[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]


Roma in Slovakia


Excerpts from Essays by Sona Vargova and
Lucia Furstenzellerova
Srobarova High School
Kosice, Slovakia

Sona's Thoughts

. . . It seems that there is one chance for them (Roma) to get a better job. But it's impossible without appropriate knowledge. And that's another problem. Only a few of them finish secondary school, even primary school, and a lot of them are illiterate. I have had several experiences, when a couple of adult Romas asked me to read them some printed matters they received. But is it a result of unwillingness of Roma parents to take care of their children's studying? The children often come to the first class without hygiene and work habits, and often without the ability to speak the language of the majority of the community. For them it's a big barrier.

In general, Roma children have very poor speaking skills. Then the young Romas have problems with their study results, but that's the reflection of the family environment, which is not very good for studying and doing homework. Also the children are not inspired or well led. The way it is now, children easily lose sight of any goals because of the failure they experience right from the start, which originates from their different set of values and environment. They stop going to school regularly or even stop going to school at all, and so they fail. Sometimes they are able to continue studying, but only in average secondary schools, where they are taught to become workers or other not very well paid professions. It's simply a vicious circle.

But there are some Romas, who try to make first steps for a better and more valuable life. For example, some of them established music bands. They play their traditional folk music, which is quite popular. And also, concretely in our city in Kosice, there was established a professional Roma theater called Romathan. They are quite successful indeed. It is true, that they have proved to be successful at dancing, acting and playing music, and not everybody can be an actor or a musician.

But there is one thing I want to say. Our problem with Romas is not the same connected with discrimination. There are not problems because the Roma are black. They belong to our race anyway. Their human rights are not broken. Roma often say, that they are discriminated against. If they are not very popular among ordinary people, it's because of their behavior.

Here I want to mention, that in Slovakia at this time there exists the community of Skinheads, too. It is formed by white boys, who are racists. It's not a big group, but they're dangerous. From my point of view, the people over there are not able to consider, what they are doing. They are not mentally developed enough to really understand the relationships between black and white people. This community also needs to be solved. They are interrupting relationships between Roma and other people more than anyone else.

At the end I want to mention, that it would be very bad to think, that these facts are the generalization for all the Roma. They are valid mainly for the Gypsies that live in the country, in the villages or their special Roma settlements. On the other hand, there are still many Roma families, which are even better than many other humble white families. They live in order, with very good work results, good financial security and high cultural level.

But it's important, that every single child would have happy childhood and nice views on their future. I wish the Roma become more adapted and try to increase their life level. The previous government gave them enough chances and opportunities. Our experiment with a society of social, equal people wasn't successful. Maybe there was a big mistake made by the socialists, who gave to Roma special rights. And also we shouldn't be unfriendly and unkind, but help them. Help them to find their final way out of the vicious circle. And there is needed to be given a big attention to the youngest generation to encourage them to gain a good knowledge and then good job. Hopefully, soon will there will be a stop to distrust among both sides and finally we will appreciate with satisfaction traditional Gypsy folk music, Gypsy theater and their typical sense of humor.

By Sona Vargova


Problems Persist

. . . Maybe we can do something, but only with social benefits, because if not, they will always be dependent on our state money for living. Romas are as they are, and this is how they will probably remain. But we have many problems which touch the Roma question. We could solve them if our society and our politicians wanted to, especially our problems with Skinheads. In my country it is very sad that some politicians have racist ideas, and they published them. For example: "Communists made a big mistake when they took Gypsies away (he refuses to call them Romas) from nature, which is for them, a natural environment." He plans to build special habitation on the border of the town and isolate them from all "whites." He also plans to build those houses from unbreakable materials.

The author of this quotation is Jan Slota, a mayor of one big town in the north of Slovakia, and chairman of one of the ruling parties. Maybe these ideas come also to ordinary citizens because up to 86% of respondents show a negative attitude to the Romas and only 12% see them positively. From these 86% comes the Slovak Skinhead movement, which is connected with Czech Skinheads. They have made many attacks on Romas who work and live an ordinary life. I haven't heard about attacks on those Romas who live in settlements. It seems to me that they have fear before them.

A very strong case of Skinheads' attacks was in July, 1995 when they burned to death a man named Mario Goral. He was an 18 year old boy, who wasn't doing anything but going home, when Skins caught him and poured some petrol on him and burned him. This tragedy took place right before his apartment. There were many racial attacks on Romas. What is very sad is that they are more and more common. What is more cruel and unjust about our society is that we haven't the necessary laws against these attacks.

So this is what I know about Romas. They're not bad, and they're not good. They're just regular people who live their life...but I repeat that we can't judge them as a whole, but only as individuals, like anyone else. We shouldn't judge them at all.

By Lucia Furstenzellerova

[ Mark Poirier's Drawing ]


Thanks to Project Coordinators: Julia Bagley & Jozef Vrabel



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