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Czech politicians refuse to discuss Přednádraží, residents feel disrespected

Ostrava-Přívoz, 23.8.2012 19:14, (ROMEA)

Yesterday's discussion in the Ostrava ghetto on Přednádraží street, for which a circus tent was pitched outdoors, had to end early when town councilors from the Municipal Department of Moravská Ostrava and Přívoz who had been invited to participate in a public debate on the ruined buildings there did not attend. The officials had refused the invitation beforehand. The residents of Přednádraží street and human rights activists in attendance, one of whom had come all the way from Germany for the meeting, waited more than an hour under the tent in case a representative of the municipal department decided to attend after all.

"We consider this an expression of these elected officials' lack of respect for these citizens. We will be sending a statement to the town hall protesting this treatment," human rights activist Jakub Polák, who has joined the Přednádraží cause, told news server Romea.cz.

Czech Radio has reported that people from the ghetto perceive local officials as uninterested in their fates and in the future of the buildings. Residents are refusing to move out despite having been ordered to do so by the Building Works Authority because the buildings are their home and many of them were even born there. The tenants did, however, call off a planned march to the local town hall.

The activists and the Přednádraží residents intend to repeat the discussion sessions in future. "The people living on Přednádraží street came, as well as journalists, and the discussion that took place was constructive," said Polák. Emotions, understandably, were also vented. "Who is to blame, whom can we sue? The town! The town is responsible for this state of affairs," resident Jan Bandy fumed, adding that if a similar situation had occurred in a different part of town, everyone would have behaved differently.

Resident Iveta Horvátová said the town does not want to help those living in the ghetto and is treating them like "trained monkeys in a zoo". Speaking during the discussion, an agitated Horvátová said, "This is not a promise, it's a threat... if my children and I have to move out of our apartment, I will give them no peace, they will never get rid of me." She told journalists that social workers had visited her today and advised her to move out because the owner of the buildings cannot afford to renovate them. "I have lived here 15 years, you can't just forget about your home like that," Horvátová said, adding that she is waiting to see whether she will succeed in finding a substitute apartment.

Water service will not restart on Přednádraží street until next Monday at the very earliest. More than 100 people are still living there. The Ostrava Water and Sewer Works company (Ostravské vodárny a kanalizace - OVAK) is still waiting for the results of an expert evaluation of the technical state of the plumbing in one building. The results might be available tomorrow, according to Martina Gavendová. a spokesperson for the firm. People in the locality only have enough water available to them for today and will have to find other supplies between now and Monday.

OVAK turned off the water on Přednádraží street because of non-payment more than three weeks ago. The owner of the buildings originally stopped paying for the service because authorities wanted to evict all of the tenants. He has since paid part of the debt and is striving to get water service returned to building no. 8, which has an independent delivery point.

Oldřich Roztočil, the owner of the buildings, said OVAK would be connecting building no. 8 to a specially laid tap this afternoon. "The water company is allegedly waiting for the results of a court expert before restarting the service. I don't know to what extent all of that absolutely must be done, but I view it as another delaying tactic to keep the water from flowing," Roztočil said.

Adults and children in the ghetto have been without running water for more than three weeks. They are bringing in water tanks sponsored by donors or paid for on their own. One water tank costs roughly CZK 1 360. Weekend service is more expensive.

"The water runs out today. We were all counting on the water service restarting today. If there will be further delays, we will have to raise more money. Even though these people are in limbo here, I regret to inform you that the municipality is not trying to aid them at all," said human rights activist Kumar Vishwanathan.

"Life without water is bad. People need water to bathe, to cook, to do laundry, we can't live without it. I have four children. When I bring the water upstairs, I bathe them all. The worst thing is the uncertainty. People don't know what to count on, what will happen next," said resident Helena Macková.

ČTK, František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, Czech Radio, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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