Romani woman with Harvard PhD calls Czech racist landlord over his antigypsyist advertisement
A very strange classified advertisement about an apartment for lease has been posted to Czech-language social media and Jiří Mária Sieber, an occasional politician, film extra, real estate broker and racist, is its author. "This apartment is for decent tenants. The unit is inappropriate for graduates of Harvard University and Louis Vuitton models," the classified ad states.
Petra Gelbart, a Czech Romani woman with a doctorate from Harvard who lives with her family in New York, called to ask what the landlord meant by that reference and also made a video of her side of their two-and-a-half minute conversation. She ascertained that Sieber had chosen those words to refer to "all Cikáni" and that it was exactly he who posted the obviously discriminatory ad.
"Don't you get it? It's absolutely clear. All Cikáni post to their Facebook pages that they have graduated from Harvard University and that they are Louis Vuitton models, and because that's not true, I don't want people like that," Sieber explained to the surprised Gelbart, who then asked him whether she could lease the apartment even though she actually does a doctorate from Harvard in musicology.
"I am a Romani woman, though," Gelbart told him. "Then that's even worse," Sieber responded and went on to explain what he believes the word "Rom" refers to.
Speaking to news server Romea.cz about the conversation, Gelbart said: "The fact that Romani people are so coarsely, consistently discriminated against in the area of housing is known to just about anybody who personally knows a Romani family. This subject is even more pressing, at least for me, in the middle of this pandemic."
"One of the reasons why thousands of people have already died of coronavirus in my neighborhood here in New York is that, according to several analyses, immigrants with low incomes cannot afford the kind of housing that would give them enough space to self-isolate in. When I saw this discriminatory classified ad on Facebook about an apartment in Most, it may have provoked me more than at any other time, and I decided to give this gentleman a taste of his own medicine," she told Romea.cz.
"My children and I visited Most for the first time last year, and the first thing that impressed me about the experience, although it decidedly did not surprise me, was that the entire Romani neighborhood we visited was in no way similar to the classic photos of 'Roma from Most' that are always taken in the locales that look the worst. Everywhere we went was clean," Gelbart said.
"What the landlord said to me, absolutely without any shame, about that apartment during our phone call is so absurd that it may not be worth discussing his pseudo-arguments. I wanted to demonstrate to my children that the best thing to do is to laugh at such people," Gelbart said.
"However, in reality I'm not laughing. When will the governments in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and other countries address the fact that this is why a Romani person has scant chance of leasing housing on the open market?" Gelbart asked.
Jiří Mária Sieber is a famous racist character from northern Bohemia. In the past he has disseminated several anti-Romani hoaxes, and in 2019 he supported the local political faction connected to the Krušnohor housing cooperative, Mostečané Mostu ("Mosters for Most"), which campaigned on the idea of wanting to build a "village for the riff-raff".
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