Dr Erika Horváthová: Romani people's basic problem in the Czech Republic is low educational achievement, but it's improving
In Erika Horváthová's family education comes first. Both of her parents have degrees, and she herself has just completed her medical degree at Charles University.
Czech Radio's Silvie Čechová met with the new doctor in her native city of Brno to talk about what it was like for Horváthová to be the only Romani woman in the medical department. The interview was broadcast on the Radiožurnál station's program "O Roma Vakeren"; news server Romea.cz is publishing it in translation here
EH: My name is Erika Horváthová, I am from Brno, from a Romani family. My Mom is the director of the Museum of Romani Culture, my Dad works as a heart surgeon in the Center for Cardiovascular and Transplant Surgery in Brno. I have just completed my medical degree. My next aim is to learn to speak German so that I can join my boyfriend in Switzerland.
SČ: Can you recall something from your childhood for us? Did you want to be a doctor like your Dad from an early age, or how was it?
EH: I didn't want to be a doctor then. What I remember is always saying, as a child, that I wanted to be a "Gypsy woman", because I liked the look of the elderly Gypsy women I knew. I then realized that I was not absolutely part of that, it's something archaic that no longer exists today, but I wanted to be a classic Gypsy woman wearing those beautiful skirts.
SČ: Did you dance or sing as a hobby?
EH: I took piano lessons starting in nursery school, and then modern gymastics. I didn't do folk dancing, not at all.
SČ: How did Romipen manifest itself in your family? Do you maintain any traditions?
EH: That's difficult to say. Somebody from outside the family might better assess that, somebody who could figure out if things are different in our family. Certainly we cook Romani food and I guess our family celebrations are more lively than non-Romani ones. We play the guitar, we sing, stuff like that.
SČ: Do you speak Romanes at home?
EH: We do not. However, as a young child I spent a lot of time at my grandma and grandpa's house, and they spoke Romanes. I didn't learn it, though, because we do not speak it in our home. I can understand it, but unfortunately I don't speak it.
SČ: How did you eventually make it to study medicine?
EH: Absolutely spontaneously. In eighth grade I chose some humanities fields, but then I told myself I would go for medicine. Why couldn't I do that too?
SČ: You passed the entrance exams and went to Prague to study. Were you at the Department of Medicine #1?
EH: I was at #3.
SČ: Did you ever feel, during your studies, that somebody had prejduces against you because of your Romani origin?
EH: Not directly. In the first place, I do not absolutely look like a Romani woman, the only way somebody could recognize that might be by my name. People may suspect it, but they don't confront me with it. The only experience of prejudice I ever had was at one party during school when a guy punched me in the face. He alleged that I was taking work away from his parents. I didn't much comprehend what he meant, I basically don't even know who he was, we had never spoken together before, so I don't know who it was.
SČ: You were the only Romani woman in your year - or maybe the only one in the department as a whole?
EH: Certainly, as far as I know. If that had not been the case, I would certainly have found out about it. I believe the basic problem for Romani people is their lower educational achievement. It is difficult for them to be accepted into good secondary schools. They have a problem in primary school with taking a stance toward their studies in the first place, with realizing that through study, one can achieve something in life. In my opinion, that's the main problem. However, it seems to me to be improving, more Romani people might be attending college now. It looks hopeful.
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