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Czech Republic's "Romani elite" are under pressure

Brno/Trimice, 17.1.2015 3:04, (ROMEA)
Karel Holomek, Pavel Pečínka and Jana Horváthová (Collage:
Karel Holomek, Pavel Pečínka and Jana Horváthová (Collage:

In addition to the charges of producing and distributing illegal drugs recently filed against a local Romani councilor in Trmice, Marcel Cichý, there is another, less dramatic and less visible problem affecting the country's Romani elite. The matter is a serious one nonetheless:  One of the few media outlets focusing on Romani people, the magazine Romano hangos, is in a deep crisis and its original editors are in a state of conflict with one another.    

Basically this might not be so interesting to the general public, as it involves disputes (and personal ones at that) that are a matter of a lack of trust among former co-workers. Such things do happen, and they can destroy a small editorial team.

The fact that this matter concerns a Romani magazine, Romani publishers, and a partially Romani editorial board understandably does not mean that these relationships have a different form than they otherwise would, or that a different psychology is at work here, or that these developments should be ascribed any larger importance. Of course, there are very few Romani media outlets here and the "Romani elite" itself is very small.

Every such affair understandably has a greater impact on the Romani minority than a similar event would on the majority society. On the one hand this is because it strengthens the negative image of Romani people in the mainstream media, the image held by the public, and on the other hand it is because people who fall out of their roles as elites for whatever reason (or who resign from them) are very hard to replace.

Jana Horváthová, the director of the Museum of Romani Culture, who is a participant in this dispute, has emphasized that it is hard to find educated Romani people in Brno to be competent editors or to find Romani people who speak English. Other experts on the Romani community say such people do exist but are not interested in working on behalf of that community for a low salary.

This certainly does not make the situation easier. A third factor that intensifies the problem is the vulnerability of the Romani community to outside attack - given the current tensions in society, it is too easy and popular to generalize that Romani people are unreliable and unsystematic, that they argue among themselves, steal, or take no interest in education, and that the few exceptions to the rule do not want to have anything to do with the rest of them.

In this context, the fate of the magazine Romani hangos is more important than the fate of your average "majority-society" media outlet - it is a hard-to-replace part of the media, as it is not exactly surrounded by competition (which might even improve it). It may happen that the magazine will soon become just an exhibition piece in the collection of the Museum of Romani Culture.

Letter to the minister

This current round of the dispute about Romano hangos was opened by Pavel Pečínka, who for years was the non-Romani Editor-in-Chief there, and who sent a letter to Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman asking him to investigate the accounting and other practices of the magazine and describing the family of the publisher, the famous Romani activist and politician Karel Holomek, as having turned the magazine into their private own business and enriching themselves from it. Pečínka says in the letter that he began to not trust Holomek or either of his two daughters (one of whom is Jana Horváthová) shortly after he became Editor-in-Chief in 2009.

Even so, he spent roughly the next five years in the position of Editor-in-Chief. He explained this to news server by saying that because he had no faith in any of the previous Culture Ministers,  he didn't want to write to them.

Primarily, however, he claims that he continued to hope he would manage to change "the deeply-rooted, typical clan and family-business thinking" from inside the publication. In his letter to the minister, he also writes:   "As far as the context internal to the editorial office was concerned, I gradually discovered that the newspaper published by the Society of Roma in Moravia (Společenství Romů na Moravě - SRNM) and linked to Brno's Museum of Romani Culture (MRK) is functioning partially as a family business involving many interesting procedures, original communication mechanisms and financing methods, and some singular people:  The chair of the SRNM and the publisher of Romano hangos, Karel Holomek, has entrusted exclusive supervision of the RH and SRNM finances to his daughter Zuzana Holomková as the financial director of the entire organization... My relationships with this publishing family basically changed during 2009 and 2010, when Holomková began to hide the accounting documents of the newspaper from me and I had to access them in other ways. From the invoices and salary stubs for the summer of 2010 it can be seen that compared to the work actually performed, the financial director had, with her father's awareness (but of course behind my back), increased the remuneration and salaries in certain cases...".      

The full text of Pečínka's letter to the minister was first published by the news server Britské listy, then removed from their website, and is now available to be read on Pečínka's Facebook profile and on the blog site of Roman Krištof on news server Aktuálně.cz. You will find Pečínka's responses to questions from news server at the end of this article, as well as a response from Holomková.

