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Roma in Hungarian village terrorized by racist "National Guards"

Gyöngyöspata, 21.3.2011 15:45, (ROMEA)

They march through the village every morning in heavy boots, tight pants, black vests and white shirts. It's not a carnival parade, but a patrol by the nationalist and racist Hungarian National Guard, which has its own vision of what "order" is. This past week the Guard wanted to introduce "national order" in the North Hungarian village of Gyöngyöspata, where they are making life very unpleasant for local Roma.

"In Parliament they told me I'm a disaster tourist," says Gábor Vóna, chair of the opposition Party for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), which is radical, devious, and very far-right. On 15 March the party made the decision in Budapest for the Guard to target the village of Gyöngyöspata. "I don't deny that I was there with them. I both saw and heard a catastrophic situation," Vóna says.

***

The first person this reporter encountered in Gyöngyöspata was Piroska, an approximately 35-year-old woman standing by a house in the center of the Roma quarter. The Roma minority in this village lives in a separate section, in homes that are a bit more shoddy than the houses where the Hungarian majority lives, but there is neither chaos nor squalor there. Conditions overall are fairly orderly, at least as far as the houses and yards are concerned.

Piroska tells me that "THEY" march here every morning, singing their songs, and that at night "THEY" shine floodlights into her windows. This happens even though her family is considered one of the most proper in the village.

Who are "THEY"? They usually wear boots, and some are in camouflage, but the majority are in those black pants, white shirts and a black vest with "For a more beautiful future" inscribed across the back of the uniform. That is the name of their club for "protecting citizens", but in reality they are just ordinary fascist Guards, who have come here to terrorize the Roma population.

The leader of one such group, Tamás Eszes, claims they just wanted to see for themselves what was going on in the village, because they were receiving complaints that the Roma were stealing in large numbers and are impossible to live with. He and his people should have left town by now, but the Hungarian population allegedly demanded they stay. He claims the non-Roma people were glad some soldiers finally showed up.

When I ask Piroska what the local Hungarians think of the Guard, she says her fellow citizens are of two kinds: Those who are glad the Guard is there, and those who have had enough of them. Whether people are going to the store, to the doctor, or waiting for the bus, wherever they go, the "Guardists" are there in large numbers.

"I am not exaggerating: This is a state of apartheid," insists Aladár Horváth, the outraged head of a well-known Hungarian civic association for Roma rights and freedoms. He is surrounded by about 500 people, half of whom are members of various civic associations from Budapest, the other half of whom are local Roma people.

The aim of the gathering is to draw attention to the license being taking by the Guards and to the fact that the police - the only authority with the right to use force when crimes are being committed - is taking no action. To be more precise, the police are active when it is necessary to prosecute Roma people, let's say, for theft - then, they take action - but when an illegal squad of racists has been marching through a village for two weeks, the police do nothing.

The owner of the local bed-and-breakfast, Magdolna Bernáth, invites the activists from the capital to spend a year - or at least three days a week - in the village. If they come for just an hour or two, she says, they will not get a trustworthy image of the real situation in the village of Gyöngyöspata. When asked what the solution is, she has a simple answer: Everyone must work.

If you want to eat, you must make money - that is the local businesswoman's recipe. She doesn't say the "Gypsies" don't want to work, she just says there is a lot of fertile land in the village that would produce for anyone for free, but it continues to lie fallow.

The Roma children in the village, however, are enthusiastically reciting the most revolutionary work of Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi, because at this time of year the whole country marks the anniversary of the 1848 revolution. Everyone in Hungary knows these lines, even Roma children:

"God of Hungarians,we swear unto Thee,We swear unto Thee - that slaves we shallno longer be!"

See the full Radiožurnál report in Czech: Maďarskou vesnici terorizují nacionalistické gardy

Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Radio 1 (Český rozhlas 1 - Radiožurnál), translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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