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August 15, 2018
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Marie Siváková: Reaction of an ordinary Roma/Czech woman to President's allegation that 90 % of "inadaptables" are Romani

14.11.2017 9:33
Marie Siváková
Marie Siváková

"Where is my homeland?" is the opening refrain of the national anthem of the Czech Republic. I, too, am asking: Am I able to consider the Czech lands my home?

This country where a certain part of the majority society hates me, considers me a parasite and "inadaptable"? Well yes, naturally. I am at home here!

Am I, to some people, an "inadaptable" pest, a weed? I am to those who never answer me when I greet them in the elevator, to those who stomp on my foot when we're on the bus together and don't apologize, to those who do not know how to behave, who don't work themselves, who couldn't measure up to me in many ways and who, just because they have light-colored eyes and hair, condemn me for my brown ones.

Hmm... people like that cannot convince me that this is not my home. I was born here, I have lifelong friends here from my high school days.

My initials have been carved into a tree trunk here for 20 years, I pay taxes, I am a paid member of the Association of Parents and Friends of the School, I clean up after my dog when I walk him because I want to live in a clean environment. Imagine, I even have a Lítačka transport card and a library card, and please note that I paid for them with my own money.

Good God, where else am I, if not at home?! I am not any different to anybody else, I'm not "the decent one", I am not playing at being a gadji [non-Roma] - this is just how Romani people live.

I am just as much as Romani woman as I am a Czech one. The fact that some Czechs have "tarred all Gypsies with the same brush" because they may have had a Romani neighbor once who was a cretin is just testimony to the fact that they themselves do not have their heads on straight.

I am a member of a so-called "visible minority" in this country - we're the ones who stand out, we're the ones under the microscope. Any time we put a foot wrong it will not be excused, it's as if everybody else is just waiting for some "Gypsy" to make a wrong move so they can all point the finger at us, so they can throw stones at us - stones they must take care to avoid being targeted by themselves.

According to our President, among the "inadaptables", 90 % are Romani. Damn, I don't know here he gets those statistics, but I guess it must be from some ghetto where the majority society forced all of the socially vulnerable Romani people to live together so the town could rest easy.

In my world, I, my partner, my Mom, my two brothers, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law and both my sisters-in-law all work. My father, who is now retired, draws a pension that is higher tham many of his white friends - because he worked longer than they did.

Those are just the people from my immediate surroundings - I am not counting the many other relatives, friends and acquaintances of mine who work and who are Romani. You will certainly comprehend, therefore, that I cannot quietly agree with the President's allegations.

I will not be bothered, though, by the fact that some individuals condemn me at first sight, that they believe the hoaxes, the outcry on TV, and that now they believe what the President has said. This is my home, and I live here in such a way that both I and my family are doing well and there is nothing of which we should be ashamed.

I do not let racism anywhere near me. I do not surround myself with people who begrudge me for being dark because there is nothing else about me with which they could find fault.

I will never wrack my brains over how to convince racists and xenophobes to change their opinions. If an ordinary, thinking Romani person cannot convince somebody that people are all different, and that Romani people are not just "inadaptables", then nothing will ever convince them. 

Marie Siváková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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