Michal Mižigár: What democracy brought us Romani people in the Czech Republic in the 1990s
In the Czech Republic of the 1990s, postcommunist democracy brought us Romani people opportunities for self-determination as a national minority, the publication of books and magazines in the Romanes language, and many other activities. Unfortunately, everything has its pros and cons.
Democracy also brought Romani people things they never anticipated. Being excluded from society, falling into poverty, even fearing for their lives.
I spent my own childhood in those days with my grandfather and grandmother, growing up on Kollárova Street. My grandparents lived around the corner from the Danihel family, and in the 1990s, poor Tibor Danihel was killed by skinheads in the Otava river that flows through the town of Písek on the day before what would have been his 18th birthday.
Back then my grandparents lived in an apartment on the first floor. I remember skinheads marching down our street in broad daylight and all of us lying flat on the floor so they wouldn't see us through the windows, then slowly escaping up to my great-grandmother's apartment on the third floor.
I recall saying to my grandmother recently, "Grandma, I once had a dream that we were walking along Kollárova Street together, and you had just bought potatoes in those little paper sacks they used to use, and as we approached our building, the skinheads began chasing us. You grabbed my hand, we began running, and that little sack of potatoes tore open and the potatoes fell all over the sidewalk..."
My grandmother just looked at me and said: "That was no dream. That really happened."
Even though I was just a child back then, I will always remember that the 1990s in the Czech Republic were actually very harsh for us Roma. There was a big depression in the community.
Our Romani people formed their own security patrols, they had to protect themselves on their own. I recall my schoolteachers, up until I was in the fourth grade (roughly until the year 2000) writing notes for us Romani children to take home to our parents warning them not to bring us to school the next day because they didn't want anything bad to happen to us on the way there - and assuring them that they would excuse the absence.
I have the feeling that it bothered nobody at all that several Romani people were murdered during that time in this country. The Czech justice system very often failed to punish the perpetrators, or if these crimes did manage to be recognized as murders, their racial motivation was ignored.
The boys got away with it until the year 2009, when Natálka Siváková, who was just two years old, paid for their violence by suffering burns over 80 % of her body. Punishments were indeed handed down for that crime, and they were proper ones.
I don't believe it's necessary for us to play at being big Romani nationalists, or to pretend to be the big Romani man. However, each Romani person should endeavor, according to his or her capacity, to bring antigypsyism or antitziganism into the broader public discussion in all areas of life, from activism for equal rights to working in academia.
- European experts say hatred online endangers democracy, nonprofits are monitoring social media response to it
- Hate Killer 3000! campaign reminds bystanders in the Czech Republic how to stand up to hate
- Czech senior citizen threatens arson against Romani neighbors for playing loud music
- Czech gunman who murdered Romani man in his own vehicle will serve 10 years
- PHOTO GALLERY: Demonstration by the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement and those counter-protesting it
- Czech Republic: 10th anniversary of arson attack against Romani family by ultra-right
- Impoverished Roma are subjected to blackmail and slave wages, Czech mayor blames their poor negotiation skills
- Czech court conditionally suspends prosecution of man who threatened to kill Romani celebrity
- Center-right MP tells the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" party they are "Czech Nazis"
- Commentary: Czech Social Democrats have to choose between democracy and racism
- Ten years after the Czech neo-Nazi arson attack on her Romani family, Natálka still suffers from nightmares and pain
- British newspaper The Guardian: Debt collection industry is endangering Czech democracy
- Czech Supreme Court to review verdict in shooting murder of Romani man in Chomutov
- Czech court fines seven racists for approving of the murder of a Romani man, but one is appealing - for the publicity
- Czech Television launches new detective serial, "Lynch", about the murder of a young Romani man
- Czech convicted of racially-motivated murder of Romani man is running for mayor
- Czech appeals court reduces sentence for murder of Romani man to seven years, prosecutor calls it disproportionate, inhumane and unjust
- Czech Constitutional Court rejects complaint from neo-Nazi convicted of 2012 arson
- Roma Holocaust Memorial Day marks the Nazi murder of Roma and Sinti at Auschwitz on 2-3 August 1944
- Michal Mižigár: So Romani history will not be lost
- Czech students walk out of school to defend democracy, protest denial of Romani Holocaust
- Czech prosecutor indicts shooter for murder, refutes police report that he was responding to victim driving into people
- Czech Green Party co-chair wants Interior Ministry to dissolve the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" Movement
- Czech Republic: Benefit concert for Romani child who survived antigypsyist arson in 2009
- Czech party functionary who called for murder of gays, Jews and Roma will no longer assist MP
- Crime report filed after Czech politician calls for murder of minorities
- Czech MP and educator "understands" why some are calling for murder of first-graders
- Czech racists threaten online to kill children because they are of Arab and Romani origin
- Czech Police report low turnout for ultra-right event featuring speaker convicted of the racially-motivated murder of a Romani man
- Chair of Prague DSSS celebrates ultra-right terrorist murdering woman in USA
- Czech annual report on extremism for 2016: Neo-Nazis leaving the DSSS for National Democracy
- Secretary General of the Council of Europe warns its 47 member states against limiting democracy
- Eight years since arson attack on Romani family in Czech town, perpetrators slow to pay compensation
- Analysis: The 2016 arson attack on Klinika Social Center - are the Czech Police incompetent, or omniscient?
- Michal Mižigár: Dža Devleha, Schapiro!
- Analysis: "Inadaptables get free apartments" - the Czech lie that kills
- Michal Mižigár: Inclusion is an opportunity for a better life
- Commentary: Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day in the Czech Republic after still-unexplained death of Romani man
- Czech Police given suspended sentences along with civilian who beat Romani youth and threatened to kill him
- T-shirt reading "WE KILL THE GYPSIES" for sale online by Zazzle
- Czech Police now agree that "a gallows has no place in a democracy"
- Commentary: Actually, the Czech Police do not "know" that a gallows has no place in a democracy
- Czech Interior Minister says police should know a gallows has no place in a democracy
- Czech NATO soldier charged with fraud, promoting Nazism was convicted of similar charge in 1990s
- Interview with activist Míra Brož: "In a real democracy, teachers earn more than police"
- US researchers warn democracy is weakening in post-communist countries
- Czech riot police intervene against violent anti-COVID measure demonstrators
- New volunteer civil society member of Czech Govt Roma Council says it does not communicate with the Romani public enough
- Slovak media and NGOs welcome conviction of right-wing extremist
- Facebook will delete posts denying or distorting the Holocaust, ignorance of it among youth one reason
- Slovak politician gets 4 months and 4 years for establishing a movement to suppress human rights, he appeals
- Portugueuse police ordered to remove racist tattoos
- Czech poll finds 30 % of the public does not want Romani children in mainstream classes and does want them to be segregated
- Czech Interior Ministry: Ultranationalist party attempted to spark anti-Romani sentiment, extremists and xenophobes spread disinformation about COVID-19
- Czech court upholds suspended sentence for man who called for non-white first-graders to be gassed to death
- Czech Senate election: Romani candidate says right-wing extremists could take power unless people vote for their competitors
- Commentary: What are the Romani candidates running for the fascists in the Czech Republic thinking?
- Czech court sentences perpetrator to five years for racist assault on Romani man, both defense and prosecution considering appeal