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Serbia, Slovenia: Relationship with the Roma People


“I ja sam Rom!” (“I'm Roma, too!”) – by Nune

In her B92 blog, Jelica Greganovic reports on the latest racism case against the Roma that occurred in Slovenia (SRP):

[…] We shouldn’t be only ashamed. We should be scared, too. I am already terrified. Slovenians were working during anti-fascism and anti-Semitism days. Someone stole a power aggregator from a family of Slovenian Roma today. They were moved to the center for foreigners. Recently, someone stole the rights from them, why would they need power. I watch [similar] news coming for the second week in a row and I am getting petrified. If you could do that to the Roma people today, you would be able to do the same to the blue-eyed individuals, those smarter persons, anyone. They say it isn’t racism, they were protected by the state. […] If somebody hasn’t heard about it, here is the story.

Near a small village of Ambrus, Gypsy people built an estate without a license, though the area is privately owned by a famous Slovenian Roma family – Strojan. Ambrus residents say they were bullied, threatened and robbed by the Gypsies. They also state that the Gypsies were polluting the only source of drinking water. It came to a fight. The media said that a Slovenian man was hit by a Gypsy with a piece of wood and that the Slovenian ended up in a coma. Later on, it turned out he had been hit by another Slovenian. The local media didn’t fix the mistake; they didn’t report about a Slovenian hitting another Slovenian, instead they wrote about a person living on the Roma estate hitting a Slovenian. The villagers made a move and attacked their neighbors. Roma people escaped to the forest with children, babies and a pregnant woman. They stayed there for five days. After that, the Gypsies tried to come back, but the thrilled villagers together with the people from the nearby communities formed a committee to welcome the neighbors as the state didn’t make a move during the past years, saying they have to take law in their hands. They also took guns, shotguns, bats and different hard objects. The night was falling and the villagers arranged camp fires just to make better atmosphere; nice scene. The cavalry comes in at the last moment as it usually happens; around five hundred villagers on the one side, three hundred members of the Special Forces on the other side and thirty Roma people in the middle. As the representatives of the state said, the Gypsies decided to be guarded by policemen that night. The following morning they were moved to the foreigners centre situated at the other end of the county in Postojna. That’s how citizens of Slovenia voluntarily ended up in a centre for aliens. It was their will to survive. The state would provide them with a new living space but they wouldn’t be able to come back to their estate. It was promised to happy villagers. Everybody will be happy. Law is equal for everyone, just we are not all too equal before the law. […] Members of the municipalities to which the Gypsies may be relocated are worried. It isn’t that they don’t have tolerance, but if only they could populate some other neighborhood, not their own one. Slovenian ombudsman […] complained to Europe. The state asked him to apologize to everyone. I don’t need his apology, thank you. [Big polemics is unwinding here]. Words tolerance and intolerance are used up […].

Nobody asks why the villagers didn’t try to lynch the government reps, not the Roma community and where is the president who worries about Kosovo and Darfur conflicts while his own citizens live in the woods. Is the father of the nation just a step-father for some. […]

Nune Popovic answers:

Your reporting shows dimension of a problem with the possible consequences in the whole region; if that behavior is tolerated in the EU country, do we have the right to wonder why some similar cruelty occurs in some state in West Balkans. I am fascinated with carelessness of Slovenian government, the public and the online commentators; because there aren’t so many interested people to solve the problem. My campaign proposal didn’t get the reaction, but there is hope. A man form Ljubljana contacted me. He found a link to my site at B92 blog and he said he might [finance] printing of t-shirts with the inscription: “I am Roma, too!” But, as time goes by, I think there are better chances to have you reporting about some new crisis than to have something done. I would like to be mistaken, of course.

Later on, on his blog, Queeria gets lots of personal testimonies describing encounters with the Roma population:

[…] I remember one sad story from a refugee camp. The boy was barely ten years old when he arrived there. They killed both his mother and father in Kosovo. When they asked him about nationality, because Gypsies are divided into a few subgroups, he said: I don't have either father or mother. I worked with him for a year. He was closed and he wouldn’t let anyone reach out to him. He was mad all the time with the other kids and he wouldn’t socialize. He was weak at school. We talked much, in the beginning more me than him, then started talking more and more. Then I found out. Nationality does not matter to him if others killed everybody and if he doesn’t have any living soul on earth and if he, as he says, is back and black! He didn’t like other children because they were hurting him and they were wearing better shoes. There was some footwear humanitarian aid once. The teacher carefully selected which shoes she would give to whom. She gave him pair of shoes that left after the selection process. They were few sizes bigger, and the winter was horrible. He used to put papers into the shoes so they wouldn’t fall off. Other children made fun of him. Yes, he wasn’t a hardworking student. I have never seen him study. But, why would he study when the teacher would encourage him with the words: And you, N., you probably know nothing this time again, ha? That was the approach of an educator towards a kid who had just arrived from a massacre place. The others killed everyone this kid ever had. The kid left alone in this world. That’s how the teacher put the whole generation on to the healthy feat as he thought the Gypsies are given the leftovers because they aren’t used to anything better. Few years later, he found a job in one Serbian foundry. The toughest job there was. He wanted to leave the refugee camp, to forget everything, to get behind him the evil of the past. But he had to get back. People from the city wouldn’t lease a flat to him. They told him they wouldn’t accept Gypsies because they make walls dirty.

