Attack on Romani children from a homeless shelter
At around 6 PM on 20 April 2010 in the town of Husinec, a group of children was playing by the fish pond. Two men approached the children and told them to remove a stone they had allegedly thrown into the pond. When the children did not obey, one of the men grabbed a 13-year-old girl, threw her into the pond, and allegedly repeatedly pushed her head down under the water. The other children wanted to help her, but the other man prevented them from doing so. The attackers fled before a police patrol drove up. The girl’s mother has filed criminal charges; police are investigating the case as one of rioting.
This is not the first time that children from the homeless shelter in Husinec have been assaulted. Last August a resident of a small village nearby shot an air pistol at them. Before that, a youth attacked some of the children, kicking them brutally. Eva Dvořáková, director of the homeless shelter, has now decided to publicize the case. She refuses to accept the idea that her clients will continually be attacked just because they are socially vulnerable.
Dvořáková says the attack at the fish pond endangered the life of the victim, a Romani girl. Had water gotten into her lungs, she could have died. The local daily paper described the story of the most recent attack as follows: “A 13-year-old girl and three boys went for a walk by the fish pond, where two men from Husinec were also walking their horses. A two-year-old boy threw a stone into the pond from the embankment. This evidently enraged one of the men so much that he threw the girl into the pond. He then repeatedly pushed her head under water.”
Witnesses say the man yelled “black pigs” at the children. He was evidently under the influence of alcohol. Fortunately, another man was taking his dog for a walk near the scene of the crime and saved the girl’s life. The dog barked, startling the attacker. The girl managed to escape at that moment and ran home, where she told her mother what had happened. Her mother reported the case to the director of the shelter and to the police.
“The girl was so shaken she could not go to school for the next three days,” Dvořáková told the news server Romea. “Our people work, they behave themselves,” she said in defense of her clients. In her view the attack was not a display of racism, but of xenophobia. The shelter houses both Romani and “non-Romani” children, and Dvořáková believes this was an attack on “the shelter children”: “Our children know how to say hello, how to say thank you, we teach them proper behavior. If they’re naughty, it’s the same as any other child who is naughty. They are children - no one has any right whatsoever to attack them.”
The assaulted girl and her parents have given their testimonies to the police. Štěpánka Valentová, spokesperson for the Czech Police in Prachatice, is allegedly not authorized to provide any more information about the case. She would only confirm the details of the previous attack: On 23 April 2009, a man from the nearby village of Podivín attacked children from the shelter. Witnesses said he drove up in front of the shelter and swore at the adults and children there, saying he would beat them up and shoot them. As proof of his intention he fired several shots from a weapon. Police said it was a starter pistol and posed no threat to anyone. However, the children’s nerves were shaken by the shocking experience. Many of them justifiably feared for their lives.
“He yelled at them that they were ‘black Gypsy pigs’, that he would eliminate them, shoot them all, that this was just the beginning and that there was more to come. We have white citizens living here too, not just Roma. I am really afraid for my people, mainly for the small children and also for us employees. Police officers confirmed to the shelter residents that they know this man and that he shot at someone in the past,” Dvořáková told the Mediafax press agency.
Dvořáková said the man returned to the facility the very next day and threatened a female shelter resident on the street, saying he would beat them all up, shoot them, and throw a Molotov cocktail into the building. “The lady saw a weapon in his bag – the pistol he had used on the weekend. He didn’t shoot the second time around, but our people, mainly the children, were frightened all over again and are truly shaken by this,” the director said.
Police confiscated the perpetrator’s weapon and classified the incident as a misdemeanor against civil co-existence, eventually re-classifying it as the offense of rioting. The perpetrator had been in trouble with the law before. The director said his case was eventually handled by the town’s misdemeanor commission.
Shortly thereafter, a local boy from Husinec kicked several of the small children from the shelter so brutally they had to be hospitalized. Police spokesperson Valentová said the perpetrator was less than 15 years old at the time of the crime. Dvořáková said the court eventually sentenced him to a suspended prison sentence and was supposed to have transferred him to a diagnostic institute.
THE RYBKA SHELTER
The Rybka Shelter in Husinec is a non-profit facility operated by a civic association of the same name. The facility is exceptional in that it is the only one in the country that accommodates entire families with children. Around 45 people, including children, live there because their situations have become too oppressive. The shelter residents are from the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia. The facility is sponsored by the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation, the Rotary Club of Hluboká nad Vltavou, and Bavarian Count Leopold Deym of Munich.
At the end of last July, the Count invited the shelter children to vacation for a week at his chateau in Dražíče, South Bohemia. “These days there are very few people who keep their word, and I am very glad the Count is truly noble, not just in origin, but by nature, because he truly kept his promise and invited the children to his chateau,” Dvořáková said.
A rich cultural program was prepared for 15 children and three adults. During their stay at the chateau they visited the “Western village” at Jerotice, the chateau in Bechyně, and the museum in Týn nad Vltavou. In previous years “some of our children vacationed at a camp at Lake Lipno organized for them by the South Bohemian Water Rescuers,” Dvořáková said.
Count Deym lives part of the time in Bavaria and part of the time in the Czech Republic. He organizes seminars and small-scale European Youth Days at his South Bohemian chateau. He is dedicated to assisting problem youth and the socially disadvantaged.
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