The behavior of a mentally ill person

In their responses to that letter (which are published in full at the end of this article), both Karel Holomek and Jana Horváthová claim that Pečínka is not only mistaken, but that in some points he is even inventing his claims. "Given that almost every sentence Pavel Pečínka has written about me is not based on the truth, I am convinced that this entire text, which I additionally believe shows signs of either a deeply unhappy or a psychopathic personality, is just an angry, subjective rant that has very little to do with the facts," Horváthová has written.  

"Judicious readers will realize that the letter-writer's output disqualifies him from comment, which is why I did not want to respond to it publicly - I am doing so only at the direct request of news server," Horváthová has written. "I am considering suing for protection of my good name."

At the conclusion of her statement, she adds the following: "Pavel Pečínka's remarks about an alleged Holomek clan on the editorial board of Romani hangos are cheap and stupid. My engagement in the newspaper, like that of my father-in-law, has been and is still dictated by an inauspicious situation - the notable absence of educated Romani people in the city of Brno, especially the kind of people who are able and willing to work for little money. Brno actually has very few educated Romani people - the Museum of Romani Culture, for example, has sought a Romani docent in vain for years who would be able to speak decent English, and we also have been unable to find a Romani college-educated pedagogue for our children's program. We will find them in other cities, but it's not realistic to expect them to move to Brno, given the cost of rent here, because the salary paid by the Museum is so low that it would all go to rent."  

Karel Holomek says Pečínka has sent around letters slandering the operations and the publisher of Romani hangos previously and basically does so on a regular basis:  "Even though he was our employee, which was a sort of social security for him that whole time, he did not appreciate that and constantly slandered his own workplace, sending out slanderous letters to everyone possible. Now he has even sent one to Britské listy, and we have briefed them about the possiblity that we will take legal action against them for their unprofessional dissemination of unproven slander. We believe his actions are those of a mentally ill person."  

What now?

It remains to be seen whether Romano hangos can overcome this crisis. Similarly, the courts will decide whether Marcel Cichý is innocent or not.

Both of these cases have already, to different degrees, threatened the status of the Romani elite and added to the problems of coexistence between the majority society and the Romani minority. Coincidentally this is taking place against the background of the next round of discussions about the "special schools" and whether the Czech Republic is providing Romanil children with equal access to education.

It is also a time when the Government will be reviewing its Romani Integration Strategy which should, as some politicians acknowledge, at least jump-start solutions to problems that our society has not yet managed to solve. Basically we have not even begun to solve them, but that is the context in which we will be learning to what degree the problem of Romani culture and "Romani elites" is actually a problem for all of society.

Response from Jana Horváthová to Pavel Pečínka's letter published on 12 January 2015 by Britsk listy and elsewhere on social networking sites

"I am only responding to the claims that concern me personally, as I do not have enough information to respond to the other claims - I have never taken any interest in the internal matters of the SRNM (the publisher of RH) as my intensive work for the Museum does not make it possible for me to spend energy elsewhere. I have not asked for any personal information about the other people on the editorial board and I honor their legal protection. As for the other claims made, this is just my impression: Given that almost every sentence Pavel Pečínka has written about me is not based on the truth, I am convinced that this entire text, which I additionally believe shows signs of either a deeply unhappy or a psychopathic personality, is just an angry, subjective rant that has very little to do with the facts. Judicious readers will realize that the letter-writer's output disqualifies him from comment, which is why I did not want to respond to it publicly - I am doing so only at the direct request of news server I am considering suing for protection of my good name. 

In 2008 the Museum of Romani Culture, s.p.p. (MRK) concluded, under my direction, a contract on a media partnership with Romano hangos (or rather with SRNM as a legal entity) tasking the Museum with regularly producing articles and materials about its activities, in particular, its public events, for publication in RH. Ever since then we have basically done this continually and the Editor-in-Chief of RH has never found any flaws with that collaboration. The staffers of the MRK have regularly directly communicated with him according to plan and without my personal assistance.

