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May 25th, 2008

04:30 pm - Unique glimpse of Romani and Sinti life destroyed by Holocaust

"A Vanished World" provides unique glimpse of Romani and Sinti life destroyed by Holocaust

This week saw the opening of "A Vanished World" a unique photo exhibition at the National Gallery's Veletrzni Palac in Prague. The show is based solely on never before publicly viewed photographs of Roma and Sinti families who once lived in the Czech lands. The show represents lives and a way of life, destroyed in the Romani Holocaust.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus attended the opening of the show on Wednesday and praised efforts by organisers in mapping Czech Roma history.

President Vaclav Klaus:
"I think that the exhibition is important: this is something that we usually don't see here. To put together all this documentary material is important for the Roma themselves and I am sure it is important for the majority of the population of the Czech Republic. So, I wish for people to come here and see it."

Mr Klaus was far from alone in his praise for the show, which was held partly under the auspices of the president as well as the auspices of Prague city hall. Wednesday also saw attendance by other public figures including the minister for minority rights, Dzamila Stehlikova, former dissident Jiri Dientsbier, and members of the Roma and Sinti communities. Cenek Ruzicka - president of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust - was critical in his opening speech, saying that a large majority of the Czech population viewed the Roma as an alien element, despite the minority's long roots in the Czech lands.

"The aim of this exhibition is to show to visitors that the Roma and Sinti were always part of the Czech lands. Dear visitors, it is my personal wish that the genocide of the Roma and Sinti and destruction of their culture to make it into the history books. You will find nothing of original Roma and Sinti history in Czech history books."
On many levels the exhibition itself is personal, presenting family photographs of the Roma and Sinti from the early part of the 20th century, now lives almost entirely forgotten. Parents, their children, grandparents, are seen in the pictures sometimes in photographers' studios, sometimes on the road, sometimes in the fields. There is the photo of a young married couple or the young officer in the army, the family gathering bringing together generations, a child recovering in hospital. I spoke to Markus Pape from the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, who put extensive work into bringing the exhibition together:

"The main issue to show the real world of the Roma and Sinti who lived in this country for 600 years until they were almost entirely exterminated by the Nazis, and whose history and cultures are almost entirely unknown by Czechs today. Unfortunately Czechs don't know what to be proud of. This is kind of a first opportunity for them to see what kind of a rich culture lived here and what was finally destroyed."

Prior to World War II in Czechoslovakia's First Republic many of the Roma in Moravia lived in settlements while Bohemian Roma were more nomadic. Cenek Ruzicka says that even then they were discriminated against:

"Law 117 dating back to 1924 forced Roma to have identity cards. The Roma weren't allowed to enter numerous villages. They had to be constantly registered. That's the kind of discrimination Romanies and Sinti have always had to put up with. Most made them aware they were second-class citizens. But when you look at the photographs you see they weren't. They were normal, well-dressed, educated and intelligent people. A non-problematic people. I don't understand why almost this entire community was killed during the Second World War for reasons of race. For what reason?"

Given the tragic history that followed, there's no way of viewing the exhibition without the Holocaust at the back of one's mind. The terrible impact of the Nazis' final solution is felt even though the camps and the gas chambers are for the most part not explicitly mentioned. Markus Pape says that not discussing the Holocaust until the last stage of the exhibit was an important decision.

"It's a very unusual exhibition about the Holocaust because it doesn't focus on the perpetrators nor on the horrible pictures we've known for decades from Auschwitz and other concentration camps or documents of persecution. This new exhibit tries to show their own view of the Roma and Sinti themselves: they went to a photographer's studio and asked him to photograph them. This is their view: not what some policeman or racist thought about them. Not someone who tried to make them look like criminals and deform their image. We believe that this way the Holocaust and its results and tragedy will be better understood.
"During the last decade we collected lots of historical materials in state archives but the photographs that are seen here today are only from family archives. We travelled all over the country and persuaded survivors or families of survivors that it makes sense to show - for the first time - their world."

The glimpse into their lives is nevertheless not "fully" complete: in all of the photos, the subjects and their stories remain anonymous. Says Markus Pape, for good reason:

"For centuries these people were taught by their parents to take care of their privacy and not to talk. Not to let anybody know who they are. This is a kind of survival strategy which is valid up to today. Also, you don't see all the photos we found: there are still certain moments in the live or the Roma that they don't want the public to see. Funerals and so on. They say 'we still want to retain some of the taboos'. A special quality of this exhibition is that you don't see the names. "

It is inevitable that some images - even the most ordinary portraits - will stick in the viewer's mind: there is a father's proud expression as he stands next to his small son, there is fear in the eyes of a young accordionist sitting in a studio chair flanked by a lying dog; there are the smiling faces of sisters and friends. One can only guess at their personal stories and fates. One of the most enduring images is then a drawing by a Sinti boy at Auschwitz, a drawing which brings the scope of the Romani tragedy full circle. The drawing could be of a Roma caravan or it could be the gas chambers: there are many possible interpretations.

