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September 22, 2019
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Czech town hires Romani lifeguards, swimmers respond positively - especially Romanes speakers

5.7.2019 8:47
Robert Šenki, a lifeguard from the Romani community who works at the Brná Thermal Pool in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic. (2019). (Collage:  Romea.cz)
Robert Šenki, a lifeguard from the Romani community who works at the Brná Thermal Pool in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic. (2019). (Collage: Romea.cz)

The Brná Thermal Pool in the Czech town of Ústí nad Labem has employed several Romani people as attendants and lifeguards, and according to Martina Mata, director of the Municipal Services of Ústí nad Labem, which operates the facility, visitors are responding very positively to the Romani staff. Last summer conflicts happened at several different swimming facilities between non-Romani and Romani swimmers around the country.

The Brná facility had to deal with deceptive reports last year alleging that a Romani boy had defecated in the pool. Mata said the Romani staffers were not even specifically recruited by the city.

"They all applied by themselves to the advertisement we posted to social media, on public transportation, at the university and at the Labor Office. They all underwent the standard selection procedure," he told Romea.cz.

"These people want to work. A total of two male Romani lifeguards, one female Romani lifeguard and an attendant are working at the Brná Thermal Pool - the attendant does some cleaning as necessary and other small jobs," Mata said.

"We are in the process of hiring a Romani gardener," the director said, adding that the cooperation with the Romani employees is absolutely exemplary and to everybody's satisfaction. "We really welcome this cooperation, it contributes to better morale among those who visit the pool."

"These employees of ours are able to speak in Romanes, among other skills, which means it is easier for them to communicate with some visitors and explain things to them. It used to happen that the Romani patrons did not understand our previous staffers," the director said.

"Much more effective community relations have now been provided for," Mata told Romea.cz. Robert Šenki, one of the Romani lifeguards, confirms Mata's claims.

By speaking Romanes, Šenki was recently able to calm down a patron who was being too loud. "Speaking Czech to [the swimmer] did not work, but once we began speaking Romanes with him, he quickly calmed down and realized that he should not be behaving like that," the lifeguard told Romea.cz.

"I'm getting more respect from both the Czech and the Romani visitors. My colleagues and I are doing our best to make the pool pleasant and safe," Šenki said.

"Romani people respond much better to admonishments or warnings when somebody from their own community delivers them," the lifeguard said, emphasizing that his treatment of Czech visitors has exactly the same results as his treatment of the Romani ones. Mata confirmed this, saying, "The reactions of the visitors are positive across the board, the Romani staffers are being received without any problems."

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Léto, Soužití, Ústí nad Labem, Zaměstnanost



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