In 2009 the Editor-in-Chief first sent a libelous communication about RH/SRNM to various places, worded in a similar tone as this most recent letter, and he basically did so over the course of the following years, and he always sent me these texts as well, but I considered them a sort of "personal folklore" because of their exaggerated grievances and length and I did not pay much attention to them. The truth is that I never read them even halfway through. In my ignorance of the context and my naiveté, and also through my desire to settle conflicts where such a good cause was concerned, I even did my best to defend the Editor-in-Chief and to defuse the smoldering conflict between him and the SRNM. I was, however, also a member of the SRNM administrative board for many years, and this problem was regularly raised there, with members of the board asking Karel Holomek to fire this disloyal Editor-in-Chief who was spoiling the good name of the organization by publishing his subjective impressions and opinions. Mr Holomek, however, due to his typical credulousness and good-heartedness, never took that step, but his softness in this case proved to be a managerial error. I, too, was mistaken in my efforts to assuage the conflict, and I was not aware of how malignant Pečínka's behavior actually is.

Given the obviously honest work of the entire Museum team, the Editor-in-Chieft began to orient himself towards the Museum, and I even permitted him to work for RH in the Museum's space on our PC because he refused to work any longer at the editorial offices of RH/SRNM due to his disagreements with them. His sympathy for the Museum's work and for me personally culminated in 2010 in his repeatedly contacting me on the one hand with requests as to whether the Museum might hire him and on the other hand with requests for me to take RH under my wing. He offered to negotiate everything at the Czech Culture Ministry with Ms Bártíková, with whom he has an excellent relationship. The MRK is an organization funded from the state budget and was established by the Culture Ministry, which is why I was skeptical about his proposal and did not have much of an interest in getting involved in such a problematic undertaking with such a conflict-prone person; nevertheless, I promised to discuss it at the Museum with my deputy and with the other colleagues. I was just about to go on maternity leave. This was an opportunity for my deputy, who later became director of the Museum during my absence, to demonstrate her prudence; she vigorously rejected the idea, saying that she did not want to work closely with such an inconsistent person as the Editor-in-Chief. The problems at the editorial board continued to grow and it seemed to me that the parties concerned were not communicating about them.

I was on maternity leave from March 2011 until April 2014. In 2013 I temporarily had enough time and my child was mature enough to attend a private nursery school for a couple of hours a week. I therefore had room to do more work. Both sides to this conflict had reached a rare point of agreement that they would let me facilitate a reconciliation at RH. I understood that my position as a buffer for both sides would be difficult, but ultimately the notion that I could save the situation and help the newspaper won out. Starting in March 2013, therefore, I became a part-time editor on the RH team.

Here I would note that I was not working as the director of the Museum at that time, I was just on maternity leave. My former deputy was running the Museum, which continued to send articles to the newspaper without my assistance or my "orders" (as the Editor-in-Chief has called them). Alica Heráková, a capable publicist, managed the work for RH at the MRK and was able to manage her team well on her own, without my having to do anything from home while caring for my child. As a new editor I was certainly a "new broom" who wanted to raise the level of the newspaper out of my own enthusiasm, as its level before thent had been, from my perspective, depressing. During the previous years the Editor-in-Chief had preferred to run "interviews" in the newspaper with scantily clad young girls in particular, who were so strongly made up and suggestively posed that they were evidently yearning for a career in modeling or some other "break into show business", a dream that the Editor-in-Chief apparently fulfilled while at the same time, as he himself said, increasing readers' interest in the newspaper. I felt awkward about the website of a Romani newspaper publishing such lascivious photos, as they contravene traditional Romani culture. Simply put, that is also why I initiated the creation of a new editorial board (Alica Heráková, Helena Kryštofová, Margita Rácová, Ivona Parčiová) who agreed that the emphasis on suggestive images of beauteous Romani women would be rejected (the Editor-in-Chief charged us with envying the girls their beauty and youth) and that instead space would be given to history, to original interviews, to the recollections of those who had witnessed historical events, and particularly to the Romani language, which had been entirely absent from RH until then. This succeeded, even though it was a difficult collaboration, and right at the beginning the Editor-in-Chief revealed to me that for the low salary the newspaper paid him he intended to change nothing about his routine, time-honored system of downloading most of his articles from the Internet, that he would not actually conduct interviews, that he had no intention of going into the field, and that he would continue during his several hours a month to work with newspapers online, but that I could do what I liked. That sobered me up a great deal, even though from the beginning I had known it would not be easy. At that time another problem arose and the Editor-in-Chief refused to communicate with me for quite some time - he would not respond to my e-mails but simply froze all of the communications, always emphasizing to me that for the money he was paid he could not communicate with me as frequently as I might imagine.      