It has been estimated that 5,000 Czech Romanies were transported to Auschwitz. Only 583 ever returned. As a consequence only a few thousand Roma originally of Czech descent live in the Czech Republic today. The rest of the Roma minority in the country, estimated at 250,000, originally had roots in Slovakia.

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April 20th, 2008

09:12 pm - Confronting color in a world of white
13 March 2007

Rebecca Houston/Prague Wanderer

Minorities say they stand out in a crowd in Prague's monochromatic population.

Seven months ago, I was in New York at an information session about the study abroad program in Prague. I was almost sold, as slide after slide of beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets flashed before my eyes. I only needed to ask one simple question, and I would buy my ticket that night.

"Have non-white students had problems living in Prague?"

The chatty adviser, an American with short blond hair and round eyes, paused. Nodding almost hysterically, she replied, "Well, Czechs tend to be pretty open-minded about other ethnicities. We've had very few problems with past students," putting stress on the "Well," and the "tend."

I didn't mind.

By my third night in Prague I came to the conclusion that I hated Czechs and their evil, evil ways. To me they were racist ex-communists who hated me just as much as I hated them. I prepared for the next four months in Prague, the land I had begun to think consisted of only miserable white people, heavy meat and sponge-like bread dishes, uneven haircuts, and elderly women who looked only a fraction more feminine than the freakishly scary, square-faced mother from The Goonies.

In the beginning, I had difficulty understanding Czech people. At times, the hair at the back of my neck would stand; my skin could sense their eyes all around me, scrutinizing me, hating me, mocking me for looking differently. I couldn't understand why. On the trams, at the grocery stores, in the restaurants, I could feel their wincing eyes, their gaping mouths, and their crooked grins all aimed at me.

All around me, there they were: this light-eyed race of white and white and more white skin. And here I was: dark and brown and yellow with slanted eyes. Here, I felt like an alien.

During one of those first few days, I stood in one of Prague's red and white tram cars next to a woman about twice my age with short blonde hair and red orange streaks dispersed randomly throughout her head and a younger woman with frizzy blond dreadlocks.

Every now and then my eyes would meet theirs and, ashamed, I would immediately turn my face the other way. In the corner of my eye, I could see them staring at me, biting their tongues as if holding back some vicious words. As minutes passed on the tram, the two women seemed to find me more and more ridiculous. Every once in a while they would burst into harsh, cruel chuckles. I ran to get off the tram that night. Alone, I sped along the wet pavement, turned the last corner and cried.

In those first couple of weeks, I became obsessively aware of the people around me. I noticed every look, every snicker and stare in order to fuel the hatred that had already begun to burst from within me. Every quick glance at me or my clothes or my shoes or my purse was a reason to "accidentally" bump into someone, to look back at them with fiery vehemence, to be as rude, as horrible, and as intolerable to them as I thought they had been to me.

More and more, these experiences made me wonder how minorities live and breathe everyday in a world like this: a world that seemed like it was still struggling to break out of out of its communist shell. I had all this pent up anger inside of me. I could hardly go a moment in public without feeling totally alienated from Prague.

Puffy-eyed and miserable, I sat in the common room of my dorm, allowing myself to sink deeper and deeper into crevices of our couch.

"Are you okay," asked my dorm's Czech Resident Adviser, Eva.

I squeaked out to her, "Eva, why do Czech people hate me?"

She turned to me and smiled. "Why would you think that? Have people been mean to you?"

"It's because I'm Asian."

Eva softly laughed and sat next to me. "They don't hate you because you're Asian. I think they just don't understand you because you're Asian," she said. "They'll stare at everyone. You're exotic. You know many Czechs still aren't accustomed to different kinds of people."

Eva was right. The Czech people had been more or less a homogeneous race for forty years before the Communist regime was ousted out of power in 1989.

"Before democracy, Czechs could not leave the country," said Ivan Vesely, founder of the Dzeno Foundation in Prague. Dzeno is one of several Czech non-governmental organizations that defend the human rights of the Roma community, sometimes known as gypsies, the largest minority group in the Czech Republic. "The borders: closed; passports: useless. All around you were white faces. All you knew were white faces."

