News server iDNES.cz reports that the Czech Police have begun reviewing a 20-minute video recording of Friday’s unannounced racist march through Rumburk that was released yesterday by the ROMEA association on news server Romea.cz. The footage records racist venting against Romani people, including calls to violence. People singing the lyrics to songs by the now-defunct neo-Nazi band Orlík about a “white rider”, making threats of arson or gas chambers, and shouting about “black swine” have all been recorded by ROMEA TV. “Mostly the shouting is coming from the crowd as a whole, but in some places the faces can clearly be seen of those who committed these anti-Roma outbursts,” news server iDNES.cz reports.
“The footage arrived this morning in the mail. I handed it over to my colleagues working on this issue. The latest information is that our expert on extremism will review it. I am not yet able to predict when his findings will be available,” Děčín Police spokesperson Petra Trypesová told iDNES.cz.
Friday’s march through Rumburk began after a demonstration convened by the Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD) had ended. The marchers did their best to attack Romani-occupied homes.
The situation in Šluknov district came to a head at the start of August, when a group of five Romani people committed a machete attack against the staff of a gaming room in Nový Bor (Česká Lípa district). A barmaid said the assailants shouted about “white heads” during the attack. Three victims suffered serious injuries. Police are still searching for two of the suspected perpetrators.
In Rumburk, 14 days later, a group of as many as 18 Romani people allegedly attacked a smaller group of six ethnic Czechs. Three suspects have been charged with racially motivated battery, and another four Romani suspects, three of whom are juveniles, are being prosecuted for battery only.
ryz, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
A unique traveling exhibition from the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno, “Genocide of the Roma during the Second World War”, will be on view until the end of October in Třebíč. Jana Horáková of the Ambrela community center for children and youth, which is sponsoring the exhibition, told journalists today that while people are often exposed to the concept that the Jews were subjected to genocide during WWII, the genocide perpetrated against the Roma at that time is not much discussed.
“The Jewish people belonged to a wealthier stratum of society than the Roma did. The Jewish community left buildings behind them, but nomadic Romani people left behind no significant constructions or relics,” Horáková said.
The exhibition consists of photographs accompanied by texts about the genocide of the Roma. It starts with the situation in Germany in 1933 and describes the process that was unleashed against the “gypsy race” there and later implemented in all of the territories annexed to Nazi Germany. Special attention is paid to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the Slovak state. Other topics include the inclusion of Romani people in the anti-Nazi resistance and the fate of Romani property after Romani people were transported to the concentration camps. A 30-minute film includes interviews with Romani people who survived the concentration camps and the Second World War.
The exhibition is in the community center’s space on Leopold Pokorný street in the Jewish quarter of Třebíč. The center is intended for children and youth aged 6 - 26. It has been in operation for 11 years and predominantly works with Romani children and youth.
Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Representatives of the Catholic Church working in villages in the Šluknov foothills do not share the ethnic tensions that have arisen there recently. They get along with their Romani parishioners well overall.
Father Josef Kujan of the Salesian order based in Jiříkov, near Rumburk, told the Catholic Weekly (Katolický týdeník): “The religious instruction I offer is attended by no one but Roma. At first there were 20 signed up, now there are 40… Romani children are docile, you can work with them. It’s the whites who have the problem. For example, some mothers are bothered by their children attending the same hobby group as Romani children.”
According to Father Pavel Procházka of Šluknov, the main culprit to blame for the current unrest in the district is the poor social situation of the Romani families there: “There is enormous unemployment and Romani people must pay high rent. A couple of days after paying their bills, they don’t even have enough to eat properly. The social aspect of the situation is desperate, but the Romani people themselves are not to blame.”
Procházka says the crimes Romani people commit are an outgrowth of their desperation, and the future does not look rosy. “It will probably escalate and if it is not addressed, it will end up like [the recent unrest] in England,” he predicts. For his part, he is doing his best to be intensively in contact with Romani residents.
