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Czech housing settlement to be razed for industrial zone

Karviná, 28.7.2011 20:05, (ROMEA)

Families living in the small houses in the Vagonka settlement, located between the town limits of Karviná and Petrovice in Moravia, are currently moving into smaller apartments in various parts of Karviná because the structures in Vagonka have been condemned. Settlement residents are having a hard time saying goodbye to their homes.

"We are counting on moving most of the 25 families out of the locality by the end of July," Šárka Swiderová, the spokesperson for the Karviná town hall, told the Moravian-Silesian edition of news server Deník.cz. Most of the families have found a new home in the Nové Město neighborhood, while some residents have moved into apartments in the Mizerov area.

The small villas in Vagonka belong to the town hall, and their spokesperson claims the tenants are being given better accommodation through the move. The vast majority of the Vagonka residents have paid their rent properly, so the town was legally obligated to offer them adequate housing. The news server reports that only two families had a problem with paying their rent; the town is offering them places in a hostel.

However, the people being forced to leave Vagonka disagree with the town spokesperson's claim that their new apartments will be better. "I've lived here for 40 years. I was eight years old when we moved here. Now I have no choice but to leave," said Vagonka resident Mr Gábor. "They told us to either accept the new apartments or receive nothing. I have five children - there was nothing I could do about it," he said.

Even though the town hall has made some minor repairs to Mr Gábor's new apartment, it is in poor condition. "I pay CZK 4 000 a month here in Vagonka. Where I'm moving I will have to pay CZK 9 000 for less room. Where am I supposed to find the money?" the unhappy Romani man asked.

Gábor is very critical of the town hall, which he says did not take care of the houses in Vagonka even though it owned them. "We wanted garbage service in Vagonka, but they wouldn't give it to us. We have asked repeatedly for new doors, also in vain," he says.

Another man living in Vagonka confirmed Mr Gábor's words. "They have not yet hooked up the electricity or gas to the new apartments. We're moving there today and we don't know what we're going to cook on," he said.

What bothers these men most of all is that they are moving from small houses into even smaller apartments. Gábor is moving into an apartment in Fučíkova street, where most of his neighbors will also be Romani. His seven family members will be crammed into a small two-room apartment.

The town spokesperson says the demolition of the small houses in the Vagonka settlement should take place within a few weeks. "The houses will be demolished once all the tenants have moved out and everything is secure," she said.

"We'll do our best to destroy the buildings as soon as possible because we don't want homeless people seeking shelter in them," Swiderová explained. Police patrols are now being deployed to the settlement and surrounding areas.

"There is also the danger that various scrap metal collectors will do their best to gut the buildings of whatever they can. That includes the risk that part of one of these buildings could collapse on a scavenger or someone else and injure them," said Václav Ožana, Deputy Director of the Karviná Municipal Police.

During the course of the next few years, the Vagonka area is slated to become an industrial zone. Small and medium-sized entrepreneurs will find commercial spaces available there instead of houses.

Gwendolyn Albert, Jitka Votavová, voj, Moravskoslezský deník.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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