Even though the newspaper actually did improve during 2013, which even the Editor-in-Chief acknowledged, I was disappointed, tired of constantly pleading with him and tired of his lack of interest, so I ultimately announced my departure from the editorial staff at the end of the year. The income I was paid for my work in the position of a rank-and-file editor was: CZK 1 200 gross (less 15 % taxes) for each single issue edited, CZK 1 800 gross for each double issue edited, CZK 1 000 gross for proofreading each single issue and CZK 1 500 gross for proofreading each double issue. It must be added that this was no ordinary proofreading, as the Editor-in-Chief gave me texts that evidently no literate person could ever have read in their entirety, full of spelling errors and gross stylistic awkwardness that I had to correct down to every last line break in the graphic layout program, which is unbelievably mind-bending work. The fact that the Editor-in-Chief was not willing to personally thoroughly read all of the contributions, which can be corrected much more easily in a word processing program than in a graphic layout one, contributed to my decision to leave the editorial offices under his leadership. I note here that during this entire time I was a subordinate of the Editor-in-Chief, and if in my position as an editor I asked my father-in-law, Gejza Horváth (who is a famous musician and successful writer recognized as an authority by Romani people all over the Czech Republic) to contribute a piece, it was not for remuneration.

In the fall of 2013, the honorary head of the SRNM, Karel Holomek, met with Pavel Pečínka to discuss whether, after the paper received its subsidies for 2014 (which are decided on annually, with the Culture Ministry communicating their decision in March, which is when new contracts are concluded with the staffers) he would continue to work as Editor-in-Chief. Pečínka, however, presented exorbitant financial demands that were not realistic within the framework of a state-subsidized minority imprint, as anyone who has ever worked in such a nonprofit knows. Given this fact, Holomek did not promise a raise, and the Editor-in-Chief went silent and stopped communicating until March 2014, when the subsidy for 2014 was approved by the Culture Ministry. He had no contractual relationship with RH/SRNM (which bears on his complaint that he should have been informed about new changes at the editorial office). It was necessary to publish two issues of the magazine in March and to continue without interruption in publishing until the end of 2014. Who would save the newspaper? I had no choice but to heed the pleas of the SRNM leadership that I at least temporarily assist them until a new Editor-in-Chief was chosen. While I was not completely enthusiastic, I went into it to save the name of the newspaper, which had gradually raised its level, and I agreed to edit two issues, not more. I quickly assembled a team of editors - publicist Alica Heráková, a poet who brilliantly uses his mother tongue of Romani, Janko Horváth-Döme, and the musician Veronika Kačová, who was also beginning as a publicist - none of whom are from my family. In order to have so many editors, I proposed to the SRNM leadership that we divide the existing salary for the Editor-in-Chief among several editors - this served my purposes, as I wanted to get Romani language content onto the pages of the newspaper, as well as perspectives from inside Romani communities including those beyond Brno, and I wanted to publish more information that was actually about Romani events, which we managed to do. I also published all of the responses we received from our readers in our Letters to the Editor section. The work was ultimately very nice and I did not reprint anything from the Internet (with the exception of the basic news items, which is the way RH has always sourced those) because we had enough material of our own, actually more than enough, so that some could be used in future issues. You can judge for yourselves by reading issues 1 and 2 of 2014, which were created under my temporary leadership. Yes, it is true that I let myself drill into the third issue as well, because a new Editor-in-Chief had yet to be selected for the newspaper. We held an open tender and selected the very nice Sabir Agalarov (who is a citizen of the Czech Republic); the selection committee included an editor from the daily Mf DNES, Klára Kubíčková, and a project director from the SRNM, Jana Vejplachová. For my work as Editor-in-Chief for the three issues in 2014 I was paid CZK 4990 gross (less 15 % tax). Gejza Horváth published two large articles under my direction in issue 1/2014, each of which takes up 2/3 of a page. I have his permission to reveal here that he was paid CZK 488 gross (less 15 % taxes) for writing those texts. He did not receive any other money during my leadership, and he provided a great deal of advice and consultation on the newspaper and its pieces free of charge.

In conclusion I would like to say that Pavel Pečínka's remarks about an alleged Holomek clan on the editorial board of Romani hangos are cheap and stupid. My engagement in the newspaper, like that of my father-in-law, has been and is still dictated by a inauspicious situation - the notable absence of educated Romani people in the city of Brno, especially the kind of people who are able and willing to work for little money. Brno actually has very few educated Romani people - the Museum of  Romani Culture, for example, has sought a Romani docent in vain for years who would be able to speak decent English, and we also have been unable to find a Romani college-educated pedagogue for our children's program. We will find them in other cities, but it's not realistic to expect them to move to Brno, given the cost of rent here, because the salary paid by the Museum is so low that it would all go to their rent.