“We work with about 25 families here, perhaps 100 people total out of an overall population of 1 500 Roma. I have 10 Romani acolytes,” Procházka says, adding that a regional charity has recently been opened to serve the Roma in Šluknov. “The Romani issue is constantly spoken of, but those who are specifically supporting us in our effort to address this problem are primarily the Germans. We have never received any support from the Czech state.”
mrk, Katolický týdeník, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Bulgarian Roma hold EU flag during a protest in Sofia, Bulgaria 18 September 2010 . Roma activists protested in front of the French embassy in Sofia against the expulsions of Roma from France. EPA/BGNES.
The first Roma pride parade in history will take place simultaneously in many European cities on October 1 2011, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee has announced, citing a declaration sent to it by other NGOs.
“A year after France declared its anti-Roma policy, days, months and years after the unbearable racist violence against the Roma people across Europe October 1 will be “The European Roma Stonewall! On this day, we, the leaders of the Roma and the anti-racist civil society in Europe, will carry out our duty and shout “Enough!” and “Stop!” with bravery and determination,” the declaration says, as cited by the BGNES news agency.
Since last summer, France has targeted Roma from Bulgaria and Romania as potential sources of crime, in some cases deporting them to their home countries.
“Our demand is clear and simple: equal rights and equal opportunities for everyone who lives in Europe. To put in a single word: dignity,” the declaration goes.
Prague, Aug 30 (CTK) - The panic over social tension in north Bohemia that Czech media have been nourishing only covers up the fact that what has really been worsening of late is the government’s effort to do something about deprived localities, Petr Tresnak writes in weekly Respekt out on Monday.
He is commenting on two attacks in the Sluknov region in which the “unadaptable,” or Romanies attacked old-time majority population residents in Rumburk and Novy Bor.
Tresnak writes that ghettoes have long been spoken about in the Czech Republic. The talk is usually combined with warnings about that the young people without any future who are growing up in them will one day present a bill to society.
The two attacks are the first such partial bills. According to available information, the perpetrators were young, uneducated men from Romany ghettoes and the brutality of the attack indicates that they do not have any big scruples, Tresnak writes.
According to social field workers who know the situation of the Romanies in the region, the misery there has continued for long which is also true of poor people’s migration from town to town. The town halls striving to move out the Romany poor only contribute to the misery and housing speculators profit from the effort, Tresnak writes.
He says the centre-right government of Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) has almost given up the agenda of the deprived people and ghettos.
Education Minister Josef Dobes (Public Affairs, VV) has entirely petrified the main and long-time cause of Romanies’ exclusion, namely segregation in special, Tuesday called practical, schools, when he dissolved the team that was to prepare the necessary reform, Tresnak writes.
The Czech Republic also lacks any policy of support to social housing that could slow down the whirl of the poor people’s migration from town to town, Tresnak writes.
He writes that the previous government of Mirek Topolanek (ODS) planned to establish a special office for the deprived localities that would be endowed with money and powers and that would be an interesting partner for town mayors, but Necas’s government has frozen the idea.
The atmosphere at the government Office is now determined by ultra-conservatives headed by adviser Roman Joch who has always considered the Romany ghettoes agenda a fiction of pseudo-humanists, Tresnak writes.
Monika Simunkova, the government’s human rights commissioner, is doing nothing at all about the issue, Tresnak writes.
He writes that Necas made a sole comment on the attacks in which he said they are just as unacceptable as the neo-Nazis’ arson attack in Vitkov, north Moravia, in 2009 in which then two-year-old girl Natalka suffered burns to 80 percent her body and survived thanks to great effort of doctors.
Necas’s comment on the violence growing up from the hotbed of poverty and educational racism fertilised by the state for many years is a noteworthy intellectual performance, Tresnak writes.
Rumburk mayor Jaroslav Sykacek (senator for the opposition Social Democrats, CSSD), whom media make into a courageous protector of Rumburk against a London scenario, in fact ignores offers by NGOs and does not have social field workers unlike the nearby Krasna Lipa or Varnsdorf, Tresnak writes.
He is not the first of his kind. The Czech Republic has seen several politicians in the past who managed to turn problems in their regions into a populist lift up to high politics, Tresnak writes.
The first was Jiri Cunek, who moved Romanies to container-like flats and to dilapidated houses outside Vsetin, north Moravia, of which he was mayor. This helped him be elected senator and become a minister in the country with a dominant anti-Romany sentiment.