"This mentality comes from a long history of limitation," observed Jaroslav Holy, a middle-aged man who has lived his entire life in the Czech Republic. "And for a lot of the older generation, that limitation is still there. The young ones have money to travel and get acquainted with all the differences of the world. For the Czechs who were adults during our communist days, there's less money and less will to see the world, and appreciate diversity. For them, it's still a white world."

And, for the most part, that's what Prague seemed like to me: a sea of white.

But there was this pretty young Roma woman whose face sticks out from this backdrop of white. Everyday, she hands out fliers for Peking Restaurant at a busy street corner in the center of the city. She is probably no more than 17 years old with curly, deep black hair wildly cascading down her back. She wears heaps of makeup punctuated with bright red lipstick and dons tight clothing paired with studded jeans, a white belt and knee-high boots. She was a splash of color standing out from the gray cobblestones and I could not help but look at her.

On one day in October, a group of men in navy overalls covered in paint were standing at the tram stop and together stared at her, chuckling to each other and pointing to her. She would audaciously stare directly back at them, shooting a forceful, venomous middle finger. I smiled.

There was a mighty force within her that I enjoyed. She would, everyday, look onto the white faces that passed by her, ignored her, laughed at her, and she remained angry. I saw a little bit of myself in her, how we were both out of place.

As my life moved forward in Prague and as I adjusted, I started to feel a strange connection to this girl I saw everyday. I was finally cooling down.

I had met some Czechs and learned more about them. Men opened doors for me. Babies and mothers smiled. Elderly women nodded at me. I guess that was all I needed: a single smile, a little nod. A little acceptance and I could feel my defense system crumbling down. I was beginning to love Prague and respect the changing society of people within it.

I wondered if this is all the Roma girl needed as well. Would a little nod cool her fire? Could she and I ever see this city in the same way again?

After many weeks of feeling the urge, I gathered enough strength to walk up to her. She looked at me for the first time and I stopped in my tracks. Her eyebrows crunched and her eyes became small, wincing with anticipation and anger. I hurried underground into the metro.

Since I came here, I had been told over and over to be wary of the gypsies. They were dirty, tactless, lazy, emotional, dramatic, loud and problematic; they liked music, were always drunk, and would probably pickpocket you too. To the Czech people, this behavior was substandard, and the girl at the corner were all of these things. They were stock characters. They were Roma, and all Roma were the same.

"The Roma have too many problems," said Holy. "They live off the social system, have hundreds of children, and don't work."

Holy continued, "They just don't want to be normal in any way that we Czechs are. We are just two polar opposite cultures. It's hard to find that common ground. I hope someday we can, but I don't know if we ever will."

But Vesely, who is Roma, blames not laziness but another phenomenon. "We are just too hot for this cold environment!" he yelled with a burst of enthusiasm.

In his small, cubicle office, I felt at home. For hours, I spoke with this Roma man, one of the people I was told to avoid. I drank tea with him and felt more at ease with his outbursts of emotion than I had ever felt with any Czech before. I wished that the Czechs could see the beauty of their culture - their love of family, the tightness of their bonds, the happiness and freedom they enjoy.

"Not all Roma are lazy thieves," offered Vesely, "but that's how they'll always be seen. The ones that do make a good living for themselves do not make themselves known. In the end, there are no good examples, no Martin Luther Kings for the Roma, and no proof for the Czechs that Roma can be integrated into society."

Kumar Vishwanathan, an Indian immigrant who, like Vesely, works to support the human rights of Roma in the Czech Republic, agrees. "The will of the minority in this country can falter, especially when you face so much prejudice," he said. "You get so fed up, and so you give up, and then you prove them right. It's a vicious cycle in which the logic is twisted and the effects become the causes. Still, things are getting better."

In the '90s, when Vishwanathan first immigrated into the country, he says he had been attacked several times by both Czech policemen and citizens. "I walked and walked bloodied and no one offered help," he said. "For hours, no one offered help."

Now walking through the streets of the country, Vishwanathan is no longer afraid and no longer helpless. "Today I feel much freer," he continued. "I still stay alert. I am still a little self conscious. I have to be. I am dark. I am exposed, but also I have much faith in the institution, and I can stand up for myself and for others."

Today, Vesely and Vishwanathan both work to create better opportunities for the Roma people, trying to overhaul an 80%-90% unemployment rate, to fight for better housing for hundreds of displaced tenants, and to stop the allocation of healthy Roma students into schools for the mentally deficient.

There are great parallels between the Czech frustration toward the Roma and complications back home with African-Americans and Hispanics. The projects. The welfare system. The gangs. The hungry kids. The violence.

I felt myself wedged between two worlds of thought. I hated the Czechs for marginalizing the Roma, and I hated the Roma for not doing anything about it.