Jana Horváthová
14 January 2015 (for the sake of the pathologically suspicious Pavel Pečínka I would like to add that I am not writing this piece during the hours of employment for which I am paid by the state, but after work, on my own time, between 22:00 and 24:00).

Response of Karel Holomek

Notes of the publisher of Romani hangos on the letter from Pavel Pečínka, former Editor-in-Chief of Romano hangos, to the Czech Culture Minister in January 2015

This letter can be characterized overall as a complaint about the work of the publisher of Romano hangos. The actions and figures described, however, include not just complaints of lack of transparency, but also a great many fabrications, guesswork, and lack of detail - Pavel Pečínka has been under the impression that certain information was supposed to have been provided to him which was none of his business as an employee, and which is subject to personal data protections. This information includes, for example, employee salaries, operating costs, and other organizational matters. The post of Editor-in-Chief has a job description, which he signed, that concerns only the content of the newspaper, but he frequently demanded information about various individuals (how they lived, what they did, etc.) which were completely private matters and completely irrelevant to his work for the publisher.  

The entire letter makes clear his absolute ignorance about the legal aspects of his work and their possible repercussions, which he has not been even remotely capable of understanding.

Even though he was our employee, which was a sort of social security for him that whole time, he did not appreciate that and constantly slandered his own workplace, sending out slanderous letters to everyone possible. Now he has even sent one to Britské listy, and we have briefed them about the possiblity that we will take legal action against them for their unprofessional dissemination of unproven slander. We believe his actions are those of a mentally ill person.

Now for some factual observations:

How are the organization and the publishing house managed:  The organization is managed by Executive Director Bc. Jana Vejplachová. Ing. Zuzana Holomková is not the organization's financial director. She fulfills the function of financial manager and is obligated to perform our accounting, including evaluating and producing project budgets, highly demanding professional work that requires frequent changes and complicated procedures that require sophisticated work with numbers. I myself am the chair of the organization, which regularly elects its chair, and recently, given my advanced age (78 this year) I have become more of an honorary chair. I am not a rank and file employee of the organization with respect to an employment agreement. If I am called to lead the publishing house, it is only because I brought the newspaper to life and have kept it alive for the last 17 years. I am paid for this very modestly, not as Pečínka has reported, a sum that merely remunerates me for the operational costs related to the job.

I do not perform this work for the publishing house or this editing work because of this financial remuneration (which is, by the way, ridiculously low), but because I am obsessed with this work as a commentator on political and social events and as a publicist, and it is part of the position in society that I have consistently occupied for 25 years.

The same goes for my daughter, Dr. Jana Horváthová, whom Pečínka has very unfairly vilified in a repugnant way. Her sporadic, temporary work at Romano hangos improved the level of the newspaper greatly and uncovered unexpected reserves that Mr Pečínka never acknowledged.

The organization is managed by its board and all of its steps must be agreed to by the board, although the board itself does not directly, on its own initiative (nor formally) issue orders to be fulfilled. The minutes of the board's session in 2011 confirm that Mr Pečínka was reprimanded for publicly telling lies about the publishing house and for his lack of any loyalty whatsoever to his employer.  

Even though I was called upon by the board to fire Pavel Pečínka since he had so tastelessly harmed us, I did my best at all costs to keep him on until he could find other work. It was not because we would have been unable to help ourselves without him. That we ultimately easily demonstrated when the position of Editor-in-Chief was performed, during her maternity leave, by Dr Horváthová and myself until we could hold a selection procedure for a new Editor-in-Chief - a person who is also now speaking up and protesting the way he has been described by Pečínka in his letter to the minister. When Pečínka told me he had found a new job, we ended our employment relationship with him with great relief.      

The financial remuneration for the Editor-in-Chief's work is governed by the possibilities dictated by the financing we manage to raise. Pavel Pečínka always had a basic salary that was roughly four times that of everyone else, in the amount of CZK 16 000 per month.

Because, however, the newspaper always came out in practice between April and December, a schedule that all of our co-workers respected, it was necessary to reduce salaries during the period of preparatory work. During the eight-month publishing period, Pavel Pečínka received a full salary as I have described, not as he has interpreted it. He never wanted to acknowledge this basic fact, never reconciled himself to it, and considered himself personally wronged by it. He also never managed to understand that he cannot have a salary that exceeds the available resources.    

