When Roma in Slovakia request a solution to their problems, the answer is segregation

By • on April 3, 2011

The Roma from the municipality of Spišský Štiavnik in east Slovakia expressed their discontent with the mayor Mária Kleinová. As a result, she wants to get rid of them. As it is not her priority to deal with the problems of Roma citizens, she proposed them to establish their own self-governed municipality, in order to learn how to take responsibility for their lives. She is willing to do whatever it takes to help them set up the place officially and formally. But she does not want to teach responsibility only to the Roma from Spišský Štiavnik, but also to those from the neighbouring village Hranovnica. The Roma do not agree with her solution. If they need the mayor’s help to deal with their problems, how will they cope on their own in their own village? However, the mayor of Hranovnica is against Kleinová’s absurd solution based on segregation. Unlike Kleinová, he feels responsible for dealing with the problems of both non-Roma and Roma inhabitants. The mayor is proving his affection towards Roma by involving them into the decision making process.

The Slovak media asked Kleinová for a more detailed explanation regarding the proposed establishment of an autonomous Roma municipality. She stated that she will not comment on the issue and that the whole problem is actually connected with the 100 Roma who inhabit the historic manor house in Spišský Štiavnik. But she did not clarify what problems with the Roma inhabitants are. Since they are the Roma who dare to criticize her for ignoring their issues, they are asked to leave the historical property and to deal with their own issues themselves as a punishment. Those citizens should serve as a warning to the other Romani inhabitants.

Kleinová did not keep her philosophy secret during the last communal elections and apparently she gambled on the right card, as she is still sitting in the mayor’s seat.

It is not necessary to highlight the best or the worst solution of creating Romani ghettos is Lunik IX in east Slovakia. And yet, some communal politicians are not willing to learn a lesson from the past. On the contrary, they build up their power on the solution of segregation.

When a Roma is turned into a thorn in the heel, fighting this painful element is a way of how to build a solid electoral base. Romani communities are full of non-Roma agitators who try to get votes before every election. A Roma, previously seen as a strategic voter, turns into an unwanted citizen yet a wanted problem after elections. A perspective voter becomes an annoying, stupid and lazy outcast for who the non-Roma have to work. The Roma are being offered new houses that are to be built for them before elections and they are about to be evacuated into an autonomous ghetto after elections. This is how things work in Slovakia. The greed for power and the hatred against Roma still lead the dance in politics. It will continue like this unless real and capable politicians and mayors enter the scene. For now, there are very few of them.

When I was a child, the non-Roma were sending me away to “play in murava” and asking me not to return to their village. It took some time for the non-Roma part of the population to understand that it is impossible to keep Romani children in one isolated place. Today, we call Romani settlements “murava”.

I am afraid that for a long time to come the Roma in Slovakia will only be a “political soup” reheated when necessary. Once it feeds a politician, it will simply be chucked away, at best, behind the borders of villages and towns.