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April 24, 2018
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Slovak TV program focuses on Romani girl who studies despite living without electricity

23.2.2017 7:26
Anna Mária, a 13-year-old Romani girl striving to overcome enormous obstacles, was featured on the Slovak television program
Anna Mária, a 13-year-old Romani girl striving to overcome enormous obstacles, was featured on the Slovak television program "Seventh Heaven" in February 2017. (PHOTO: TV JOJ)

The most recent episode of the Slovak program "Seventh Heaven" (Sedmé nebe), which is broadcast by the JOJ television channel, focuses on a 13-year-old Romani girl named Anna Mária who lives in a settlement in eastern Slovakia. Despite the difficulties of living her life in poverty, without electricity or gas, she is working hard on herself and learning four foreign languages.

Her life began to collapse when her mother became seriously ill. "When I was three years old she had her first stroke, then a second one, and blood clots began forming in her brain. Then she got diabetes and it was her her kidneys and pancreas. When she had her third stroke it was ischemic. Her nerve cells were dying. They asked us whether we wanted to put her in a facility. We wanted to take care of her ourselves. It was not nice to have to look at Mom when she could only hum, and didn't know how to speak, and you had to teach her to speak. The things you did with her before you couldn't do anymore," she says during the episode.

After her mother's death, however, another difficult period arrived. Because her father was unable to find work, they fell into the debt trap.

Her father was so desperate he asked the mayor of the village to give him an official certificate stating that the father is not Romani. "You can decide for yourself whether there is racism here or not," Viľo Rozboril, moderator of the program, commented.

Anna Mária's father did not succeed until the 14th employer with whom he interviewed. Because he had failed to pay his bills, however, both his electricity and later his gas were shut off.

His worst imaginings involve foreclosure of their home if he cannot pay off his debts. His daughter would end up in a children's home and he would be on the street.

Anna Mária, however, believes that if she works hard on herself she may be able to achieve something in life. "If I want to achieve something, I must study even in these conditions," she says during the episode, adding that she would like to study at a Spanish college preparatory school.

"I kept explaining to her that the more languages you know, the more of a person you are. She has that ingrained into her. I am very proud of her," her father says during the episode.

"Spanish is what I love. I think that if I learn Spanish properly I might be able to then learn Cantonese, or I might be able to speak Norwegian perfectly one day," the girl says during the "Seventh Heaven" broadcast. "[The Spanish] are hot-blooded like I am," she adds with a smile.

Anna Mária is, according to Rozboril, and example to other children. "Right now hundreds or maybe thousands of children, including Romani children, may be watching this program, and now they may have realized that they, too, can attempt this. It will be worth it if even just one does, or 10 do," the moderator says, adding that he will continue to aid Romani people even if people write to him on Facebook and tell him not to.

The program producers have prepared several big surprises for Anna Mária. If you would like to financially contribute to her family, you can send a donation to this bank account:  SK7309000000005064433000

th, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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