. George’s spiritual advising business.
George Eli: Hello.
Faith Pinho: Hey, George, I’m outside.
George Eli: OK. Hold on. I’m just making a candle. Hold on.
Faith Pinho: I walked in, and at his kitchen table, George was teaching his apprentice how to put the finishing touches on a candle: glitter, glue and inspirational messages.
George Eli: You want to see?
Faith Pinho: I want to see.
Sebastian: Hi. Welcome.
George Eli: Sebastian, Faith.
George Eli: The L.A. Times. She’s about to single-handedly take down the Roma community.
Faith Pinho: I had to laugh it off, but — “about to single-handedly take down the Roma community”? Yikes.
I tried to shake off the awkward silence, but I couldn’t tell if George was being kidding-but-serious, you know? So we just went back to talking about candles.
George Eli: Yeah, this is frankincense and myrrh. We believe that frankincense, myrrh and gold mixture is a potion. It’s to help bring prosperity in your home.
Faith Pinho: George’s office felt like a New Age-y therapist’s office: a sunny room with a statue of Buddha on the coffee table, and the book “The Alchemist” beside a box of tissues. And George started by explaining to me how a typical session goes with one of his clients.
George Eli: We’ll do a tarot card reading or just a spiritual evaluation, like an X-ray to see, to pinpoint, what is the issue and what you want to work on.
Faith Pinho: George told me that each person can tap into their own spiritual evaluation. The mind-body connection is real, he said: It exists inherently within each person.
George Eli: Think about it and finish these sentences for me. OK?
Faith Pinho: OK.
George Eli: When I met that person, I got a weird feeling in my…
Faith Pinho: Gut.
George Eli: OK. See how simple this is going by in front of your face all your life? Right? So now we can move on. You have a spirit, and then I teach you the functions of the spirit and then how to utilize it to best serve you.
Faith Pinho: George learned to listen to his intuition and read others from his grandmother. And George really believes in that spiritual wisdom. To him, fortunetelling is not about making money by any means necessary. It’s a precious trade rooted in talent and truth. But this doesn’t mean you have to suspend all reason when tapping into the metaphysical.
George Eli: Do not leave common sense at the door when you come here.
Faith Pinho: George says spiritual knowledge and understanding is intuitive — something anybody can achieve.
George Eli: First of all, you must know that every human living and breathing has intuition. Now, some people are better at it, just like some people have better singing voices. You could sing, but not like Mariah Carey, right? So she sings better, and she was born that way. And she studied her craft and got better.
Faith Pinho: But for those natural-born healers, the Mariah Carey types of fortunetellers, there’s this supercharged ability to tap into those spiritual, intangible truths. George says for these people — intuitive fortunetellers like Paulina — it’s impossible to ignore.
George Eli: If she grew up even 10% the way I did and you have this knowledge, you can only take a hiatus for so long before you can share it with the world. Because if you know that you can help someone and don’t, you’re pretty much a big a—hole.
Faith Pinho: He’s a true believer, and he says that plenty of cynics he knows, even other Romani people, are actually true believers too.
George Eli: Rom come to me and say, “Oh, we just tell fortunes of the gadje. It’s not real. It’s bulls—.” I go to them, “Really? OK. Do you believe in curses?” And they go, “Yes.” “Do you interpret your dreams?” “Yes.” “Mmhmm. Yeah. OK. So stop the bulls—. You do believe it. Do you see what I’m saying? You just maybe overcharge.”
Faith Pinho: So for people like George, there is something of value with these practices. There’s obviously an industry for it. Plenty of people say they get some spiritual benefit from getting palms read or tarot or even just getting asked a series of reflective questions by an intuitive listener. For some, it’s helpful just to feel more spiritually connected to something metaphysical.
But, OK, yes, George says, some fortunetellers do overcharge. And sometimes “overcharge” is an understatement.
George Eli: There is a market for telling people what they want to hear. I hear — a lot of clients come to me and said they went to a psychic and they paid thousands of dollars a month and they never really got anything out of it. And then there’s clients that are really, really desperate, and a psychic might take advantage of that.
