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October 28, 2021



Together We Can: David Tišer

18.1.2017 6:44
David Tišer lecturing as part of an accredited course in the Czech Republic for educators encountering Romani pupils and their specific sociocultural circumstances. (PHOTO:   Barka Fabiánová)
David Tišer lecturing as part of an accredited course in the Czech Republic for educators encountering Romani pupils and their specific sociocultural circumstances. (PHOTO: Barka Fabiánová) will be publishing interviews on a weekly basis with people who are doing interesting things to aid all of us in getting along here. When we were looking for a name for this column, the motto of this year's International Romani Day, "Together We Can", inspired me.

The organizers and I have decided to call this column "Together We Can" as well. Our first interviewee is David Tišer, who for me is a person whom I greatly appreciate for his humility and his persistence, his good ideas and his willingness to share them.

David is a person who is seeking new paths, and his attention to detail and great humor never stop, not even at moments when others would have long since abandoned the field. In addition to being a brilliant human being, he is also an activist and Romani studies scholar who founded the ARA ART organization, began organizing celebrations of International Romani Day (8 April), ran for the European Parliament, and does many other things.

David opened the doors to the Romani community for me personally. I am very grateful to him for that.

Q: What, in your view, is it necessary to do for us to all live together well?

A: It's clear the current situation is not favorable to that. Change cannot happen overnight. However, what I believe is we must encounter each other in person, live together, make friends, speak with each other, work together. It's terribly difficult to stand up for somebody you don't know at all, somebody you've never met and never spoken with. I cannot ever be a racist because I know so many non-Romani people. I can never say that all Czechs are like this or that, because I immediately imagine [my Czech friends] Líza, Veronika, Lukáš, Petr, and others. It is much easier for those who don't know anybody Romani at all to say Romani people are like this or like that. That's the key to change. It's not enough to live next door to one another - we must live together. There are also many subjects we could raise together that concern both non-Roma and Roma.

Q: When you say there are many matters that need to be raised, what comes to mind for you right now?

A: So many - culture in general, education, housing, trafficking in poverty. Basically, it frequently happens to me that I meet people who would like to aid others, but who just don't know how, where to begin, they don't know these people and their stories, they don't know anything about it, and because there are so many problems, people don't even know where their aid would be most necessary.

Q: Anybody in particular?

A: Right now I'm thinking about the International Romani Day commemorations we are preparing. This year we want to feature Czech-Roma duets. One aspect will be the duet itself, and another will indicate the singers' positions on these issues. That's just what comes to mind right now because that's what I'm working on, because the day is in April. Naturally, however, there are more such opportuntities.

Q: Would the singers you contacted have been willing to do something like that before, but it never occurred to them?

A: We'll see if they'll be glad, but we have to attempt it. If we keep telling ourselves it won't work, it actually won't. However, if we have a positive attitude, then somebody can always be found.

Q: Do you have any experience with something similar succeeding in the past?

A: Sure, in many areas - for example, we contacted [Czech author] Irena Obermannová to ask whether she might do a workshop for Romani authors, and when I called her, she was really happy - she said she had been waiting for exactly that, she just didn't know how to do it. Now we are launching a year of collaboration with her and she and Romani women are going to create a book. One more thing is important - on the one hand I say we must collaborate with non-Roma, it won't work otherwise, we are a minority and we need them, things will go better with them involved. On the other hand, however - and this is very important - the gadje working in this area must not forget that without Romani people things won't work either, they cannot do things without us, witnout having Romani people on the team. That does not mean that anybody Romani is automatically a professional. However, if I am persistent, and if I want to find a Romani professional, I will find one. Once that happens, the argument that including Roma is impossible because they are unqualified no longer works. Because then, when those very same people start looking for professionals who are gay, or professionals who are women, they will know how to find them, and it will not seem discriminatory to them to do so. For example, I am a person who does not use a wheelchair, and I cannot imagine defending the rights of wheelchair users without a wheelchair user on the team. It just would not be right.

Q: Do you have any dreams? If you had a magic wand, what would you conjure up?

A: My motto is that I am dreaming of a society in which we all can achieve fulfillment. If I had a magic wand, then there would be no antigypsyism, ghettos, racism or segregated schools. Each of us could achieve self-realization in his or her own way. I don't have a magic wand, but something I can do even without one is express my gratitude. The positive things here are frequently not discussed, one tends to criticize and curse. That's why I thank everybody who is doing his or her best to fulfill my motto. It's brilliant that each of us uses different methods, each of us focusing on a slightly different subject, to achieve that. I think that is good and that diversity is necessary even in our little fish pond here. That's what we do a great deal of - we collaborate a lot with others, other nonprofits and other people. We are stronger that way, because we're not alone. Other people can give you energy too.

Dana Moree, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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