Nune Popovic:

Dear Boban, I am glad you are joining the Gypsy community. You have probably heard Gypsies were almost lynched at Ambrus in Slovenia. That’s why Nune production suggested the action: “I am Roma, too!” I am glad the idea is spreading around. […]

Spadalo:

My best elementary school friend – Tairovski Sefedin, Sefke! He was great drawer! I will always remember when he portrayed shop window of some imaginary store filled with vivid balls. His father was a shoe cleaner. Yes, with a big C. Always fantastically clean-shaven, combed hair, in a […] white shirt with wrenched sleeves so he wouldn’t smirch himself while working. The whole Belgrade knew him, he worked in front of the 20th October cinema. He was a very polite and pleasant man. He was a sir. I was honored to have his son as a best friend.

Olga Medenica:

I was a first-year architecture student then and had to take some urbanism subject. We studied different forms of urban structures. My group ended up with a task to make a research assignment at the outskirts of the city. We went somewhere behind Zeleznik where a small labor area mixed with rural population and a newly-built Roma area. […] Part of our homework was to go out to the “field”, knock on a door and ask questions. […] Two of us went there, did our knocking to make notes; saw many things depicting poverty of the Gypsy population. The houses were made of thin wood panels and foil. I don’t recall any “movie famous Gypsy style” with golden teeth and colorful dresses. If they could decorate their life like that, it would be easier on us as the dearth would be less transparent. We entered one home. There was a young couple with a 6-year-old kid. They were some kind of administrative workers. Home looks usual with couch, TV set and carpet. It was small but clean and tidy. It smelled like moisture though. As I approached towards the sofa I felt the ground was somehow soft. […] They treated us with a cup of coffee. We took a seat. They stayed up. I don’t remember their story exactly. They told us, the last similar neighborhood where they lived was a bit better. Some people built something else there, that was the reason why they had to move. They hope to get a flat. We left them sad and ashamed. I felt as if I were a thief. Why? Because it appeared to me those people thought our appearance there was a good sign; because architecture students were writing notes it must mean their thing is moving somewhere. And we just did our homework.

Angie:

I have a positive experiences with the Roma people. I was feeling bad once during the trip back from Vienna in a bus. […] My fellow traveler, a Roma woman, took care of me as if she was my mother. Our bus broke at midnight and we all had to wait it to be repaired. It was cold that night and the heating broke too. She covered me with her coat, made wafer for me of her only shirt and persistently gave me her [drink]. Even when I refused she insisted – “Sister, you need fluid more than me at the moment […].” When another vehicle came, she ran to occupy seats in front so the drive would be less turbulent for me, [a really big heart she had]!

15 comments

  • Janez

    I am tired of hearing about Indian Gypsies rights how would Europens be treated if we moved to India. Your a foreinger, dirty culturaly. Whats next bring more Chinese and turn it in a land of banna people like America.Slovenia and Croatia just got its independince now will loses it to the Anglo Judasium Washington goverment. Europe should bring back the Iron Curtain but this time will put in the English Channel and put europes refugees in Briian since their imperlism destroyed the world.

  • Kali

    I live in Slovenia and a lot of informations that came from media about Gypsies and Ambrus are wrong.
    1st-the local people didn’t threaten Roma them with guns. No weapons were used. They were only protesting!!! So the whole “lynch” reports are overrated.
    2nd-the man that was attacked was blocked with 5 CARS (and only 1 person can’t drive 5 cars in the same time). The Slovenian was in his car WITH his son when they were ambushed. The son barely escaped – he was shot at, but luckilly the bullet missed him and his father was brutally beaten – he is probably in hospital fighting for his life but we don’t know that since the media doesn’t report nothing about him.
    3rd-The Strojan Gypsy family was terorrising local people. One older lady was RAPED. Numerous other villagers were extorted for money, threatend. The gypsies even STOLE A POLICE CAR ONCE!!!!and the cops were forced to walk back to the police station miles away. On more then one ocasion the police found guns, drugs, stolen cars…in Strojan’s “home” (illegaly build house on an area that it’s not legal to build).

