EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Romani police officer originally from Czech Republic becomes a Member of the British Empire
On 29 October, police officer Petr Torák received the honor of being appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) from the UK Home Office. The high civilian honor was awarded to him by Queen Elizabeth II for his community work in the town of Peterborough.
"I am very proud of the fact that I am one of just a few Czechs to ever receive this honor and certainly the first Romani man to whom it has been given," Torák told news server Romea.cz upon learning the news earlier this year. Torák emigrated with his family from the Czech Republic to the UK in May 1999 after neo-Nazis attacked them.
He had been studying at a private law academy in the Czech Republic. He wanted to continue his studies and had applied to two colleges.
One school accepted him and he was halfway through the tests for the Police Academy when neo-Nazis beat up his mother and then Torák himself. After moving to England he worked in fast food restaurants and at various manual labor jobs until he was able to work his way up to join the police.
Today he works as a police officer in Peterborough, which is located about 120 kilometers north of London. In addition to working on regular criminal cases, he aids his British colleagues in communicating with the Romani community.
"It's continuous advice and support by telephone. I help people, whether it's to do with a car, housing, immigration laws or other matters, so it's actually service from A to Z. It's a service not just to the Romani community, but to the Czech and Slovak community," he said in an interview with Czech Radio.
When a Rom can feel like a human being
Torák believes the award of this high honor will aid him in his other projects, such as launching an online radio station for Czech and Slovak speakers in the UK. Primarily he hopes it will have a positive impact on how Romani people are perceived in the Czech Republic.
"I firmly hope that Czech society will realize that when Romani people are giving the chance to apply themselves, most of them take advantage of it and become a great benefit to all of society. The majority society must stop tarring all the Roma with one brush and judging them by the individuals who perpetrate crimes or who do not live according to social norms. I personally know many capable, educated Romani people who are in business or who work for the state, but because of social prejudice these people do not publicly identify as Roma," Torák told news server Romea.cz.
"That is where I see a big difference between the Czech Republic and Great Britain, where society judges a person according to his skills, not according to skin color, sexuality or physical disability. A Rom, like people from other minority groups, feels like a human being here, one who can be proud of being a Rom. When Romani people do not have to grapple with racism and hatred every day, whether in their direct contact with others or just from the media and the mouths of politicians, then they can concentrate on living a full-fledged life and contribute to the growth of the entire society," the MBE honoree said.
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