A few more remarks on the incorrect passages in the letter:

Re:  Hoarding issues of the paper. Distribution of the print run of approximately 2 800 issues is performed by a professional firm. About 300 issues were kept for our needs in our office and in the reception area of the Museum of Romani Culture. They were almost always taken by visitors. Mr Pečínka's statement about this issue is a distasteful lie.

Re:  Altering signed documents. The Editor-in-Chief always signs just his own Curriculum Vitae, while the entire project is signed by the head of the publishing house, who also writes the whole project itself. The Editor-in-Chief's signature was never even required, it was just an indication of our collaboration with him. Mr Pečínka bore no responsibility for the project itself or the work with it.

Re: The nationality of the editorial staff. What does it have to do with "transparency" that a Czech person is working as the graphic designer and the Editor-in-Chief is Azerbaijani (or Jewish)? I don't understand this. Isn't this an example of Mr Pečínka's nationalist infatuation?

Re: Bosses. This would requre discussing who among the Roma is a boss and who isn't, and I do not intend to discuss this with Mr Pečínka. His allegations have to do with Mr Lučanský, who was a proper candidate in the elections and who also properly paid for an advertisement in our newspaper, thank God. There is also a mention of Mr Lípa, and whatever else one might say about him, he was the head of the Olah Romani community. It was not possible to avoid publishing the fact that he had passed away.    

Re:  Disproportionate compensation. For the sake of completeness, I would like to reveal my average monthly salary from Romano hangos. My total annual income in 2014 was CZK 53 230. For each issue of Romani hangos that comes out to CZK 2 661 and per month it comes out to CZk 5 323 gross, so the net is something around CZK 4 000.

That is a rather significant difference compared to the data provided by Mr Pečínka, almost a 100 % difference. That's how it is with all of his information.

Re:  Plagiarized articles. I also reject the claim that articles plagiarized from Lidové noviny were published in our newspaper. That never happened, not even by accident. All articles authored by me are my original work, this can be proven. In addition, of couse, I am a rather frequently published commentator on political events in Lidové noviny. The pieces I have published there were never reprinted in Romano hangos. It is evident that Mr Pečínka is making things up. This is rather contemptible of him.    

The other remarks in his letter are not worth commenting on.

Karel Holomek

Pavel Pečínka's responses to news server

Q:  You write that you stopped trusting the publishing family after 2008, but that's basically the whole time you were the Editor-in-Chief of Romano hangos. You were Editor-in-Chief there for about six years after that. In 2013 an interview was published with you by Britské listy in which it seems you are satisfied at the magazine and that you respect it. Why did you wait until now to come forward with your revelations?

A: I don't believe I say anywhere in my letter that this happened immediately in 2008 - I mainly mention the year 2010, when I spent several days of my vacation comparing a whole flood of invoices and other documents. If your question is why I never wrote the Culture Minister before, it is because the previous ministers, Jiří Besser and Alena Hanáková, were infamous destroyers of many cultural initiatives and magazines that were alternative and minority projects. I think many people might still recall the affairs of those people, how popular they were in cultural circles, and the wide variety of actions against them. I really don't think it would have been a good idea to write to Besser, who is a fan of the band Kabát, about Romani newspapers. The desire of those people was to save money wherever they could, and I was not about to have those people from the team of Petr Nagy-Nečas unleash some campaign of across-the-board cuts to pro-Romani and Romani projects. Mainly, however, I really believed up until the beginning of 2014 that this deeply-rooted, typical clan and family-business thinking would gradually manage to be changed from within by getting Jana Horváthová, the director of the Romani museum, gradually more involved (who in the beginning was not interested and then became interested), by creating a new, functional editorial board for the newspaper, which we took rather a long time to put together - basically we did it twice, once in 2011 and once in 2013 - and also by having more Romani people from various families and groups write for the paper, use it as a forum for discussion, help it to look better overall, etc. Well, the main thing is that when you separate the "family" part of the newspaper from most of the work with external contributors, from the actual editorial work of making contacts, agreeing on and editing pieces, the newspaper represented a rather interesting and pleasant kind of work with people who had already undergone various baptisms by fire in nonprofits and were glad that someone was publishing their pieces. So in the work itself, when I compare the external and the internal parts of it, the positive aspects still predominated for me, the newspaper amused me and I wanted to keep it up, I had already invested an unreal amount of energy into it for me to just let it go after some wrangling. Look at my posts on Facebook and at Britské listy, where thanks to greater promotion there were surveys and pieces from Romano hangos published, or look at the album of Romano hangos contributors on Facebook, look at everyone who has ever written for the paper. I did my best to resolve these conflicts internally, not to exacerbate them. Naturally those on the other side of this dispute see it exactly the opposite.

