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August 20, 2022



Czech activist on 8 April: the Romani position in society is deteriorating, zero results from the financing invested

8.4.2021 13:18
One of the Czech-Romani flag combinations designed by the artist Tomáš Rafa. [PHOTO:  Miroslav Brož]
One of the Czech-Romani flag combinations designed by the artist Tomáš Rafa. [PHOTO: Miroslav Brož]

Today is International Romani Day. Romani people and the Romani world are close to me, I grew up among Roma and as an adult I am helping the poorest of the poor and fighting for their rights. 

I basically feel a bit Romani myself, me som parno rom. Is there anything to celebrate this year?

Naturally it is necessary to show the brilliantly rich culture of the Roma to the gadje [non-Roma]. However, there are not many reasons to celebrate.

The position of Romani people in our society is bad, unfortunately it is not improving - exactly the opposite. Tens of thousands of Romani people are living in conditions of social exclusion and in impoverished ghettos, the numbers of which increase each year as their poverty intensifies.

Romani men and women face discrimination in all areas of life. Romani children attend segregated, substandard schools that do not give them any hope of a better future.

Antigypsyism and anti-Romani prejudices are the mainstream position of this society. This is not just about discrimination, poverty, racism and segregation, though.

Equality for Romani people is being denied to them even in the suffering they have undergone in the past. Recently a discussion has been held here about the decision to exclude the names of Holocaust victims of Romani origin from the public readings held here on Yom Hashoah.

Romani victims, according to some, need to be remembered at a different place and time - separately. At the Terezín Memorial, which is run by the Czech state, they are quite hardened in their refusal to fly the Romani flag among the row of flags being honored there and symbolizing the victims of Nazism.    

Eventually the Romani flag has been flown at that memorial, but at a different time and place than the other flags are, and the Romani victims are remembered separately as well. Probably the worst thing here is, however, that Romani people do not participate in power-sharing, and they do not even fully enjoy the collective rights guaranteed to them by law as a national minority.  

Annually an enormous amount of financial resources are invested into "Romani" integration and addressing Romani poverty, with zero results. Romani people themselves have no opportunity to influence what that money will be used for and how it will be targeted toward addressing the situation in Romani communities.

Romani people have no opportunity to influence the form the integration measures will take. Nobody speaks with them about it, because in a madhouse we don't invite the patients to meetings about the treatment program, right?

This means the form of the integration of Romani people is determined by gadje "experts" on integrating Romani people who work in different agencies and advisory groups and know Romani people just from the books written by other gadje. Naturally those measures then fail, they cannot function, they will not introduce change, integration does not succeed, but the big nonprofit corporations have budgets in the millions of crowns, acquire real estate, and raise their own salaries.   

Subsidies flow and the wheel of the social integration industry keeps spinning. Nobody here works with the concept of "power-sharing/exchange", in the sense that modern social work and sociology do - it is taboo to speak of such a thing. 

There is too much money at stake in this game. What is the way out of this dilemma?

There is no way out other than the actual involvement of Romani people in the matters that concern them. I wish all of my Romani friends mainly good health on this day.

Miroslav Brož, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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