I could see myself and everything I thought I was beginning to understand about this new place slipping from my grasp. Could I grab hold of any one feeling, any one judgment for long before it's turned over by a nod, a smile, an outburst of laughter, a look filled with hate?

The only thing I can understand is that a country in transition will be a country of contradiction. The glimmers of hope would be shadowed by the inability of the system to change successfully. There is this constant back and forth, an unending cycle of who is right and who is wrong, no clear black and white. I felt stuck in this murky gray area, like both the Czechs and the Roma do. One group cannot understand the other because of a great cultural disconnection, because of the boundaries of speech, of culture, of miscommunication, of no communication at all.

Will anything ever change for the better? Can the Roma integrate without losing their culture? Will Czechs and Roma ever find common ground?

I asked them all, and they all replied with two simple words:

"I hope."

Milna Rufin is in her third year studying history at New York University.

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09:11 pm - Greece: Human Rights Commissioner on Roma evictions, racism
9 March 2007

Greece: Commissioner for Human Rights on Roma evictions, neighbors’ racism and negligence of police and authorities in Patras. Hypocritical stance of Greek government.

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) welcomes the recently made public letter of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg to the Greek government. The Commissioner reports his observations, during his September 2006 visit, on the illegal evictions of Roma in Patras; the aggressive, threatening and racist attitude of the non-Roma neighbors who disturbed his visit; the lack of obvious protection from the police present; and the non-condemnation by local authorities of anti-Roma racism. The letter was sent to the Minister for Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Prokopis Pavlopoulos on 1 December 2006.

On 24 January 2007, during his speech to the Plenary of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis extolled the institution of the Commissioner, affirmed Greece’s support to it and to Thomas Hammarberg and pledged that Greece will do everything in its power to ensure the success of this institution. Furthermore, he had a non-scheduled meeting with the Commissioner, in the presence of the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyanni. The meeting may have been a form of apology on behalf of the Greek government for the unacceptable conduct of local authorities towards the Commissioner, who had been compelled to denounce then the Municipality of Patras for “disrespect for an international official”, “most unusual and unacceptable putting in my mouth of statements which I never made”, “attempt to use his credibility against an NGO” etc (statement available at http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/index.php?sec=192&cid=2695)

It appears however that all the above were hypocritical, since, until today, the government has not answered the Commissioner’s letter, thus demonstrating its de facto disregard to his work and to human rights. Nor of course did the government take measures to compensate and relocate most of the Roma families following the eviction or the “administrative suspension” they experienced, as well as to ensure that those families living in apartment and whose rent is being subsidized enjoy security of tenure in their current housing.

GHM hopes that the ex officio preliminary investigation for the illegal evictions ordered by the First Instance Court Prosecutor’s Office of Patras, following GHM complaint reports will include all what the Commissioner mentions in his letter on the evictions, the racism of non-Roma residents as well as the breach of duty of police in providing adequate protection to the international official. GHM furthermore hopes that the Greek Police will launch a Sworn Administrative Inquiry (and not a routine unofficial preliminary investigation that is conducted with the participation of only the police officers concerned) on the same issue.

The Commissioner’s letter, an excerpt from the statement of Prime Minister Karamanlis and photos from his meeting with the Commissioner follow.

English only

The situation of Roma in Greece

Letter addressed to Mr Prokopis PAVLOPOULOS, Hellenic Minister for the Interior, Public Administration & Decentralisation

by Mr Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

(available at https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1100661&BackColorInternet=FEC65B&BackColorIntranet=FEC65B&BackColorLogged=FFC679)

Strasbourg, 1 December 2006

Dear Minister,

I am writing to you about the situation of Roma in Greece. As you know the living conditions of Roma in several countries in Europe is a concern for the Council of Europe and for myself as Commissioner for Human Rights.

My predecessor, Alvaro Gil-Robles, documented poor housing conditions among Roma and referred to cases of their eviction in his reports on Greece (Report on the visit to the Hellenic Republic of 17 July 2002, CommDH(2002)5, and Follow-up report of 29 March 2006, CommDH(2006)13). Also, the European Committee on Social Rights has concluded that there have been situations of non-compliance by Greece of its obligations under the Social Charter to ensure the housing rights of Roma (Decision on the merits of the collective Complaint N° 15/2003 and the corresponding Resolution of the Committee of Ministers ResChS(2005)11; European Committee of Social Rights, Conclusions XVIII-1).

Therefore, I wanted to discuss this matter and also see for myself during my brief visit to Greece in late September. I held talks on the housing situation of Roma with Mr Kaminis, the Greek Ombudsman, Mr Vergygiannis, the Secretary General of the Ministry of the Interior, and Mr Ailianos, Secretary General of the Ministry for Public Order. I also went to see Roma communities and settlements in Makrygiannis and Riganocampos near Patras.

