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Czech Republic: Romani author and journalist Gejza Demeter has passed away

9.12.2015 17:28
Gejza Demeter (PHOTO: Kateřina Andršová)
Gejza Demeter (PHOTO: Kateřina Andršová)

The eminent Romani author and journalist Gejza Demeter has passed away; his funeral will be this Friday, 11 December, at 13:00 in the ceremonial hall of the cemetery in Neratovice. Jan Červenka, head of the Romani Studies Seminar at Charles University in Prague, contacted news server on behalf of Mr Demeter's family last week with the news.

Mr Gejza Demeter was born on 11 May 1947 in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, but grew up in his grandfather's home in Dlhé nad Cirochou, Slovak Republic. He completed primary school there with excellent results.

Mr Demeter then graduated from high school in Bohemia, where he lived with his parents. He began to study medicine, then left his studies after three and a half years, got married, settled in Neratovice (Czech Republic) and began to work.

Mr Demeter held various professions. He was a journalist for the weekly Spolana, a police officer for several years prior to 1989, and a manual laborer.

After the Velvet Revolution he returned to journalism. He began as a correspondent for the Romani magazine "Romani l'il" and then met Margita Reiznerová, the chair of the Romani Authors' Association (RAA) and, inspired by Czech academic Milena Hübschmannová, began to write his first short stories in the Romani language.

His first three short stories were published in 1992 in a slim booklet called O mule maškar amende ("The Spirits Among Us") in the "Romaňi čhib" series issued by the RAA. During the first half of the 1990s he wrote many more short stories, some of which are now lost, others of which were published both in book form and in magazines (most of them without the author being aware of it).

During the 1990s Mr Demeter became a reporter for the Expres daily and, as he himself said, stopped working for the Roma and worked instead for this "gadjo" newspaper. He traveled around Europe and sourced various reports for the daily.

Naturally Mr Demeter did not avoid Romani subject matter in his reporting, though. Starting in 1991 he also occasionally worked as an instructor of Romani language conversation at the Romani Studies Seminar at Charles University in Prague.

Mr Demeter also wrote down 11 fairy tales that his grandfather told him. What is notable is that he wrote both their Czech-language and Romani-language versions himself.

Those fairy tales were published in 2009 as Le Develeskeri bar / Rajská zahrada (Garden of Eden). "Romano vod'i" magazine published an interview with him in 2009, which is available here (Czech only). 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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