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Slovakia: Residents demand town take care of "whites" only, not Romani residents

Podsadok ve Staré Ľubovni, Slovakia, 27.11.2011 2:05, (ROMEA)

The Romani Press Agency (Romská tlačová agentura - RTA) in Slovakia reports that non-Romani residents of the Podsadok quarter in the town of Stará Ľubovňa have sent an open letter to the town leadership expressing their bitterness over activities undertaken to address the situation of local Romani residents. The letter was sent in response to the town's decision to purchase a building in Podsadok to serve as a school for local Romani children. The total population of the town is 16 400, 2 000 of whom are of Romani origin.

The town council approved the purchase of the EUR 16 600 property in October. Mayor Michal Biganič told the RTA the building will be run by the Private Technical High School (Soukromá střední odborná škola) in Kežmark and will make it possible for Romani children who have not completed their elementary educations to acquire skills as masons and seamstresses.

Some non-Romani residents of Podsadok disagree with the town's position, writing the following in the open letter: "We absolutely disagree with the town buying real estate in our neighborhood and literally building a paradise on earth for the Roma there. We have already lost the House of Culture, which once was used for funeral receptions, neighborhood meetings and weddings, but which is now being used as a youth club. We used to have a cinema and a library as well. The town has decided to gift that space, which was built by our (white) fathers and forefathers, to the Roma for a community center - naturally, without anyone taking any interest in the opinion of the white residents in the neighborhood. We unequivocally disagree with this and now, since we do not have a single representative on the Municipal Council to take an interest in us and defend our interests, we will very firmly defend ourselves against any accommodating steps toward the Roma that might be to the detriment of us, the white residents."

The authors of the letter warn the town leadership that they will vocally oppose helpfulness toward the Roma: "We believe there has been enough indolence and that we must take action against the people who are slowly but surely pushing us out of our homes. How many young people have been forced to resolve their housing situations by taking out mortgages, or subletting expensive rentals, even though they own single-family homes that they cannot use thanks to their dark fellow-citizens? No one is asking where we the money for our housing comes from. Only the Gypsies' affairs are dealt with."

The signatories have called on the town leadership to start doing something "for us, the white people" too: "We, the citizens of the local area of Podsadok and Mýtna street, unequivocally disagree with the establishment of a school at the bakery in our neighborhood, and we are also against the town bringing Gypsies from the surrounding area into Podsadok. We further demand that the House of Culture be given back to the white residents of Podsadok, and if cannot be returned, then the bakery should be turned into a supplementary House of Culture for white people, as a youth club for white youth. We are warning you, Mr Mayor, and we are warning the members of the town council that as of now, we will put up great obstacles to your activities aimed at improving the standard of living of the Gypsies if those activities target the territory of Podsadok and are to the detriment of the standard of living of us, the white minority."

The town of Stará Ľubovňa is involved in several projects to aid Romani residents and has raised money for that purpose from various sources. According to Mayor Biganič, the town will receive EUR 90 000 as part of the Community in Motion project for the activities of the community center in Podsadok. The project is part of a larger one linked to the introduction of E-pay cards. All 15 of the representatives present at the town council meeting on the project voted to approve it.

The head of the municipal authority, Anton Karni, told the Slovak daily Korzár that the residents of Podsadok don't have it easy and that the town is willing to discuss their problems with them. However, in his view the purchase of real estate for the purposes of running a school, as the representatives decided, is a good solution. "Some pupils will be able to re-qualify there and learn a profession. It is always better for them to spend time at school, otherwise they could get involved in bad things," Karni said.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, Romská tlačová agentura (Romani Press Agency), fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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