We all celebrated your accession to the European Union in 2004 by cheerfully singing along to the Ode of Joy, aka Symphony No.9 by Beethoven. Actually, in these countries the lyrics should have been customized from “All people become brothers” to “All people become brothers but Romanis…”
The 8th of April has been dedicated to International Romani Day and most of us have spent it showing fake respect to all the Romani heroes and artists who miraculously managed to break through the Roma Walls and state-supported segregation.
When Westerners hear anything about gypsies in Europe, probably their first association is the overly romanticized idyll created by the movies of Emir Kusturica, the music of Goran Bregović and Boban Markovi: Some exotic community ‘livin’ la vida loca’; always dancing and playing the violin while smelling like shit.
In reality they are the most hated, marginalized and stigmatized community on the European continent. Despite all the badly implemented, and therefore failed, integration attempts (I mean in those countries who actually even tried to), the problem persists and is very far from being solved or improved in any way. What makes it even more tragic is the long history since they arrived in Europe in the 14th century and the sustaining racism. In the 15th and 16th centuries they were expelled from most European countries, while Switzerland managed to top this craziness with a law ordering that any Romani found in the country had to get killed.
Amongst all the fuckedup-ness and social intolerance towards Romanis, one of the sickest things is that in many cases it is damn fucking difficult to pinpoint who is actually a gypsy. They speak the same language as anyone else in the given country, their names are not always typical and there are even blond Romani tribes with light-coloured eyes and freckles. Luckily, us Europeans can just differ based on stereotypes such as:
- Uneducated, almost illiterate
- Always eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells everywhere
- Heavy involvement into criminal activities, especially stealing and drug usage
- Incest and inbreeding
- High amount of teen moms
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Being very tasteless in clothing and furnishing
- Not working, just taking advantage of social welfare
Looking at this list of stereotypes, some questions need to be asked of us in Central and Eastern Europe, where our bigotry is only matched by our fondness for drink.
Can’t it be, Dear CEE EU Members, that Romanis have been expelled from normal life, isolated and are hardly ever given a decent chance to show what they could achieve?
Don’t we think, that being poor, not finishing studies and doing criminal activities are much more society’s than the individual’s fault?
Don’t we think, that being mistreated, judged and prejudiced, looked down upon, makes you bitter and not even willing to stand up for yourself?
Our refusal in Europe to ask and seriously address these questions has dire consequences. Romanis were killed in an industrialized fashion during the Second World War, similar to the Jewish Holocaust. The Romani Holocaust’s is called Porajmos in the Romani language. The death toll is still unclear but it is estimated that up to 1.2 million people were systematically murdered. The Romani population currently living in our region consists of Holocaust survivors (the only ones whose situation did not get much better since then). Yet they are the eternal scapegoats of modern times, getting blamed for everything.
Even though the communist regimes of the mid to late-20th century was supposed to be about equality and equal work, gypsies were still considered as the dirty scum of the Earth. Gypsy camps were cruelly eliminated, its inhabitants were forcibly shaved and got lousicide treatment, then were forced to work in factories and mines under miserable circumstances.
Remarkably, each individual in Central and Eastern Europe has and continues to treat these people like absolute shit. Here is a little break down of their racism.
You are a rock star in this horror story, scoring very high due to the fact that you had official Romani Slavery till 1856! Of course the situation of the ethnicity has still not become much better. In fact, most of this minority is still unpaid.
Before the country joined the EU, its capital, Bucharest, had many hundreds of homeless children – mostly Romani – living in the canal system under the city, close to the steam pipes. The state somehow managed to decrease this number, but even in 2014, 50.000 Romani people had been evicted and made homeless by the state.
In the last few years the new trend for Romani people is to travel to Scandinavia and illegally work there as street beggars. In some cities in Sweden there is a Romani beggar at each store entrance. They work in proper shifts, you can spot them changing and passing over to the next person.
