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August 16, 2022



HOAX: Romani actor allegedly "forbidden" by NGO to use the word "gypsy"

9.2.2019 9:16
HOAX: ROMEA "forbids" the actor Zdeněk Godla to use the word "gypsy"

A rumor is being spread that ROMEA is allegedly a powerful organization with the potential to influence legislation that has forbidden the use of the word "gypsy" in the Czech Republic. What is the actual story?

When a well-liked actor from the sitcom "Most!" posted an apology to his Facebook profile for having used the expression "cigan" (gypsy) in an interview with news server (which transcribed the term as the even more insulting word "cikán"), he apparently did not suspect what would happen. Those of us who work at ROMEA had no idea either.

News server was the first to break the news of the actor's apology. The reaction to our "scoop" was not what we hoped.

A wave of criticism has poured down on the organization, accusing us of allegedly forcing the actor, Zdeněk Godla, to apologize. Nobody is much concerned about the minor detail that nobody from ROMEA ever asked him to apologize and that we ourselves, after his Facebook post was published, asked him what had led him to apologize.

To be absolutely clear, ROMEA did not force Mr Godla to do anything, never called upon him to do anything, and never forbade him to use the word "gypsy". Despite this fact, the Internet and online social networks have waved their magic wand and from all corners of the televised and virtual worlds - and more recently even from ordinary personal contacts - the horrified question is being asked: Why did ROMEA "forbid" Godla to use the word "gypsy"?

People are calling in and writing to our organization asking how we could dare do such a thing. On 6 February it was even raised on the nationally-televised "Show Jana Krause", where Godla was a guest.

"You said it ['gypsy'] and they explained to you - that ROMEA or whatever that organization of yours is called - that it's no good," the host said to Godla. The actor responded as follows:  "Well, people explained it to me... I apologized on Facebook for having never learned that much about our history - for using that term out of ignorance, but it's easier for me to use than 'Rom'. People have been calling me "Gypsy" [Cigán] all my life, so I got used to it. Now I'm supposed to get used to 'Rom'."

Discussion about the use of the [Czech-language] terms Rom – Cigán – Cikán (or "cikán") has long been underway and has been tempestuous from time to time. News server re-posted an article from five years ago by Lukáš Houdek called Rom vs. "Gypsy", where the reasons for these differences of opinion are explained.

We recommend that article to everybody who believes themselves an expert on this subject, especially those posting to Internet discussions. Once again, to reiterate:  Nowhere in that article does it say that the word "gypsy" must never be spoken.

In this context we are recalling the mini-scandal from 2010 when there was a debate about a children's story by the Czech author Lada where the word "Gypsy" is also used. When an attempt was made to "delete" the expression from future reprints of that work, it was the ROMEA organization who objected strongly to such efforts.


After we shared an earlier version of this article on the ROMEA organization's Facebook page, a person who had written a letter to Godla about his use of the word "gypsy", prior to the actor deciding to apologize, contacted us separately. The letter-writer was also not in a position to "force" Godla to apologize or to "forbid" him to use the word "gypsy" ("cikán").

As Godla has explained, this person wrote a letter to Godla expressing his own opinion about the use of the word "gypsy". No activists pressured the actor - Godla received this letter from a "normal Rom", as the letter-writer called himself.

News server is publishing the full text of the letter sent to Mr Godla here in full translation. It was after receiving this communication that Godla decided to apologize.


Hey Zdeněk,

I want to first introduce myself, I am a normal Rom heading towards 50 so I'm almost as old or as young as you. I'm a big fan of yours and I like your acting, really, after a long time I am enjoying something and there's something to watch and your performance is super. It's like seeing the guys here in Teplice... but why am I writing to you? I read some interviews you have given to different media outlets and what I personally really regret is that you have resigned yourself to what the gadje [non-Roma] call us. Please, don't take this as if I want to tell you what to do, or that I think I'm smarter than you, I just want you to think a bit about what I am going to say, that's all! Since the [1989] revolution I have been doing my best to inform all Romani people of the fact that the word "gypsy" was invented by the gadje to refer to us. They did not know what we call ourselves. "ME SOM ROM" (I am a Rom) - never "Me som cikan!" (I am a gypsy). In our language, the word "gypsy" does not exist. All young Romani people should know that the Nazis, who forced our people into the concentration camps, forbade us to call ourselves "Roma" and called us "rZigeuner" [Gypsy]. The Communists forbade us to speak Romanes and to call ourselves ROMA - they called us "citizens of gypsy origin". In the year 1971, in London, the Romani elite, educated Roma from all over the World, rose up and made everybody aware that WE ARE NOT GYPSIES BUT ROMA! AMEN SAM ROMA! proud to be a Romani man - or Romani woman - and aware that the denomination of "gypsy" was invented by the gadje, the non-Roma, and that the gadje may consider all Roma "gypsies", but the Roma call themselves Roma and will always be proud ROMANI MEN/WOMEN with our heads held high!! If a Rom calls himself a "gypsy", it means he does not know the history of his own nation and basically is just slavishly adopting the term of address that the gadje have forcibly blasted into our minds. MAYBE YOU WILL SAY TO YOURSELF "MANGE JEK" BUT THAT IS NOT HOW IT IS. DO NOT BE ANGRY WITH ME, I HOPE YOU ARE NOT INSULTED, I WISH YOU A LOT OF HAPPINESS, HEALTH AND SUCCESS.

redakce, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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