The right to adequate housing is a fundamental right. It is protected by several international legal instruments including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter. Furthermore, the right to adequate housing has to be ensured without discrimination.

Let me emphasise the importance of this. Without a real home, families face difficulties in enjoying other rights, such as the right to education and health. A pattern of social segregation is perpetuated.

Decisions that some people have to move because of new city plans may sometimes be justified. However, the manner in which such initiatives are prepared and implemented should be in accordance with agreed human rights norms and procedural safeguards.

The consequence of these norms is that forced evictions can only be carried out in exceptional cases and in a reasonable manner. Everyone concerned must be able to access courts to review the legality of planned evictions before they are carried out – this requires the existence of both legal remedies and legal aid possibilities. Alternatives to evictions should be sought in genuine consultation with the people affected while compensation and adequate resettlement have to be offered when forced evictions take place.

The norms also apply to local authorities. The fact that abusive decisions are often taken on local level does not absolve the central government from responsibility under its international obligations. The state should exercise oversight and, if necessary, regulate local action.

During my visit, I was informed of the efforts of the Greek Government to improve the housing conditions of Roma through the Integrated Action Plan of 2002 and, in particular, the programme of state-guaranteed housing loans.

However, the brief visit to Patras illustrated to me that there are remaining problems.

I saw Roma families living in very poor conditions. Also, I met with a family whose simple habitat had been bulldozed away that same morning. It was obvious that the “procedures” for making them homeless were in total contradiction to human rights standards I referred to above.

I was also disturbed to notice that non-Roma people appeared on both sites during my visit and behaved in an aggressive, threatening manner to the extent that my interviews with some of the Roma families were disturbed. I had expected that the police would have offered more obvious protection and I did not get the impression of a principled, clear position by the local authorities against such xenophobic, anti-Ziganistic tendencies.

The Patras authorities showed me a flat that had been made available to one Roma family. The parents were positive about this housing, but I understood that they were worried about what would happen after the initial, financially subsidized period was over. They had no money to pay the rent. This seemed to raise the question of sustainability of the housing solutions offered.

The Recommendation Rec(2005)4 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on improving the housing conditions of Roma and Travellers in Europe provides sound guidance to member states in the field of housing.

There also appears to be a need for further work to counter xenophobic and racist tendencies which seriously hinder the social inclusion of Roma.

As regards the current situation in Makrygiannis and Riganocampos, I would like to request further information on the measures taken to compensate and relocate Roma families after eviction or “administrative suspension” and on their security of tenure in current housing.

I look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the Hellenic Government on these questions in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Hammarberg


Mr. Constantin YEROCOSTOPOULOS, Permanent Representative of Greece to the Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 24 January 2007


(available at http://www.coe.int/t/dc/files/pa_session/jan_2007/20070124_disc_karamanlis_en.asp)

“[…] The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights represents an institution that is equally important as a court even though it operates in a different way. Its limited financial and human resources must be considerably strengthened, especially in view of the entering into force of Protocol No. 14. We have always strongly supported this institution and we shall continue to lend Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg the same strong support that we offered to his predecessor. Indeed, my country will do everything in its power to ensure the success of this institution in the years to come.”

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09:10 pm - 'We want to make friends, not trouble'

The Romany gypsies who have pitched caravans on land they bought in Langham say they want to make friends, not trouble.

"We want a better education and better life for the children," said Lucy Price, 30. "Tell people to come and meet us, we mean them no harm. We're not going to spend our life savings for a piece of ground to make trouble in the village.

"We want to make friends – we only want a chance."

The field by the A606 has planning permission for stables and is owned by Clifford Lee. He lives there with his wife Lucy, their two daughters, Corolina and Lucy who are both married, and two sons, one of whom is single.

There are also 14 children aged from two months to 16 years.

The matriarch of the family, Lucy Lee, 60, cannot read or write and says they want to stay so the children can attend school.

Sitting inside her immaculate spacious caravan she said: "We are not travellers we are true Romany gypsies and are all one family. We've been around this area for a very long time.

"I've never been to school in my life, none of us has and we would like the children to go."

Her daughter Lucy Price, who has three children, said they were unaware they had to wait for permission before moving the caravans on the land. The family had most recently lived in Hinckley but they were moved on.

Mrs Price said: "It's hard while you've got babies dragging them around. Sometimes you have to pull away at 12 o'clock at night and it is very difficult."
After the recent heavy rainfall the field is very muddy, but inside Mrs Lee's caravan muddy shoes are removed by the door and the four young children inside are well behaved and well dressed.

