Until when???

By • on April 15, 2011

I follow the media, and I read blogs and their comments section with dread. It feels as if everyone wanted to poke a Gypsy in the ribs.

Many complain about the inadaptable ones. But how can they recognize us? They use the “look and see” method: according to our skin color, they categorize us…and they consequently protect themselves by saying that they will ignore us, at best. At worst, they will hate or even attack us.

You know, there were also times when I used to feel hate Gadschos (a name given to non-Roma). In general, I didn’t hear anyone in my social circle speaking nicely about them. Not about all of them, mind you, but when we swore, we swore at all the Gadschos. We only made exceptions when we were together with our few Gadschos friends, and never swore in front of them.

Gadscho. The one I call names.

Whenever I pass through Levoča, I remember the deliciously smelling goulash sold in a booth on a saint’s day…and I will never forget the man who rapped a bowl full of hot goulash out of my hands and called me a Gypsy bastard. My Mum told me that no Gadscho is worth crying over; grandpa noted with a sigh that this is our Gypsy life and grandma put on a meaningful expression. The man probably forgot about the Gypsy kid by the end of that day but I felt the burn in my tummy and hands for two weeks.

On that lovely summer day, I decided to watch out for Gadschos. I started by avoiding them,  but my childish ignorance slowly grew into real hatred. I used to snarl at every stranger with white skin. I copied that from raging dogs, as everyone feared those.

The Gadscho who I respect and adore.

My teacher, whose skin is whiter than Snow White’s. She cracked up laughing when she saw my snarling teeth. It made me angry but she disarmed me with “you have the prettiest eyes and hair I’ve ever seen” while writing another A into my notepad.

Around that time, I started to re-evaluate my hatred against the white skinned, at first towards my teacher, and later towards the food court assistant, who always gave me the biggest bread roll…the old hatred that I nurtured discreetly started to fade away.

The boys from the Luník IX in Košice.

Paťko, Rolo, Dávid and many others. Every time I meet them, I get blown away by the number of their questions. They love to ask and I love to answer.

“Janette, why do you want us to have good grades?” Will someone pay you for it? We’re not gonna get work anyway so why study? Do you think we’ll ever move away from here? Why should we be nice to the white ones if they hate us? Why is it us who have to live at Luník?”

I know that they have it hard and because of that they have every right to ask such questions. They hear the same thing over and over, thousands of people with the same problems and same grief. They live their life as part of a community hated by the whole nation.

It is unfair to mislead them. Shall I tell them that a cheering society and a fun club for the smart from Luník await them out there? Shall I tell them that it is enough to like Gadschos and they will like them back? That everything is in their hands and that it is enough to want?

No, because by doing that I would lie to them, and I would also lie to myself. So, after a while I only told them what my teacher had told me many times: “You know, your good grades will convince me that I did not come here for nothing. Gadschos, whites, anyone can take away your dreams, energy to fight back, even desire to live. But nobody can steal what is in your head…and if you really want to show something to the others, prove them that they are wrong…prove them that there is at least one smart, well-behaved and skilled boy at Luník IX.

I was talking and they were quiet. After a while Rolo grabbed a guitar, sang a song to fill the silence, and when he finished he said: “This one was for you, Janette.”

I wanted to cry when I heard that. Such boys live at Luník IX. There is not a lot of them but they are there, and they are capable, resourceful, and clever. I know their names, faces and dreams. Boys from THAT Luník, hated by many Slovaks.

The saddest thing is the anger of those Slovaks, an anger that prevents them from knowing the names, faces and dreams of those boys who are trying to live like the majority in our society.