Even after demolition, Lunik IX remains the greatest Romani ghetto in Europe

By • on December 16, 2010

After many years of debating, the ruined blocks of flats of the infamous housing complex Lunik IX have finally been demolished. The buildings have been part of the city quarters of Košice in eastern Slovakia. The remaining buildings are in a desolate state so it is very likely that LIX will soon disappear completely. But the question remains: how is the town going to accommodate such a mass of people?

Some blocks of flats from the Hrebendova and Podjavorinskej streets have already been demolished. After that, the town of Košice offered a temporary shelter to the evacuated Roma. Where? At Lunik IX! Take note that around 3000 Roma inhabit the suburb, although it is thought that the number is around 6000 when counting unofficial inhabitants as well.

The town could not plan the demolition for any better time than winter. Cold weather only adds to the despair of people living at Lunik IX. The flats in which the town council moved the Roma are not any better. Water supply is limited to a few hours per day. Up to nine family members can be squeezed into a 1-bedroom flat. The people who have been moved here don’t have any room to store their furniture so practically they had to leave their possessions behind. In the past, some Roma living on Hrebendova and Podjavorinskej streets had managed to reconstruct their flats, which have now been demolished. But nobody will return their investment. The town claims that the inhabitants of Lunik IX don’t have to pay any rent, but one of the evacuated Roma told the media that rent has been charged during the past four years.

Yes, those blocks of flats were in a desolate state they were dangerous to live in, but why doesn’t the town look for replacement housing for their past inhabitants in a different part of Košice? Why are they isolated and boxed into so-so livable flats at Lunik IX? However, if they had refused this alternative lodging, they would have ended on the street… well, where else with the Roma, naturally.

The town says that low standard houses will be built at Lunik IX for the evacuated ones. Shall we understand this as a copy or rather as a continuation of the fundamental motif of this giant suburb? Actually, what is the history behind Lunik IX? The inhabitants of Lunik IX are lazy and dirty parasites do not know or pretend not to know about their past. The Roma who now live at Lunik IX used to inhabit town houses in the city centre. At that time (during the old regime) non-Roma were not (allowed to be) interested in those houses and therefore nobody cared that Roma lived there. Lunik IX already existed and ironically back then it was a modern suburb for the elite. But Košice came with a so-called “social experiment” in 1987 and that was the turning point for Roma living in the centre.

This is because town houses became economically advantageous again. The town started to reconstruct historical buildings and to sell flats in the centre. More simply put, the modernization had begun. But the Roma represented a problem as it was them who inhabited those lucrative locations without paying any rent. Where to put the Roma was a crucial question for the town. Soon the authorities came with the splendid idea of moving them all to Lunik IX, which due to its position and breadth seemed ideal for the inadaptable Roma.

It seems that Košice wasn’t aware that it was creating a ghetto, although that was the intended plan. Two unrelated Romani families were often crammed into a 3-bedroom flat. Nobody cared how those people would be able to live together. Romani families naturally refused to look after the place which was not exclusively theirs and which they did not want to move into but had to. The complex, so beautiful and modern, almost immediately started to deteriorate. Soon, all Roma were relocated to Lunik IX and nobody cared whether they initially lived in communities outside the town, in the centre, how well off they were or even who they were. They were all mixed together and squashed like sardines in a can in Lunik IX. Košice thus managed to “clean up” all of its corners of Roma.

The municipality of the town did not care about any social differences or relation among Roma, creating a brutal “mix and match” exile to Lunik IX. The current municipality only complains about the costs of the demolition of these devastated blocks of flats.

Non-Roma citizens start up internet discussions in which they often abuse Roma. They want to shoot them, to gas them, and simply to wipe them out as such criminals deserve. But it is the non-Roma part of the population which created unemployed Roma in the first place– and not only at Lunik IX. It is up to them to decide during staff selection procedure whether this or that Roma will be employed or not. If a Roma is unemployed it is his or her end. Society writes them off. The quality of life is based on money, and money gives birth to social stratification. Without money, one sinks to the bottom of society. There, you are worthless in terms of social merit. Yes, merit because every human being has a value. Regardless of how important and worthy we are in our own eyes, or from the perspective of our relatives, we also have a price in the social scope. We could be honored, accepted, tolerated, condemned, damned… Roma unfortunately belong to the category of the damned. They were the first ones to lose their jobs after 1989 and until today they have been the last ones to get them. How can they cover the cost of rent or education then?

Lunik IX means several thousands of people who did not choose to spend their lives there. For sure, they could have been living in completely different conditions there if Košice had taken into consideration social differences during the mass evacuation of 1987. The tragic fate of several generations begins there. Those generations could have lived ordinary lives without abuse, without losing dignity. Lives of some social value. Society is meticulously trying to kill the fire, but the heart of the fire still smolders…

Non Roma can be poor but Roma are always inadaptable. World War II is over but for the Roma the battle goes on. Only the form and the means of persecution have changed – or modernized. Concentration camps have turned into communities or ghettos and death in gas chambers is after all the same death as the one in utter poverty. Whenever I watch movies about Jewish children being murdered in gas chambers I worry about our Romani children.

The site of a prominent daily newspaper contains a discussion forum where racists happily chat about how they would kill all the Roma. They talk about us like we are animals and not humans. Yes, I am scared because I expected that the daily paper would immediately remove the thread from their site. But it is still there. To support all those who scream out loud how they want to murder us. It is still there to support racial intolerance.