Cunek was followed by Ivana Rapkova (ODS), former mayor of Chomutov, north Bohemia, who now proposes in the Chamber of Deputies that towns be given the opportunity to move people without a permanent residence away, Tresnak writes.
He says there can be hardly a gloomier vision than crowds of outcasts moving across housing developments of north Bohemian towns.
Yet, some mayors would welcome such an opportunity. For the time being, they opt for a similar solution. They say if the Romanies cannot be driven out, they will be kept at home, and they issue decrees expediently targetting the nosier part of the population (Romanies), Tresnak writes.
Some decrees ban these people from sitting around or leaning against railings in public areas, for instance, Tresnak writes.
Czech solutions are childishly short-sighted. They are based on the notion that an unpleasant problem disappears if closed in a wardrobe or thrown across the fence to the neighbour’s garden, Tresnak writes.
If it resurfaces like now in north Bohemia, it is due to that the wardrobe was badly locked, which is solved with police reinforcements, Tresnak writes with irony.
He writes that looking for a solution to the issue of deprived localities is a task for several ministries, municipalities, regions and NGOs.
Many people at all levels are already now doing good work, Tresnak writes and mentions the Labour Ministry’s effort to stop taking children from the poor and to abolish nursery institutes.
He says other countries’ experience shows, however, that a real leader who would be capable of uniting all forces, who actively supports the necessary reforms and who does not suffer from ideological prejudices is needed to make a real change. Necas is not evidently such a leader, Tresnak writes.Copyright 2011 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK).
For centuries Romany gypsies and a nomadic group traditionally called the Irish Travelers have roamed the British Isles, branded by demagogues as thieves, child snatchers and thugs. Their numbers have dwindled as U.K. authorities have blocked their roaming ways. Forced into trailer parks, or to the nomads’ horror, permanent homes, the remaining tribes have clung more fiercely to their dying culture.
Enter the Channel 4 TV network and a hugely popular series in the U.K. called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding that pulls back the veil on the secret society through their lavish, over-the-top weddings. The program is so popular that model Kate Moss said it was what inspired her recent nuptials to Jamie Hince; and Simon Cowell has said he’s looking for a way to bring it to the States. Now entering its fourth season, the controversial series — many Travelers and gypsies complain it does not present a complete picture of their lives — has also shown Britons an entire culture they once dismissed, still living in their back yards. It has also highlighted their plight.
Amidst the gentle rolling hills of Essex only 30 minutes from London where thatched-roofed properties have names like Rose Hill and Fairview, there sits a Traveler camp named Dale Farm, home to some of the series’ biggest stars. The gypsies bought this former junkyard near the idyllic town of Billericay (pronounced Billa-Ricky), once home to the Mayflower pilgrims, three decades ago. The camp, which has doubled in population in the last decade, is now home to 1,000 gypsies. It is the largest Traveler site in the U.K. Half live in an area zoned for trailer use. The other half is not so lucky. As the camp grew, Basildon City council refused to grant expanded zoning. A decade of clashes between the gypsies and the council is coming to a head Thursday, when the council says it will start evicting those gypsies on land not appropriately zoned and demolishing their homes. “We have no other choice in the matter. The government says, ‘You can’t travel.’ They move us on every day or two. And then they say, ‘You can’t stay,’” says Kathleen McCarthy, 48, who has been living at Dale Farm for a decade. “We can’t stay. We can’t go. So where in this society do travelers have right? Animals have more rights.”
Over McCarthy’s head a banner reading “We won’t go,” has been twisted in the rain so the “We” is hidden. McCarthy estimates that 500 are at risk of eviction. Children and dogs play in the muddy “lanes” between trailer lots as their mothers do the washing. Tina McCarthy’s pipes broke last winter, but she can’t get a plumber to fix them since the council has effectively condemned the property. So several times day she wheels a cistern to a public tap and fills it up with water for her washing and to bathe and feed herself and her two children. What will they do come Thursday? “We’ll travel up and down the M-25 all the trailers in a caravan,” she predicts, “blocking the traffic.”