Faith Pinho: But then again, professionals take advantage of people all the time in industries across the board.
George Eli: Like I said, you have people that are desperate that go into car dealerships and the car dealer says, “This person’s desperate, needs a car right away,” and overcharges them. But is that a crime? I don’t know if that’s a crime in America with capitalism. I don’t know if that’s a crime. Because what we offer is a spiritual practice and a spiritual, dare I say it, business. Right?
Faith Pinho: But what makes this particular business of fortunetelling different from any other spiritual business, like astrology or a yoga retreat or a meditation app?
George Eli: Or Tony Robbins or therapists.
Faith Pinho: It’s just that this particular business of fortunetelling is closely tied to an ethnicity.
George Eli: That seems like racism to me. I’m not saying — I don’t know every individual case. I don’t. But I know that when one or two cases come up every three, four, five years, it is so in the press. So that’s racism, Faith.
Faith Pinho: George was putting words to the same fear I had seen over and over again in my reporting. That legacy of racism is a big reason that so many people didn’t want to talk to me. Because they’re afraid I’m going to do another story like all the ones they’ve heard before.
I wasn’t really able to get through to anyone in Paulina’s community. That is, until last September.
Community member: This whole thing. Talking about us, ’cause we’re in our own bubble. So this is, like —
Paulina Stevens: A big deal.
Community member: Yeah, this is, like, unheard of.
Faith Pinho: Completely out of the blue, someone from Paulina’s community showed up with her during one of our interviews, which was a total surprise. And so I got a little glimpse into what Paulina’s community thinks. Even though this person wanted to remain anonymous. We’ve masked her voice for that reason.
Community member: So most of the stuff I said, I don’t want online. And just say I’m “someone.”
Faith Pinho: This “someone” grew up with Paulina. Knows her really well. And she disagreed with the picture Paulina was painting of the world they came from.
Community member: I feel like sometimes Nina says that being a Gypsy is like a prison, basically. And it’s not.
Paulina Stevens: I don’t say that.
Faith Pinho: Wait, let her finish, though.
Community member: I just enjoy being a Gypsy a lot. But I feel like — outsiders, or, I don’t know, non-Gypsies, feel like — they criticize us so much. And we’re not what they think that we are. So. That’s it.
Faith Pinho: What do you feel like people get wrong most?
Community member: That we’re scammers. We. You know. We don’t say that we’re — I’ll never go up to someone and they ask me what’s my ethnicity? I don’t say Gypsy.
Faith Pinho: And you do that so that they don’t think all those wrong things about you?
Community member: Yeah.
Faith Pinho: I’m curious, what did you — what do you think about the fact that this is the podcast? You can be honest. I can take it.
Community member: Not my favorite. And I just like being in our own little bubble.
Paulina Stevens: I feel it too. I feel like I’m a bad person for letting out all this information. But I also know that it’ll be good. I feel like just to change — keep the culture, keep the traditions, but not the bad practices. So I’m not putting us down or saying it’s like a prison. I’m just talking about the bad part that I experienced. We need to get with the times, you know?
When people hear about us, they think we’re a fairy tale. You know, “It’s a leprechaun. Oh, it’s a Gypsy.” We’re real people with a real culture and a language and practices and traditions and — you know what I mean?
Faith Pinho: Now, years removed from that day we first met, Paulina’s intentions have changed. Instead of leaning into stereotypes, she wants to dispel them and to help her culture evolve for the better.
For Paulina, and for the other folks who have talked to me, the only way to understand a culture is to shed light on it, to look at it from all these different angles.
Like how Dr. Margareta Matache pointed out how Romani women are stereotyped for upholding certain traditions, like fortunetelling, to support their families.
Margareta Matache: I think that the problem with the way that the white world portrays a connection between fortunetelling and fraud and criminality, it really affects, on one hand, the people who practice fortunetelling. But on the other hand, it affects the whole community.
To not acknowledge the history of injustice of Romani women and to really erase the history of anti-Roma racism, it is hurtful.