Mrs Price is a born-again Christian and Blue Boy will be christened, possibly at Langham village church. Many of the 14 children are just toddlers but four school age children have been enrolled at Langham Primary School and will start next week.

Headteacher Janet Lord said: "I know of Romany gypsy families from my previous school and found them to be very positive about their children's education.

"I am sure that through their attendance at our school they will add to our young people's understanding of the cultural diversities that exist within our community."

The men of the family earn a living doing gardening work and a bit of grinding and family members also deal in horses. They own three horses which they are hoping to bring to the site.

Rutland County Council has arranged to put rubbish bins on the land and portable toilets have now been installed. There is water connected on the site.

Mrs Price said: "We've travelled all our lives on the lanes and byways and been brought up with manners, our children don't stink.

"We are not tinkers. We want to be part of the village, if they don't want us we will leave them alone. We understand 100 per cent why people are upset – we are different. We are real Romanies, we are not travellers, and this is our way of life. We understand their fears but give us a chance."

Her sister-in-law Alex Lee, 30, said "We've been brought up to know the difference between right and wrong. We are people like anyone else; we want to settle down to be treated like normal people."

But there is uncertainty in the village about the sudden turn of events. Ward councillor Robert Reid said: "It puts people on edge. I'm sympathetic to residents of Langham and their views and I will be representing their views at the county council planning meeting in May."

And parish council chairman George Kirk said: "All the councillors have had calls about this – people are very concerned that this has happened so quickly."

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09:09 pm - Gypsy music & film - Prague THIS weekend!
Dear friends and fans of Roma -

I am excited and honored to be able to invite you to the first Prague screenings of my newest film at the prestigious One World International Human Rights Film Festival. So I hope you have your laughing/crying/dancing shoes on to celebrate Gypsy music and a new movie!

tales of a Gypsy Caravan

(also known as: Gypsy Caravan)

Saturday 3 March @ 21:30 | Gypsy Pride Night celebration
Světozor- large auditorium, Vodičkova 41, Prague 1
Thursday 8 March @ 17:30 | Mestská knihovna MS
Opening screening on 3/3 attended by Jasmine Dellal (director/producer) - Romani Pride Night festival event, 2 films followed by a Gypsy music party

I hope to see you there and please forward the info to all interested friends...

ONE WORLD film festival has a history of community collaboration with Romani programs in Prague and we’re very honoured to become part of their Romani Pride Night on March 3rd.

5 bands from 4 countries on a 6-week tour across America. The Gypsy Caravan concert tour unites musicians from around the world and dazzles every audience they meet. Amazing performances. Full theaters. Backstage chaos. Giggles, tears and friendships... it's all there.
Johnny Depp admires them, crowds flock to sell out their shows, and one of the musicians just makes it home in time to die among family. Getting to know these people, we share their highs and lows — a wedding and poverty in Romania; a transvestite dancing in sequins in Rajasthan; racism in California; political triumph in Macedonia...
This rich feature documentary is a dramatic journey with raw powerful music, reflecting the harsh but triumphant history of Romani people through the centuries. It is a wild celebration of the musical world of the Roma, juxtaposed to the real world they live in. Shot by documentary icon Albert Maysles, luscious performance film interweaves with the stirring real life tales of the artists’ homes and families around the world.
Features performances by the top Gypsy musicians alive today: Macedonian diva and "Queen of the Gypsies" ESMA REDZEPOVA, traditional Indian folk troupe MAHARAJA, Romanian brass band FANFARE CIOCARLIA, the famous Romanian violin wizards TARAF DE HAIDOUKS, and the Spanish ANTONIO EL PIPA FLAMENCO ENSEMBLE from Andalucia.

Dedicated to the Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015)
More: http://www.GypsyCaravanMovie.com
or http://www.whentheroadbends.com

Taraf de Haïdouks
Fanfare Ciocarlia
Antonio el Pipa
Esma Redzepova
Directed: Jasmine Dellal
Camera: Albert Maysles, Alain de Halleux
Produced by Little Dust Productions/Jasmine Dellal
in association with ITVS, Fortissimo Films, FuWorks, CPB
Co-producer: Sara P. Nolan
Executive Producers: San Fu Maltha, Wouter Barendrecht, Michael J. Werner
Concerts produced by: World Music Institute
Sound: John Gurrin
International Sales: Fortissimo Film Sales B.V.