More than 50 children have been born on this property, and the 51st is due on Thursday. The children all attend local school. For some families, this is the first formal education they’ve ever received. “I was brought up on the road. I never had an opportunity to go to school. I learned my trade from my father,” says a man who would only give his first name, John, 38, an antiques dealer. John, like much of the older generation at Dale Farm, is illiterate. To them it’s a point of pride about how apart they have kept themselves, cloistered and untarnished from the rest of the world – though tell them you’re American and they’re quick to praise Beyoncé. John relies on his 14-year-old nephew to surf the web for him and relay prices of antiques for sale in online auctions. “It’s important for them to stay,” John says, motioning to his young nephew, “they need to know how to use the lap top.” John and his family tried traveling this spring but the police moved them on everywhere they went and they ended up back at Dale farm after three months. What will they do? “Fight,” says John. “They think they’re going to come in here and we’re going to lay down all peaceful-like. They’re going to get their heads knocked.”
What does John think about the TV show? “It’s not right,” he scowls. “It’s not like real life. A wedding is only one day.” That said, he appreciates the attention it has brought his people. Behind him, dozens of human rights activists from across Europe are pitching tents in one of the recently-vacated lots — many families have already fled in anticipation of the destruction. In all nearly 150 activists are trying to form a human shield to protect the gypsies from Basildon’s bulldozers. The groups label what the government is doing in such strong terms as “ethnic cleansing” and, even, “genocide.” The council may find itself in the awkward position of having to mow down, or at least arrest, Oscar-award winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, 74, who arrived Sunday to lend her support. “I am certain that the eviction of the Dale Farm Traveler families is illegal under international, mandatory, human rights conventions,” says Redgrave, a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. “I am appalled that such an eviction can be upheld by our Government.”
Police on Tuesday closed an unauthorised camping area on the grounds of the Satama Social Centre in Helsinki occupied by eastern European Roma. The demolition of a building at the site began on Tuesday.
The operation was initiated by the City of Helsinki that owns the property and had earlier ordered the campers to evacuate the area.
Although some police taking part were in riot gear, the eviction was carried out without incident.
“We did not give precise advance information about the eviction because of the possible threat of anarchy, not by the Roma, but by activists,” Helsinki Police Inspector Ismo Juvonen told YLE
The occupants of the unauthorised camp have been urged to move to accommodations run by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute. They have also been provided with embassy contact information.
The City has pressed for the evacuation of the camp site as the building occupied by the Satama Social Centre is scheduled for demolition. The work is to be completed by the end of October.
The Free Movement Network, a group opposed to strict migration controls, has been critical of Helsinki’s eviction of Roma from unauthorised sites. The group claims that the manner of the eviction was inhumane, as there were no interpreters present at the time, and the camp residents were only given a few hours to pack their belongings and leave the area.
“The eviction is a continuation of a completely unrealistic and anti-Roma policy that the city has implemented throughout the summer,” said Markus Himanen of the Free Movement Network. “People move in search of a livelihood, not a place to live, but all people need shelter.”
“Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”, German soldiers sang as they invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. They were patriots singing their national anthem, and they weren’t afraid to lay down their lives for their homeland. It didn’t matter that others died as well - they weren’t Germans, after all…
History teaches us that the worst, most violent crimes are those in which the perpetrators do their best to excuse themselves as serving a higher principle. In the case of Christian and Muslim extremists, that higher principle is religion. In the case of neo-Nazis and racists, it’s patriotism. Racists exploit an otherwise praiseworthy characteristic - love for one’s home country - to play on their one well-known xenophobic note and promote the fear of those considered the enemy. In the case of the Czechs, the enemy has been the “inadaptable Roma” - and now it is starting to look like not only “inadaptable” ones, but all Roma.
The evidence of how effective the racists’ manipulative media campaign has been was Friday’s demonstration against “inadaptables” in Rumburk. Careerists and racists exploited the presence of one-quarter of the town’s residents; their calls for a “solution” to the question of “inadaptables” played on the “patriotic” feelings of the 1 500 otherwise probably respectable people who had been brainwashed by an anti-Roma media campaign. They even sang the national anthem, degrading it to the level of a song by the neo-Nazi band Orlík. Does no one care that the anthem has been abused?
