Daniela Abraham: The antigypsyist violence of my childhood is still happening in Central Europe
When I was 10 years old, living in my home country of Slovakia, I was shot in the left side of my chest by a racist neighbour who on the previous day had shouted at me: "I'm gonna shoot you, you dirty Gypsy!" The racist neighbour shot me with a bb gun while I was walking home from school with my little brother.
I remember the pain all too well and still have scars from this event decades later. For months after this attack I was to afraid to leave the house.
A few days ago, when I saw, through social media, the images of Tünde Budai, a Roma woman from Torokszentmiklos in Hungary, who had been violently attacked and grievously injured by a racist man, I felt I had to contact her. She told me her story and I made a video news report with her from my "home studio".
Tünde: On May 28th, I was walking home at 2 am. When I was a few blocks from home, a car pulled up behind me. A big white guy with a shaved head got out of the car, holding something in his hand. He told me, "You're gonna die, you stinking Gypsy!". That is the last thing I remember before I lost consciousness; I don't even remember how I got home after the attack. I only recall finding myself at home, realising that my hands were covered in blood, then losing consciousness again. The next thing I remember is waking up for a short time in hospital, being taken to the X-Ray/Tomography department, then I lost consciousness again. I finally woke up the next morning in the hospital.
Daniela: Regarding these events, many people have asked whether you remember the man who committed this crime against you – would you recognise him if you saw him?
Tünde: No, I wouldn't recognise him.
Daniela: Do you remember what you felt during the attack?
Tünde: I don't remember what I felt. I was probably in shock. I don't really remember anything at all.
Daniela: Now I want to ask you about the progress of your case – regarding the medical results and police investigation. Do you have any news?
Tünde: The report has reached the police station in Torokszentmiklos. I have not yet received any documents, but they promised me they would be sending me the records of the investigation by post. As for medical records, pieces of bone were broken away from my nose bone. I have multiple scars, torn skin all over my face, and a broken eyebrow [frontal] bone.
We Roma are living in a dangerous time now, with racism resurgent across the world: we are all aware of the terrible fate of George Floyd in America and similar atrocities committed against African-Americans. However, it is far less reported that something of a different order of magnitude has been happening in Europe, with violent racism against Roma people on the rise and even openly encouraged by far-right politicians in many different countries.
For example, on May 29, a mob from the Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland) neo-Nazi group rampaged through Budapest shouting that they wanted to kill "degenerate Gypsies", supposedly on the pretext of a gang fight that had occurred earlier that day, even though there is no evidence that anybody involved in that fight was Roma. The Mayor of Budapest spoke out against these events, but no national or EU-level politicians have.
Mi Hazánk are just one of many paramilitary-style far-right groups in Hungary and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe who dress in military-style uniforms and openly carry weapons, hold rallies reminiscent of the Third Reich, and perpetrate violent attacks on Roma communities. Politicians of the ruling Fidesz party in Hungary openly encourage these actions by making such inflammatory statements as "Gypsies are animals, not fit to live with humans" and that educating Roma children ias a "waste of money".
The terrible and unprovoked attack on Tünde that left her with multiple broken facial bones and life-changing injuries is, sadly, just one of many that have happened recently in Hungary and elsewhere; a number of the attacks were unfortunately fatal. The targets are most often women and children.
Despite this, the mainstream media has given the problem very little attention. Worse still, the Coronavirus lockdown has created a convenient pretext for abuse and attacks on Roma communities by police and gendarmes in many countries, and there have been many reports of deprived Roma communities so tightly quarantined that the inhabitants cannot even access food and water, while the white inhabitants of the town are allowed to move freely, accompanied by totally unfounded accusations that Roma are "disease spreaders", leading to further attacks.¨
It is sad to say that in all of these cases, reports of violence against Roma are brushed off and not treated seriously. Even worse, members of the far-right are openly congratulating themselves on social media, portraying themselves not as violent lawless thugs but as "patriotic Hungarians" – and doing this with the tacit support of Fidesz and the other right-wing parties of Hungary.
If an attack like the one on Tünde had happened against a white Hungarian, the official response would have been on an entirely different level, with no stone left unturned to catch the perpetrator and mass media coverage – not simply a dismissive "the documents will be in the post" and toleration of fascists crowing publicly about their "success". Moreover, in all such cases there are attempts to blame or discredit the victim, to besmirch their reputation in some way as if to try to justify the attack.
Systematic, negative propaganda is spread about Roma people, accusing those of us who have been successful of having done so by cheating, stealing or lying. I and other Roma women especially come under regular attack from the far-right, trying to destroy our reputations or silence us with their threats against our lives and our children, because they fear us.
We are strong, though, we have intelligence, and above all we have honour, integrity, goodness and justice – and we will never bow down to the fascists. Eighty years ago, the Nazis tried very seriously to destroy the entire Roma population of Europe, and now the neo-fascists are trying once more to do the same, but we are still here, and we will continue to stand firm against racism and evil.
I would therefore ask all people of good heart to support Tunde and publicise this hashtag #JusticeForTunde. Together we're stronger! Thank you.
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