Imagine their living standards at home if they’ve moved so far to do one of the most humiliating “jobs” in the blistering cold of the Swedish winter.
You also did wonderfully last year, when the leaders of your third biggest city, Miskolc, made the wise decision to liquidate and evacuate lots of Romani inhabitants from the most disadvantaged neighborhood of town, so that they could start the construction of a new stadium nearby. Yeah, we all need fancy stadiums, football hooligans and more homeless people. In the end, this genius plan fell through because it got a lot of attention and both foreign and local media were whipping the municipality for its inhuman decision.
A few years ago there were long political discussions about banning our own n-word, the word „cigány” (=gypsy) due to its offensive nature and for all the bad connotations attached to it. This appeared to be a very kind and thoughtful move until you heard the contra-proposal: the degrading gypsy (cigány) word should be replaced by two newly introduced terms: 1. For administrative and official usage the description “C-type citizen” and 2. In media the term “hyper-pigmented” should be used.
Much less offensive, isn’t it?!
It is impossible to decide if these politicians are seriously brain damaged or they think that you are so retarded that you would fall for this hypocrisy and think that only pure goodwill and thoughtfulness led them to come up with this disgrace, they just could not find the appropriate words.
In Hungary you can meet racism everywhere, even in business life, especially in the real estate business. When trying to rent or buy an apartment, one of coolest sales pitch you can hear from the owner or the real estate agent is very often that there are no Romanis in the building or in the neighborhood. So this promotional speech really happens in a well built up way; “at the end of the hall you find the kitchen, the whole place has recently been fully renovated, new windows, excellent transport connection, etc… and last but not least: No gypsies living in the building! Not even in the next one!”
Dear citizens of former Czechoslovakia,
Are you aware of the fact that, during the communist era in Czechoslovakia Romanis were stigmatized as a socially degraded layer and the genius system implemented a policy to sterilize Romani females in an industrialized way in order to reduce their population?
Something that went pretty viral online was when Romani people were protesting against accepting refugees to the Czech Republic with a banner saying the following: “The Czech Republic belongs to us and to our white brothers”. This action tells quite a lot about the feeling of “being treated differently”.
The most notorious and largest ghetto in Slovakia, the Luník IX project in Kosice offers you all the thrills of a proper post-apocalyptic landscape. The blocks of flats were planned for 2500 inhabitants, but in reality this number is 3 times higher today and a few years ago the city did not even provide them with basic common services. Since most inhabitants didn’t pay for utilities, electricity, gas and water services were cut off.
Walls of Shame
So what should be the solution for integration problems and racism?
Incredibly, some countries, namely the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania seemed to have come up with the ultimate solution:
They built walls around Romani populated areas, thus turning them into proper ghettos!
In the Czech Republic a concrete wall was surrounding the Romani part of town in Ústí nad Labem. The authorities tried to protect themselves with the argument that the wall was not meant for segregation but was merely a “noise barrier” with the added benefit of keeping Romani kids away from the main road.
In Baia Mare, Romania, the municipality also urged the construction of a wall separating Romani from non-Romani people in 2011. The author of this despicable action was the mayor at the time, who was also later re-elected.
In 2013, Slovakia had 14 Roma walls but the most famous was the one in Košice. Even with such a wall, Košice had the title of European Capital of Culture in 2013. Might it be, that these kind of walls are the cultural monuments of our time?
Dear all of the above mentioned countries (whose great social values are highly incontestable),
Isn’t the most tragic aspect of all of it that in order to be able to join the EU, you only need to meet a handful of the basic requirements such as:
- stable institutions guaranteeing democracy,
- the rule of law,
- human rights
- respect for and protection of minorities ?
Could it be that meeting only two out of the four is equal to a “pass” grade?
Might it be the freedom in the interpretation of the notion of democracy and “All people become brothers”?
Might it mean that none of our great countries have met all the prerequisites?
…or might it mean that this time we are not the ones fenced off by the Wall?