Friday’s demonstration had nothing to do with any sort of legitimate protest against crime. Instead, it targeted all Roma generally. How else can we explain the shouts of “Gypsies get to work”, which spit in the face of all respectable Romani people? What is my father, who worked very hard all of his life in Bohemia, to think of this? What about my father-in-law, who paved the streets in Ústí nad Labem and the surrounding area for more than 40 years? What about that other relative of mine who is a policeman in Ústí nad Labem, or an acquaintance who works at a nursery school as a tutor? Or my other acquaintance, who works as the boss of a travel agency - or my niece, who is a manager in a telecommunications company?
What about all the other Romani people working in the Black and Decker factory in Trmice? Those people, even though their ethnicity is an almost insurmountable barrier in the Czech environment, are doing the best they can nevertheless. Are they also just “Gypsies”?
Shouting “Gypsies get to work” is not only a a mockery of them and the thousands of other Romani people who do work, it is also a mockery of those who would like to work but can’t because there are not enough job opportunities - and because of the racist approach of Czech employers. Respectable people - and it’s all the same what your skin color is - you must understand that you are becoming the tools of those whose ideology is that of interpersonal hatred and whose aim is to establish a fascist dictatorship, which is extremely similar to the dictatorship of communism. Czechs have experienced more than enough of both kinds already.
Friday’s demonstration ended with no physical injuries, even though some people tried to attack a Romani residence. Thanks to the presence of the police, no one was injured. However, people are now asking themselves: What will happen once the police are no longer there? Will Judge Lynch be presiding in the Bohemia of the 21st century?
Josef Banom, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
It took us a long time to get there - lots of time to think about what might happen, and the closer we got, the more my concerns grew. None of us knew what to expect. We made it to the outskirts of Rumburk and I silently gazed through the car window, looking for Romani people. It was around 11 AM and the streets were empty. “I guess they’re all at work,” I said.
We wanted to record interviews with people. The grandmother of one Romani family came out of a building with high gates, followed by what seemed to be her granddaughter, and yelled at us: “Go away, I don’t want problems because of you, they’ll see us on television and destroy us, we’re afraid.” A small child was unobtrusively observing us through the window, standing behind the curtain. When he realized I’d seen him, he immediately pulled the curtain shut. He was very afraid. Grandmother wanted us to leave.
The streets were completely empty. We found a poster put up by the “Civic Resistance” (Občanský odpor) organization in Rumburk, advertising their rally - 26 August, 17:00, Lužické náměstí, Rumburk - with the image of a fist punching out toward the viewer. I immediately photographed it. It seemed very violent to me.
We met a field social worker who spoke with us a while but did not want to be photographed or recorded. She told us a bit about the situation. All that time I kept waiting to see police patrols, but there were none to be seen. Even after 2 PM the streets were empty.
Next we interviewed Mr Gorol from Nový Bor, but he didn’t want to be recorded either, and the feeling of fear started to increase. I kept trying to imagine what was going to happen. We arrived at Lužické náměstí at around 16:00, but it was empty, with only some locals standing around and a few journalists. It was terribly humid and I hoped people wouldn’t turn out. The time for the rally was slowly approaching.
I photographed the square as it started to fill up. There were people of all generations there - even mothers with babes in arms. A small group of body-builder, shaved-headed guys was standing off in the distance. A musclebound gentleman in a black striped shirt with a bodyguard walked by; he gave me look that said “get out of my sight”. I started to be a bit afraid. I had no idea it was Mr Josef Mašin - or rather, someone presenting himself under that name.
At 17:00 the square is half-full. The rally starts. Czech MP Foldyna (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) starts talking. People don’t respond much. Mayor Sykáček (ČSSD) does not succeed in impressing the citizens. Only when the man in the black striped shirt takes the microphone is the crowd overwhelmed. I watch them and photograph it. Mašín says he is there on behalf of the “Civic Resistance” (Občanský odpor) group and then makes his speech: “We must cleanse this place of those scavengers consuming social welfare and finally put things in order.”
The extremists give him their support, they shake his hand. I don’t get it anymore - is this still a ČSSD rally? Some man grabs the microphone and starts shouting “Take up pitchforks against those Gypsies!” The crowd goes crazy, applauding and supporting his words. It felt like being scalded with boiling water. The whole thing took maybe 20 minutes.