Q:  What was your collaboration with them like after 2008? How did you show your lack of trust?

A:  Through three or four extensive materials I wrote for the publishing family or for the SRNM board to discuss, but they were never normally discussed point by point. Karel Holomek was willing, at the most, to address something with me together on his own in a café, where he promised various things, only half of which ever came true. Those documents and proposals of mine are available, I can send them to you in electronic form - I would just point out that various facts and numbers in them may be slightly off given how I gradually put the whole bizarre mozaic together.  I must also warn you that Karel Holomek allegedly threatened to sue Britské listy for publishing my letter to the minister, and they removed the text from the web after just one day. It is, therefore, a question whether you want to address this dilemma as well.  I have also heard that two other people from Holomek's circle are considering suing, so I would like to recommend here that they not let themselves be dissuaded from their intention and that they really do sue me.

The board of the SRNM met about these matters just once, sometime in the fall of 2011, and many promises were made as a result, but gradually it all returned to the old ways of doing things - as always. What is behind this are many internal arguments and negotiations, a large part of which can be proven through correspondence, which the other party to this dispute also has copies of. Overall there are many, many dozens of e-mails that it would take many days to review.

Q:  Do you really think it is possible to investigate the matters you describe in the letter now, after the fact? For example, your claim that Mr Přibyl never actually came in to work?

A:  I don't believe I have ever asked for an investigation of how the former graphic designer and boyfriend of the financial director came in to work, I know precisely how it went because we were a tandem, one I will never forget. I described what the work was that he actually performed and how much money his girlfriend paid him, which is unacceptable in comparison with the pay drawn by the graphic designer we have today, with my pay, with the Romani and other external contributors, etc. They will have to investigate the rest of the matter, I presume that the accounting of the organization includes the transfers to their accounts and proof that they have paid for services since 2008. I have an overview of the work that was actually performed by those people, so it will take some more time, but I think it will be necessary to undergo this procedure. The same criteria, as I have already written, should be applied to me, an audit of the work I actually performed.  

Q:  Again:  You write that you discovered he was being overpaid in 2010. Why didn't you do something about it before?

A:  I think I have already answered that question.

Response from Zuzana Holomková, financial manager of the SRNM

As has already been stated by Karel Holomek and Jana Horváthová, I consider Mr Pečínka's letter to be a jumble of half-truths and inventions. I originally did 

not want to comment on it at all, I didn't consider it worth commenting on. However, Mr Pečínka has again, in his responses to, emphasized that the former graphic designer was my boyfriend and that therefore he was financially remunerated differently than everyone else. This is a precise example of the demagoguery of all of his claims.

In order to explain this, I must return to the year 2006, when our previous graphic designer of many years left the editorial team, who had done editorial work in addition to graphic design. She had been paid CZK 13 000 per month gross. Mr Přibyl succeeded her for the same pay and the same job description. During the entire time of his work at Romano hangos I never increased his salary in my capacity as financial manager.  

Mr Pečínka joined the editorial team in the second half of 2008. In order to ensure continuity of the work, he worked together with Mr Přibyl, from whom he was gradually supposed to take over the editorial work. After so many years, I do not intend to defend whether the graphic designer did or did not come in to work. However, he did perform his work. He had worked for the editors since 2006 and until Mr Pečínka joined the team there were no problems with his work. Proof of this are the newspapers that have been printed.  

After personal disagreements with the Editor-in-Chief, Mr Přibyl had to leave the team at the start of 2009, as Mr Pečínka was refusing to work with him anymore and Karel Holomek acceded to the Editor-in-Chief's request that he be let go.

The fact that Mr Pečínka's current letter is not just about work matters concerning the management of the newspaper, but also about his own personal problems, is demonstrated by his questions about how the former graphic designer is making a living now - six years after he left the editorial team. This is perhaps proof of something else altogether.

Zuzana Holomková

Michal Komárek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Romano hangos, romská kultura, Romská reprezentace, romské neziskové organizace, Romské občanské sdružení, romští spisovatelé


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