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July 6, 2022



Patrik Banga: Here we go! Some people even envy the Ukrainians their bombed-out houses!

8.3.2022 15:56
Patrik Banga (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)
Patrik Banga (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

If you want to find out anything at all, just ask about it on Facebook - you can ask about anything there. Until recently, Czech-language Facebook was full of wannabe experts on vaccination, evolutionary biology and physicians. 

Currently it is full of wannabe experts on the crisis of migration. I kid you not.

After several years of protests against the massive migrations by Muslim refugees, the time for solidarity with refugees has finally arrived. The solidarity being shown is actually extraordinary. 

Most of the Czech nation sympathizes with the Ukrainians. However, there are some people here who view this situation absolutely differently.

These believe the Ukrainians are "Fascists", that they are getting everything for free here at our expense, and that because of them, we will all be out of work. I feel the need to quote these forecasters verbatim:  "We will pay high rents for them."

Unfortunately, I'm not joking. In recent days I have read a great deal of disinformation on social media, all of which looks like it came from Aeronet or some other (by now banned) website. 

I have to give credit to the diligence of these closed pro-Russian websites whose contributors have actually done a hell of a job getting their stuff out. One reads in their output that the Ukrainians are "Fascists" who murder Romani people (most of the time followed by the allegation that Putin is well-intentioned). 

One can also read that the Ukrainians are bombing themselves (!) in order to awaken the pity of the West. Ultimately, one can also learn from this stuff that the Ukrainians have been promised apartments, cars and mobile phones for free and that they will take our jobs.

I tell myself that in the Internet age it should no longer be possible for so many people to parrot disinformation like this. However, just as it was with COVID-19, such propaganda about the current conflict in Ukraine is also working. 

Yes, some Ukrainians actually do believe in Fascism, and some murder Romani people. Some Russians are also Fascists, and some murder Romani people. 

Some Americans are Fascists too, and some murder Black people. Some Czechs have committed racially motivated murder and done prison time for it here, too. 

For example, Vlastimil Pechanec, who murdered Ota Absolon, a Romani man - but that didn't stop some other Roma from joining him at a demonstration against the Government's measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Does that mean all Romani people here support this Fascist murderer, though? 

Probably not. All the same, some of us are able to apply collective guilt in one fell swoop and label all Ukrainians "Fascists". 

There is a war underway right now in Ukraine and people are fleeing who have nowhere to go. If one sees the images of terrified children and women, then one has the tendency to do something for them, to help somehow. 

Instead of helping, though, some of us here are sharing messages like this: "I can already see what it will be like here in the Czech Republic. It will be 80 % Ukrainian, and those of us who were born here and live here. We will have no jobs because of them. We will pay rent for them, high electric bills, etc. Slowly but surely they will be kissing the Ukrainians' asses. The Czech Republic is the same as Ukraine, Slovakia, nothing but Fascists and racists."

You would be amazed at how many similar posts I have seen on Czech-language social media - it's as if some people envy the Ukrainians the fact that somebody has shot up their homes and expelled them from their own country. Some primitives have even gone so far as to spread rumors on Facebook that the Ukrainians are getting apartments and cars here for free. 

Other primitives are angry that no apartments are being given to them for free. I'd like to say to the authors of such bunk (and I have done so) that they should move to Ukraine and spend a few weeks being bombed there - I can guarantee they would flee, too. 

In such a situation, the destination wouldn't matter. What can I say - some of us are media illiterates. 

Such people read information and don't know how to assess it. If they read that the Czech state is providing Ukrainians with "accommodation", their assessment is that Ukrainians are being "given apartments". 

The truth is something else entirely. What the Ukrainians are being given here is the status of being tolerated. 

That means they can remain here for as long as there is a shooting war underway in their home country. Yes, apparently they will be working here - in exactly the same way they have been working for the last 20 years. 

All one has to do is look at Czech hospitals. The vast majority of those working there are Ukrainian women. 

That's not to mention the Czech construction industry, work that will now be quite difficult to implement if most of the men from Ukraine are fighting in the war. I have no idea who it is that will be "taking jobs away" from the rest of us here. 

If a Romani woman here is complaining that a Ukrainian woman will be "taking her job" here, that just seems intrinsically like a joke to me. There should be no need to explain that for any employer it is far easier to hire a Czech Romani woman than a Ukrainian woman. 

The Czech citizen will not need a visa or a work permit. The Czech citizen is a member of the European Union and can work in any EU Member State. 

The Czech citizen lives in Central European conditions that are stable, nobody is throwing clusterbombs at her here. In other words, any Czech Romani woman here is incomparably better off today than any Ukrainian woman. 

Yet our mouths are full of complaints about how the Czech state does not aid Romani people here. The state doesn't help our own citizens who are Roma, and it doesn't help the Roma who are currently crossing the borders. 

How many Czech Romani people, though, have gone to the train station to bring a Romani refugee family from Ukraine home like the gadje [non-Roma] are doing right now? Where's all that baloney about paťiv [honor], about how Romani people have to aid each other?

All honor goes to those who are driving to the Ukrainian border to render assistance (and I know there a lot of you). All honor goes to those who are driving the refugees to safety. 

Thanks also go to those who are reporting about this situation. However, those who are loudest on Facebook mostly just know how to criticize. 

The vast majority of them will never donate even the smallest amount of money so their western living standards won't take a hit. What they're mainly all doing is blabbing about Romani people being refused at the borders or not getting aid at the main train station. 

We are Roma in the 21st century. It should be absolutely all the same to us whether a refugee is a gadjo or a Rom. 

These are people who need our aid, and God knows whether we won't be needing assistance from strangers ourselves one day. Making distinctions among these refugees just shows we have not yet made progress in our perception of democracy. 

Once I make it to a border crossing, it will be all the same to me whether I am bringing back a gadjo or a Rom. I will drive to safety the first children and mothers I see. 

If Romani refugees are being ignored (and I know that such things have happened at the borders), then that shows absolutely the same immaturity in those countries as I am now criticizing here in the Czech Republic. On the other hand, all of the loudmouths who speak of nothing but discrimination and racism here are finding even more room for themselves now. 

You want paťiv? Get yourself together, take a vehicle to the border, and bring Romani people to safety yourself. 

Show what we call Rom Romeha. There are 250 000 of us Roma here in the Czech Republic. 

If we each donated CZK 1 000 [EUR 40], we could send enough buses to rescue all the Romani Ukrainians at once. We could do it effectively, quickly, and safely. 

I'll be straight with you all, though. That's never going to happen. 

I experienced this same situation in 1999. In the Konik refugee camp there were 25 000 Romani refugees from Kosovo who had nothing to eat and whose children were dying in the freezing temperatures. 

When I came back to the Czech Republic and began asking for donations of clothing, food and money that we could transport by truck, I attempted to collect donations from Romani people here. The first Romani person to laugh in my face was the head of what was then the best-known media organization focusing on the Roma. 

That situation hasn't changed. Instead of considering how to aid people in need, we complain that they will take our jobs. 

God forbid we might have to flee to Germany some day. If so, I'd have to hope the Germans would receive us far better than some of us are currently receiving the Ukrainians.

Patrik Banga, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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