What now? The police helicopter has flown away, no officers are in sight. The crowd starts leaving, dividing into several groups. People shout “Let’s go get the Gypsies” and other racist slogans. They roam through the town, about 800 of them all together - boys, pensioners, women with children… looking for Romani people. Police are still nowhere to be seen. I was covered in cold sweat. I feared for the Roma.
The mob made it to a building where a Romani family lives. They shouted racist slogans, “We’ll kill you”… they wanted to lynch them. Some people broke down the fence and threw a wooden plank through the window. At that moment, the police finally arrived with riot officers and surrounded the building. I was photographing everything, holding my breath. A grandmother standing next to me shouted: “Slaughter the gypsy swine!”
I reply: “Did you give them life? I guess you’re God since you have the right to take it from them. Good example for the youngsters.”
One house down the police have grabbed some Nazis who were rioting. I’m taking photos. People are in a trance, they keep shouting racist abuse. The police then detain us, myself and my journalist colleagues, and are rather unpleasant. They give us no explanation. They check our identification and then release us - again, without any explanation.
I don’t understand it. There were mothers there with children in baby carriages, all wishing death on the Roma. Teaching their children to hate. They wanted to purge the town, to take human life. No one did anything to them. The police failed once again.
We all stopped talking. I felt enormous anxiety and helplessness. I was glad the building the mob had attacked was empty.
We left town, disgusted. On our way home, Robert Ferenc of the Čačipen association called: “Please come to my place, there’s a family here from that building (where the mob wanted to lynch someone).” We go there. The meeting with the family? I was heartsick. I have children, and I fear for them the most. This was too much. A nine-member family, with infants in carriages, had fled on foot for 14 km through the forest to Krásná Lípa. They feared for their children’s lives. People had threatened to liquidate them. One lady’s neighbor reportedly threatened her by saying: “Are you a Czech? You aren’t a Czech, you belong to them, tonight you will die with them and with the children. Neither the doors nor the windows will keep you safe, we will kill you all.”
This family is not one of troublemakers. They have nothing to do with the violence that took place not long ago in Rumburk. I will never forget the fear in their eyes, it broke my heart. Their children were crying. The municipal authorities advised them to go into hiding with friends or relatives. The police did nothing. No one helped them. Once again, the burden is being born by people who have done nothing wrong, by the most vulnerable - families with children. Where is the protection for the most vulnerable? These people can’t return home because someone has decided to take their very lives into his own hands. These people are living in fear. What will happen tomorrow? If we all enjoy the right to life, why is it like this?
My feelings from Rumburk? Great sadness, helplessness, fear - and no help anywhere. Mr Mašín wants to cleanse the town of the scavengers of social welfare. That’s hard when there’s no work. Social welfare is just alms, it’s very hard to live on it. The money is not enough for children to be educated, to have hobbies, to learn about culture, to get special instruction. That’s not cheap, but no one is paying attention to that anymore. It would be much better, I believe, to to do our best to figure this out, to understand it, to face up to these problems.
Mária Zajacová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
By taking advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, Lindsay Gary was able to visit eight countries over the course of the summer. She credits her experience with helping her develop cross-cultural awareness and sparking a new passion for helping women around the world.Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Gary
On my plane ride back to Houston, I reflected on my 68-day journey around the globe. How would I explain what my favorite port was? How could I package a two-month long study abroad program to eight different countries well enough so that someone could imagine a bit of all that I experienced? After all, the Bahamas, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Morocco are all significantly different from each other, but more importantly, from the US.
On June 17, none of the 700 students aboard the M. V. Explorer could have predicted the immense experience awaiting us — the stressful class days in which we crammed three weeks worth of schoolwork into three class days between ports, how disorganized and unrealistic our mandatory global studies class would be, trying to find study space in a small passenger ship nearly filled to its capacity, nor how horrible the former vacation cruise line’s food would be.
But we also didn’t expect to make lifelong friendships, to appreciate the homes from which we came, to experience some of the best college professors of our lives, or how excited we would become to see the first sight of land — even if that land was not our own.
In retrospect, there is no way I could have known that I would feel more comfortable among foreigners than walking the pavement of my own university.
