Romani competitive dancer Tomáš Kaluja aids non-Romani foster parents of Romani children in Slovakia with understanding ethnic identity
Public broadcaster Czech Radio has profiled Tomáš Kaluja, a student at the Secondary Medical School in Rožňava, Slovakia. He comes from a Christian Romani family from Veľké Kapušany.
Since childhood, Kaluja's greatest hobby has been dancing. He competes in dance at home in Slovakia as well as abroad.
In addition, Kaluja is one of a group of Romani volunteers who visit Romani children being raised in non-Romani foster families in order to aid with the development of their Romani identity. As a child, when everybody else spent their weekends playing, he dedicated his free time to dance and training to compete.
Kaluja's parents invested everything they have into his hobby. Because of his love for dance, he changed his intended course of study.
He originally wanted to go to the Conservatory in Košice, but today he is studying massage at the Secondary Medical School in Rožňava. After graduation he wants to go to the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava.
"People can't immediately see that I am Romani. If they find out, though, their behavior changes toward me, even if they would never insult me to my face," he says.
Dance coach Julius Švarc has praise for Kaluja as a collaborator: "In his performance category, what he manages to do is rare. He can do both Latin American and standard dance at a high level, which takes a lot of time."
In addition to his dancing and studies, Kaluja is involved in a project called "The Perceptive for the Vulnerable" (Vnímaví pre zraniteľných). Together with four other young Roma, he aids Romani children living in non-Romani foster families and passes on his own experience to them.
The young Roma teach the non-Romani foster parents to understand the cultural and ethnic differences of their Romani children. This makes Romani culture accessible to them so they can motivate their Romani foster children to discover their Romani identity.
"I'm not bothered about whether I'm a dancer, a Rom, a Hungarian, a Slovak. I just perceive myself to be an ordinary person," Kaluja says.
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