See you soon,

"You cannot walk straight
When the Road Bends..."
- romani proverb

Jasmine Dellal
Little Dust Productions
104 West 14th Street #4,
New York, NY 10011
www.WhenTheRoadBends.com / www.GypsyCaravanMovie.com

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09:08 pm - Hundreds of Gypsies Left Romania for Turin, Italy
On the outskirts of Turin, Italy, some 300 Gypsies, or Roma, from the Rau de Mori village in Romania, set camp after the country's accession to the European Union. About 350 people from the village of Rau de Mori, in Romania, Hunedoara County, live now in make-shift shelters and mobile homes on the outskirts of Turin, Italy, some 800 meters from the city's Orbassano district. Seven years ago they were about ten people in the colony of Gypsies; last year some 100 people had left their village in Romania, and the rest joined the group after the country's accession to the European Union on January 1st.

In the Rau de Mori village live now only six families, the elderly, and those undocumented. The Gypsies in the colony in Turin said they tried to find work, but could not, so they had to beg in order to support themselves.

Horia Munteanu came to Turin a few days after celebrating the 2007 New Year back home, in Romania. "I took my family and came here, where we had relatives already located. We live here together, as we did back home, only better. Even if we are far away from home we do not miss our dear ones, because we are all in one place. I wanted to come earlier, but I had no passport. So, it made a difference that after January 1st we could come to Italy using only our Romanian IDs. We are in all 350 people here, all from Rau de Mori," said Munteanu.

Patru Gaman explained that "People back home lived on social security. But how could one live on 80 less ome 23 eurost a month!? We make a living here begging at street corners and earn up to 60 euros per day."

The average earning from begging goes to some 30 euros daily, which led the Gypsies conclude that the Italians are more generous than the Romanians.

"We came here believing there will be work for us, but nobody looked at us, so then we went to beg at street corners. Italians are good people; they give us money, not like the people back home. Here even the police say the carabinierit are all right. They come from time to time to check if we keep stolen goods here, but otherwise they leave us alone," explained Ion Lega.

In the Gypsy settlement close to Turin there are people who made it better than others. Some live in mobile homes they bought for 300 euros, others preferred to save their money for make-shift shelters at half the price. The energy supply was solved with feeding their electrical appliances from the street lighting system. As for the water, they carry it in cans, from the city's district. They are happy they do not have to work and earn more money from begging than that they would have made in Romania.

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09:06 pm - Dale Farm faces final showdown
By Grattan Puxon

Rejection by the UK Government of final appeals from residents at Dale Farm has set the scene for a showdown in this five-year siege of Britain's biggest Travellers' community.

Throughout the past winter a hundred families waited anxiously for the results from Communities Minister Ruth Kelly - while anti-Gypsy protests led by MP John Baron continued unabated. These demonstrations, in which supporters of the neo-facist British National Party have taken a leading part, have resulted in increased racist attacks on Travellers, including children.

No attempt at eviction is likely pending the hearing of a judicial review of Basildon council's decision to spent five million euro bulldozing Dale Farm. This is not expected until July. But after the review, the way will be clear for Basildon to call in Constant & Co., the private bailiff company which specializes in the eviction of Gypsies. In recent months, it has been used to destroy a number of small, private yards, some belonging to Romanies, in the Basildon district. These activities, together with legal and planning hearing expenses, have so far cost the council some one million euros out of their total ethnic-cleansing budget. In rejecting the right of Travellers to reside on their own land, Kelly at the same time draws attention to the fact that if evicted they will be forced to live on the roadside.

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09:05 pm - Italy with special law against Gypsies from Bulgaria
Author: Blaga Bangieva


The number of travellers on the planes that fly in Italy from Sofia and Bucharest is not increasing. There was no influx of Bulgarians and Romanians on the Slovenian-Italian border, near to Trieste-the natural front door of Italy to workers from the two Balkan countries.

In the first two days since Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, the real invasion did not came from outside, it came from inside, says the Italian publication "Balkans". The report is connected with the news from yesterday that the last born baby for 2006 and the first one for 2007 ,were borned in Torino, Italy, and were Romanian babies.

The Romanians and the Bulgarians already have the same rights as the French, German and Spanish people.

The Italian newspaper "Kordillere de la Sera", mentioned their hopes that the EU is not going to be sorry for the early expansion.

They also give the information that the Italian non-governmental organisations like "Kariras" and "Initiatives and examinations of the multi-ethnics societies" Foundation, are competeting to make prognosis of how many Romanians and Bulgarians will come to Italy.

The expectations vary from 60 to 105 who will rush to Italy. It is not so easy to prognosticate strictly, but the Italians are more afraid from the Gypsies, who are 2.5% of the total population of the two Balkan European members.

According to "Kordillere de la sera", the Italian Government is considering new draft of the law, for the coming Gypsies in Italy, most of who got no ID.