I didn’t have to travel far to be treated as an equal, either. Although it only lasted two days out of my 21 years, I cherished the days I spent in the Bahamas. They were days in which I wasn’t treated like a second-class citizen or dressed and laced with derogatory stereotypes. In Spain, Italy and Greece I became one with the natural Mediterranean wonders. They stood in sharp contrast to the many Greek protestors I would meet who made me realize that my economic hardships in no way compared to those of the starving children I saw on the streets.
In Croatia, I studied how a people could seemingly recover from a genocide within a decade. From my friend Dario, who had been orphaned by the Balkan wars of the 1990s, I learned that this recovery was only on the surface. The emotional damage caused by the wars was ever-lingering beneath the newly remodeled buildings — now marked by orange roofs rather than bullet shells. I learned that the only thing that would bring back the happiness of these people was to reunite former-Yugoslavia under something I had always been taught was evil — communism.
In Bulgaria I met the most generous, caring, hospitable people of my life. Ironically, they were people that I had always been warned about — the Roma. I learned of the hardships they endure as a minority group in Europe. I learned about how no one would hire them, how schools refused to educate their children, and how they were always accused of being disease-infested thieves. After living among them for just a day, I will never again refer to the Roma people as “gypsies.”
In Turkey, I found that I took being an American woman for granted. After being forced to cover my legs and arms, being sexually harassed, and witnessing how the professional women of Istanbul were fighting to end honor killings of rural Turkish women, I developed a new passion for helping women around the world.
In Morocco, I was welcomed by descendants of my ancestors. Passing through the Atlas Mountains on the way to the Sahara desert, I confirmed misconceptions of North Africans being non-Black. Hasan, the tour guide who became a dear friend to me, educated me on the true origins and ethnic backgrounds of the Berbers, Arabs, and Moors of his country, leaving me with a new perspective on my people and myself.
It is difficult to summarize a journey so crucial to my experience on this earth, but hopefully the untied ends of this story may serve as a representation of the ends I am tying as a method of re-entry back into this world — a world that hasn’t changed. But I have changed, grown with knowledge of the world outside of what used to be my own, and gained knowledge of who I truly am.
If you want to develop cross-cultural skills and are willing to learn for yourself, rather than believe everything you’ve read and seen your entire life, I urge you to study abroad. Although you may feel like a prisoner being released into society, and a slow re-entry process may be necessary, you will have become a citizen of the world. No one will ever be able to take that away from you.
[Source: The Daily Cougar.com]
Picture: AFPDuisburg. Nearly 4,000 Bulgarians and Romanians arrived in the German city of Dusiburg in recent months. Instead of protests the city prepares for integration, the German newspaper Die Welt reported.
“These people are Europeans like us and they deserve to be treated properly,” Karl Janssen, Head of Youth and Culture in Duisburg said. People who Jansen speaks about are nearly 4,000 Romanians and Bulgarians, who have moved in recent months in the city. Nobody knows their exact number. Most of Bulgarians and Romanians have settled in areas of Marksloh and Hohfeld.
These neighborhoods are known for decades of high unemployment, low rents and the many immigrants. Many of them are from Eastern Europe discriminated ethnic group of Roma people.
Authorities in Duisburg planned implementation of special programs for Roma integration, for which can be allocated about EUR 1.5 million.
[Source: FOCUS Information Agency]
[Trigger Warning: racism]
Last Friday’s demonstration “against violent crime” in Rumburk deteriorated into a racist hunt for local Romani residents. The mob circulated repeatedly through the town looking for Romani people. Ethnic Czechs gathered several times in front of buildings where Romani people were thought to be living. They threw pieces of wood and rocks at two homes and destroyed the fence around another one. Police did not intervene until the mob attempted to break into the second home and started throwing apples at police officers.
During the entire march, as well as on the town square, the mob shouted racist abuse and calls to violence against Romani people such as: “Black swine”, “Gypsies to the gas chambers”, “I’d set them all on fire, bury them alive, stab them in the back”, etc. Police did not intervene against these racists.
Video footage of these events can be seen at
Oh, my god. I just cannot believe this is happening in our world. I am really, really hoping that all of this gets sorted out soon. Peace is needed, not this.