Czech activist aiding Romani refugee Ukrainians on their way to Germany says Czech passengers targeted them with racist, vulgar abuse
In the Czech Republic, discrimination and racism against the Romani refugees fleeing Russia's war on Ukraine is being increasingly reported. Miroslav Brož of the Konexe organization, who spends his free time volunteering at the Ústecký Regional Assistance Center for Aid to Ukraine, recently reported such an incident.
Brož posted on Facebook a photograph of 23 Romani refugees from Ukraine for whom he secured transport from the Czech Republic to Germany. "Our [German] partners picked them up on the platform and they spent the night in dignified conditions in a hotel, today they go to Leipzig, where there is an asylum center, to apply for protection and register," he posted beneath a photo taken just before a bus organized by the firefighter corps brought the refugees to the train station.
"We're not laughing [in this photo] because we were feeling cheerful, but out of despair and stress," the activist posted. He also described the gross insults and open racism unfortunately expressed to these refugees from Russia's war by white Czech passengers at the station in Ústí nad Labem.
"The most demanding aspect for me was spending almost an hour at the station in Ústí nad Labem before departure. This group of impoverished Romani people with prams and their things in plastic bags aroused a great deal of attention and the indignation of the other passengers. They shouted abuse at us. For example, they told me what a f****r I am for aiding these people and that without the assistance of d****s like me, they would never have made it here," the activist posted.
"There was just one cash register open and a long line. I stood in it to get their free ticket. When it was my turn, the ticket salesman said that I had to step aside so he could first handle the other passengers whose trains were departing soon and that once he was done with them, he would issue the group ticket. I tried to argue with him, but the man behind me in the line said 'Be quiet, shut up and get away from the window or I'll burn it down.' I had to wait next to the window while they handled 'white' passengers. To the people buying tickets going in the same direction as the Romani refugees from Ukraine, the salesman made remarks like 'So you'll go on the same train they are' and the Czech passengers responded sarcastically with 'I'm looking forward to it, what a horror', or 'They shouldn't let such shit on the train at all.' Finally, the cashier issued our group ticket. It took about 10 seconds. The refugees didn't even have to show their Ukrainian documents. As we departed through the hall to the platform, some passengers cursed us out loud and shouted at us across the hall, saying the entire hall was contaminated with 'gypsy stink' and so forth. It was an antigypsyist hell of racism," the activist described.
The experience with the Romani refugees from Ukraine was not all negative, though. After bringing them to the platform and asking the conductor to make sure they would disembark at the right stop, the activist reported that a group of local Romani youngsters ran up to them.
"At that moment, just before their departure, something amazing happened that I found awfully moving. At the last moment, these local Romani adolescents came to the train, the youngsters who hang out in the center of Usti nad Labem, they had probably been smoking in the park near the train station. They had seen the entire situation and they put their last money together to buy 20 overpriced ice cream bars from the newsagent at the station and ran to the platform to bring them to us. They got there seconds before the train took off. They almost moved me to tears. Palikerav Tumenge, boys, Baro paťiv," Brož posted online.
A woman was also found on the train to aid the Romani refugees during their journey. "I had barely arrived home from the station when the phone rings, a German number calling me. A German lady called me from the train. She said that she was calling me to let me know she was with them, that they were all right, to thank me for assisting them and for sending them to Germany, that they would help them there and make sure they get off at the right stop," the Konexe activist posted.
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