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Hungary: The Roma and the Killing of Marian Cozma

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Digital Activism, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, History, Human Rights, International Relations, Law, Politics, Protest, War & Conflict

Marian Cozma, a Romanian handball player, was killed in a nightclub fight in Veszprém, Hungary, on Feb. 8. Here's some of what's been written by bloggers about the circumstances of Cozma's death [1].

Eva Balogh of Hungarian Spectrum [2]:

Saturday night the members of the Veszprém handball team decided to have a celebratory night out. One of their colleagues, Gergő Iváncsik, and his wife had just had a baby. They picked a bar/disco sometimes called Skorpió, sometimes Patrióta. […]

The day before a young man from Enying (Fejér county) exchanged some harsh words with F.B., a well known thug in town. This man most likely was Iván Sztojka. Sztojka wanted to retaliate against F.B., this time with a show of force. He enlisted a group of fifteen or twenty friends and relatives who went to Veszprém in search of F.B.

They first went to the bar and ordered drinks, but F.B. wasn't there. For whatever reason, they decided not to pay their tab. The barmaid demanded that they settle up. In response, they grabbed her by the hair and banged her head a couple of times on the counter. According to some reports she broke her jaw. At this point some of the handball players came to the girl's assistance. A fight ensued, during which one of Sztojka's cohorts smashed a chair on the head of Zarko Sesum, a Serbian player. He was the luckiest of the three players. The attacking group either forced two of the players outside or they were foolish enough to follow them, but by then knives were drawn. Marian Cozma, a Romanian player, received a mortal stab wound directly through his heart while Ivan Pesic, a Croatian who tried to help Cozma, was stabbed in the back. As a result, he lost one of his kidneys. Cozma is dead, Sesum and Pesic are in the hospital.


By this afternoon the police identified two men, both Gypsies, as the alleged perpetrators. […]

The police might be able to round up the guilty ones but that won't resolve the real problem of the growing anti-Gypsy sentiment. […]

Andy Hockley of Csíkszereda musings [3]:

[…] I have to confess that one of my first reactions on hearing this tragic story (when all I knew was that a famous Romanian handball star had been killed in Hungary), was to fear that he had been murdered by some crazy Hungarian nationalist intent on somehow getting his own back for Trianon or some such. Not that the manner or motive for the killing would matter to Cozma or his family or friends, but that if it were a hate crime, then it could turn into something more widespread and have long term political ramifications. As far as we know this wasn't the case and the team just got attacked for being in the wrong place at the wrong time while what amounted to a local gang/mafia type grudge was being played out.

However, the case is not without its ramifications and ethnic overtones. The men accused of killing Cozma are, you see, Rroma. So large swathes of the Hungarian press and its right-wing politicians have seized on this as clear evidence that this is an ethnic problem, and that “Gypsies” in general are to blame. A newspaper writer, for example, described gypsies as “not human beings, but animals”. […]

Antal Dániel of Central Europe Activ [4]:


A little bit of contextualization: The citizens of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia did not get on very well with each other. All relatively new nation states with a strong nationalistic sentiment that has been surpassed by Communist ‘internationalism’: the past decades have seen a lot of verbal assaults against each other. When the otherwise marginalized Hungarian far-right has set up a uniformed group under the name of ‘Hungarian Guard’ Slovakia cried fool and even accused Hungary for not fulfilling her obligations under the Paris Peace Treaty to wipe out fascist paramilitary groups. But these were just provocations. The Hungarian Guard, now banned by Hungarian law after a proper process in court, was not a paramilitary group, and certainly it had no intention to harass Slovaks or Romanians. It is a new manifestation of racism. The Hungarian Guard has one single activity: to threaten Roma communities within Hungary. […]

Earlier I noticed that things have changed a lot with the EU accession of the group. Romanian-Hungarian relations are on a historical all-time high. Hungary with Austria are the most firm supporters of Serbia’s and Croatia’s European integration. Slovakia has some extremists in the government coalitions, whose provocations are sometimes verbally met by Hungarian politicians out of mere pride, but I think the people are getting well with each other. Unfortunately, all these nations have found a common enemy: their shared Gypsy minorities, which belong to a number of groups, mostly including the Roma.


The comments in the YouTube page (and similar pages) are in Hungarian, Romanian, English, Croatians and Serb. They show grief, solidarity and every second calls for revenge on Gypsies.

The different Gypsy groups in all these countries are segregated, discriminated in schools and on the workplace and mainly live on the black market, social benefits and crime. As a visibly different native minority, their chances of assimilation is minimal. It is very ironic, that 20 years ago it could have been impossible that a Romanian sportsman is making a successful career in Hungary and becomes a favorite of his township, or a leading Hungarian professional sports club is a mix of Hungarian, Serb and Romanian players. It is a very sad irony that part of this new-found friendliness lies on a commonly shared racist attitude towards to Roma [5].