Czech Republic: Seven-year anniversary of neo-Nazi arson attack on Romani family home in Vítkov
Seven years ago, during the late night hours of 18 April and the early morning hours of 19 April 2009, four neo-Nazis threw Molotov cocktails into a single-family home in the town of Vítkov (Opava district), where a Romani family was living. During the subsequent blaze three people were injured, including the family's youngest daughter, Natálka, who suffered burns over 80 % of her body before she was even two years old.
Natálka's grandmother saw the assailants. She was standing right by the kitchen window when a black car drove up to the house and several people jumped out of it.
Speaking immediately after the attack in 2009, the grandmother said the attackers began throwing Molotov cocktails. "They were young guys and they were shouting: 'You're going to burn alive, Gypsies'!" she said.
"At ten minutes to midnight a doctor called us from the hospice in Vítkov to say a 27-year-old woman with a two-year-old girl had just run into their facility. The child had serious second to third-degree burns over more than 80 % of her body and had inhaled smoke," Lukáš Humpl, a spokesperson for the ambulance services, described the situation in 2009 just after the attack.
The little girl's body had been almost entirely affected. Prior to the arrival of the helicopter to evacuate her, the doctor induced artificial sleep, gave the child the medicines she needed, and connected her to artificial respiration.
Politicians quickly condemned the attack
Czech politicians reacted quickly to the arson. "I am seriously disturbed by the growth of extremism in the Czech Republic, the most dangerous manifestations of which are such direct assaults on people's health and lives," said Czech Prime Minister Topolánek on 19 April 2009 in a statement calling on the cabinet to review the situation of extremism.
The attack was also condemned by then-President Václav Klaus. "I recently honored the memory of Jan Zajíc in the town of Vítkov and the meeting with the nice local people there was a great experience. That makes me all the more aghast at the brutal, repugnant crime that has happened there now. What kind of people want to set a young child on fire? This deranged act must be investigated and severely punished," he said.
Subsequently, however, Klaus said he did not like the length of the sentences ultimately handed down against the racist arsonists, finding them too harsh. The then-Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb decided immediately after the attack to give the afflicted family CZK 100 000 (EUR 3 700) of his own money as an act of solidarity.
Trial of the racists
The trial of the racists began on 11 May 2010. Neo-Nazis Václav Cojocaru, Jaromír Lukeš, Ivo Müller and David Vaculík were charged with being accomplices to attempted murder and property damage.
According to the indictment, the defendants had committed behavior intended to result in the deaths of other people. The motivation for this behavior was the victims' ethnicity.
The attack was also said to have been performed to honor the 120th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. The judgment was handed down on 20 October 2010 and all of the defendants were found guilty of all of the charges.
Three of them received 22-year sentences, while Cojocaru, who had no previous criminal record, received a 20-year sentence, and all were required to pay compensation. They all immediately appealed and the appeals court later reduced Müller's sentence by two years because he had collaborated with detectives and expressed regret.
22 euros a month
Natálka's family is now living in the town of Budišov nad Budišovkou. They have bought a house there using the CZK 540 000 (EUR 20 000) raised for them by charity.
Today Natálka is almost nine years old and continues to visit various hospitals for treatment. Her mother walks her to school every day, where the girl has an assistant.
"Her fellow pupils, fortunately, have accepted her quite well, they no longer perceive the burn marks on her face or the missing three fingers on her right hand as something odd," Anna Siváková, Natálka's mother, told the magazine TÝDEN.
Natálka has three older sisters who fortunately did not suffer any physical injuries during the 2009 attack. Kristýna, now 17, goes to high school in Ostrava and is considering applying to college, while Kornelie, now 16, is apprenticing to become a food server.
The four neo-Nazis convicted of this crime are supposed to be paying the family a large amount of compensation. So far they have only been sending about CZK 600 (EUR 22) a month total to the family's bank account.
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