    Strojan’s are not some innocent, pour gypsy family. I don’t feel sorry for them. Not for criminals.

  • Unfortunatelly I have to agree with Ljubisa’s assesment of the situation and the author of the original post. The whole thing is scarry. Perhaps this will testify to the fact that the anti-Roma sentiment hasn’t spread throughout Slovenia. Yet.

  • Peter

    In Slovenia there are more scary stories related to mob activities! Not long ago an HIV infected man was prevented from returning home by his neighbours in the city of Slovenska Bistrica. He was virtually chased from his own residence. Yes, Slovenians are very tolerant.

  • Tine

    People of other races are not welcomed in Slovenia and in Europe in general, once white people will realize how this sick multiracial propaganda misguided them to loss their racial identity culture and land its going to be a real mayhem we are white and we are mad!

  • Hi,

    I am an indian and feel a deep sense of similarity and keenship with the gypsies/roma as they are called. Indian government is not fighting for their rights today which is deplorable anyways.

    Coming to your point of europe being overwhelmed by gypsies, what will you do anyways with your falling birth rates and aging populations. You any way have to bring in indian immigrants who are young and talented. Then we indians will team up with out gypsy blood brothers and rule over your counties

  • Nini

    I’m quite fed up with Roma using their identity as a ticket to get out of trouble. Most Roma live in Prekmurje and Dolenjska. In Prekmurje there’s no trouble, people get along, while Dolenjska is boiling (Ambrus is in Dol.). Why is that?

    Well in Prekmurje the local authority showed a lot of patience and the Roma made an effort to license their buildings, make their surroundings not littered with trash and send their children to school, so they can get educated in order to be qualified for a legal job.
    But in Dolenjska people are somewhat less patient and also the Roma aren’t making the effort to blend in. What I want to say is, that Roma aren’t rejected on principle, but manly because of their actions.

    Some Roma complain there is no other way than stealing and other wrongdoing becouse they can’t get a job since they are Roma, but there is plenty of Slovenians unemployed because they don’t qualify (or they do but there simply isn’t any job availible to them), so why would anyone hire a Roma who didn’t even finish the elementary school (which is free and obligatory) and can hardly read.
    Most of their houses are illegaly built and remain so for decades. Police is obvlivious to the complaints of their neighbours (and certaintly was in the case of Ambrus) and usually do nothing to resolve tefths, shoting and littering. They usually tap into the electriciy which then has to be paid by their neighbours and don’t have a sewage which can be a major problem in Dolenjska since it’s a karst region and the water gets polluted easily. There are more complicated issues at hands then this, but the point is that Slovenians aren’t opposing Roma because of the culture or language or something like that, but because of the problems they cause to the community. And they can actualy get away with it, because if they are persecuted in any way, they say people are intolerant since they’re Roma.
    But there are also those Roma who work hard, but can’t get through because of the bad image. This is not a simple white or black problem, but more like a real mess.
    And as usual the loud are unfourtunately also those who cast the bad image on the whole group.
    And since the govermment doesn’t do much about it, it is no wonder that people in time reach the boiling point.
    This is not a simple problem of tolerence, but a much more complex issue which can’t be solved easily or fast.

    Also I do not appreciate how the story was blown out of proportions

  • indian1

    I dont understand, why people say culturally foreigners are dirty? I dont think, any culture is dirty.Roma people need to have reservation in European states and should be uplifted more than normal european citizens.Roma people are ostracized in every country, the only way is to grant them reservation according to their population size. Indian society is realizing for the mistake it did 3000 years ago, Now the oppressed people in india, have a reservation as a right.All the oppressed communities in the world unite for a common cause.As said, Indian government should support the cause of Roma people and probably grant them status of Perons of India origin(PIO) status and relocate them to india, if possible.

  • Ashish

    Dear All,

    I am an INDIAN, and I came to know about Roma People recently.
    We Indians are a type of people who accept other people the most easily.Even though they may murder and rape our brethen.History of India is testimony to this.
    Nevertheless the Roma People who are actually people of Indian Origin are still facing discrimination.
    No community is bad or devilish.We may not like even our own brother or father.Stereotyping a community is bad.
    All type of people(good and bad ) are there everywhere.Let us understand this and be more tolerant towards the OTHER.We are responsible for our own misfortunes.Others happiness is our happiness,definitely.
    Ashish

  • Dalibor Stajikj

    Really concerning problem!

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