Faith Pinho: And Professor Ian Hancock championed an unvarnished look at history and the way it still impacts life today.
Ian Hancock: I don’t like to whitewash history. I like to explain history. And I wish that would get more airplay because, yes, we steal. We steal. My grandfather stole. My father stole. But it was small stuff and mostly food.
And nobody says what sequence of events over time has brought these people to this condition. Is it the result of centuries of being pushed out? Not let into churches, not let into schools, being moved on? That takes a toll. But that’s never explained. All you get are these silly Hollywood movies and silly songs about tramps and thieves, and you don’t hear the truth.
Faith Pinho: Pastor Doru Moïse requested I deliver the whole story, the bad and the good.
Doru Moïse: Actually, I have a request from you. I don’t want you to hide the truth, but at least state the facts. To put hope on your podcast. What is it that we need to change as a society? The Gypsies and the non-Gypsies?
Faith Pinho: As I’ve been reporting on all of this, my perspective on Paulina’s story evolved too. It’s a nuanced world. It can’t be reduced to some spicy story. And I think Paulina was realizing this at the same time I was.
Paulina Stevens: So I’m growing and changing, just like I think we are together. You know?
Faith Pinho: I definitely, I mean, it’s been three years, so how can we not?
Faith Pinho: Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time together. I mean, we’ve talked for hours. I’ve played and made crafts with her kids. She got me a tiramisu cake when one of our interviews fell on my birthday. We’ve gotten to know each other really well.
And while I’ve been researching her story and learning about her culture, she’s been doing the same thing: learning from Romani activists and educators, going to therapy, digging into her past.And in so many ways, Paulina is a completely different woman than the person I met that day in the cafe.
Paulina Stevens:All I read on the news is about people condemning us and our practices, and so I feel like, I hope and pray that when this comes out, it won’t be perceived that way.
I feel like when I first spoke to you, I felt like I never wanted any other person in my culture to experience what I experienced. Then time went by and I really educated myself on our culture, everything that we went through. I’ve studied the dynamics of why we hide in the first place. I understand the dynamics of how our culture and our people have been reduced to street rats, basically, from society.
So to a certain extent, now that time has went by and I understand the dynamics more of my own people, I feel like my intentions have changed. My only purpose back then was just to have my kids in my life and get away from my situation. And now I feel like my purpose has become a lot more clear and meaningful. And mostly because of you, too.
Faith Pinho: In almost every story I’ve ever done as a journalist, there’s the story you think you’re doing and then the story you end up doing, and they’re pretty much always completely different. And though this story started from a place of duplicity and desperation, it led us to a place with so much more depth.
Because that’s the thing about stories. They’re how we define ourselves to ourselves and to others. And when we change, the story can change too. It’s still true. Just looking at it from a different perspective, like how George came to understand the legend of the fourth nail or how Paulina has come to see herself in the nearly four years we’ve known each other.
The more perspectives we heard, the clearer the story became.
So, OK. Everything up to this point has been looking into Paulina’s past. But we’re in real time now. And there’s still more to uncover. Like what happens when she and Bobby face off in court. What will Paulina’s life look like, apart from her community? And who’s going to be the one to stand by her side as she figures it all out?
Well, there was this one woman. With teal hair. Someone who herself had left the Romani community before Paulina was even born. Someone who was very familiar with being the subject of rumors.
Gina Merino: Who’s Gina? Shh. Don’t talk about her.
Faith Pinho: But that’s next week. On “Foretold.”
Theme music by seven-string guitarist and composer Vadim Kolpakov and composer Alex PGSV. Additional original music by Vadim Kolpakov and Alex PGSV, as well as Alex Higgins. Fact checking by Kasia Broussalian, David Toledo Diaz, Lauren Raab, Asal Ehsanipour and Faith E. Pinho. Additional research by Scott Wilson.
Thanks to Shani Hilton, Kevin Merida, Brandon Sides, Dylan Harris, Carrie Shemanski, Kayla Bell, Kasia Broussalian and Nicolas Perez.