The journal informed that on the New years Eve, from all the centers of temporarily stay in Italy, the Bulgarians and Romanians, arrested for irregular documents or past permit for stay in Italy, are let out.

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09:04 pm - Shipston - Call for bollards to stop gypsies
ShipstownTown Council is calling on Warwickshire County Council to install bollards along a section of London Road to stop gypsies and travellers setting up caravan sites there.

A group of caravans has finally left the site after a six-week stay during which public access was disrupted, a traveller's dog bit a walker, horses were tied to stiles, fencing was ripped out for firewood, and the site turned into a mess.

When informal attempts to get the travellers to leave failed, the county council obtained a court order and enforcement action was planned, - although the caravans left the day before they were due to be evicted.

County Cllr Chris Saint said the area surveyor was sending a team to secure the site and a clean-up was underway.

"There was straw left around so that will be removed and fencing replaced and the site tidied up," said Cllr Saint.

The town's Walking for Health Group has called for bollards to be put up to stop travellers blocking the footpath again.

It was one of their members who was badly bitten by the dog as they attempted one of their regular rambles.

The town council is now taking up the matter with the county council.

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09:02 pm - Romani on House MD

Several weeks ago, there was an episode of House MD that deals with a young patient and his Romani family.

Heres the recap from the FOX webpage. The portions that relate to the family are in bold.
Needle in a HaystackCollapse )

I'm trying to absorb it, since I didn't actually get to see this episode, but these are a few things, (good and bad) that come to mind:

The doctors confront Stevie about the address he supplied. Leah finally admits that Stevie is Romani, which is a gypsy. Stevie explains that the doctors cannot go to his home because their mere presence will spiritually pollute it and his parents treat that very seriously.

Depending on how traditional the family is, this could or could not be accurate. I think, at least in my own family and other Romani families/people I've met, we don't do things much differently, (if at all) from anyone else, so to me it seems a bit far fetched, particularly the following:

Stevie's parents argue that their son's life is simply out of balance and they're helping to restore it.

This, to me, is where the racial stereotyping comes in, as if all Romani people are new-age hippies. Not that I have anything against hippies, mind you, but it just doesn't tend to be the case 90% of the time. I don't know a single American Romani (or certainly Romanies anywhere else in the world) who would refuse proper medical care for themselves or a family member if their life was in danger - and I can't imagine even very traditional Romanies, while they may not be trusting, saying something like that. The occupation of the parents bothers me a bit, too, because there are plenty of Romani people in more conventional occupations (doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, etc.) so I see that as another example of how mainstream society (in the United States, at least) perceives the word 'gypsy' (not capitalized here because it seems to have been used more as a term to describe their lifestyle than their ethnicity - "oh, they're gypsies? well, they must not have any proper means of living, probably selling junk by the side of the road", etc..) so, not too pleased with those things. I also don't care for how the family is portrayed as completely ignorant to modern medicine, but I am impressed that the Holocaust referrence was used, only because it means Romani people are finally getting some widespread recognition when it comes to that subject. My hope is that one or more of the many watchers of the show Google'd 'gypsies' and 'holocaust' and educated themselves on our past as a people, thereby wiping out the 'Esmerelda/Disney' image and replacing it with a more accurate one. We kind of have to sneak that stuff in where we can, eh?

The parents being portrayed as overbearing and hostile doesn't strike me as having anything to do with their race, as this seems to be the case with all the parents/spouses/sisters/brothers/cousins, etc on the show. They never cooperate with House and his team or trust him (sometimes with good reason!) and that seems to be a major theme in the show from the beginning, so no shocker there.

I do like the part where the character is offered an internship, (recognizing, for anyone who had doubt or 'needed to see it on tv first' to believe it, that Gypsies can read and write and are just as intelligent and capable as anyone else,) and I also like the fact that he turns it down. Maybe I'm a sap, but him pointing out that everyone else is alone and that's not what he wants for his life is both very perceptive and heartwarming at the same time.. but maybe that's just me :)

All in all, it could have been so much worse in terms of stereotyping us, or making us look like a joke. Yes, they got some things wrong, but they got some things right, too. I'm not terribly offended by the inaccurate parts.. at least we weren't portrayed as tossing glitter around and consulting our crystal balls! I tend not to be as bothered by the 'American version' of the stereotype as I am the European one, where we're not even considered human in some places. And then, in some ways, it makes the notion that we're a fictional character all that much worse because of the suffering and discrimination that is going on in other places. It's nice to be recognized, but it seems people still aren't quite clear on what 'we' are. More than sub-human, less than magical. Yep, that about covers it ;)


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