Sarajevo, 10th of April 2010
Few days ago, for the first time, I heard about the «International day of Roma population». Regarding to this symbolic date, important for the Roma people all around the world, an action called «I am a Roma woman» has been initiated by Bosnian authorities and local NGOs. This action should bring closer this national minority to the wider population and eliminate at least a part of prejudices that Balkan people usually have towards the Roma. People say very often that Roma are dirty, that they are thieves, begging for money, etc., and these kinds of prejudices disappear rarely from our heads. In order to make a first step towards the elimination of possibly held prejudices, watch the video below. In this video you can see Roma women who are very successful and who live an ordinary Yugoslavian life, that is, they went to school (each woman is from another part of our former country) and they are now working for an average company or factory with their high school level education, they have children and they are more happy than unhappy, regarding to their opportunities.
Although, experiences say the opposite, that is, they say they are very uncommon cases. Everybody knows that the state does nothing for Roma people, so the members of this community very often dig the containers to survive, don't go to schools, have serious problems with drug addiction, live like slum dogs, sometimes even with no documents, they don't know where they were born and where their home is, how many sisters or brothers do they have and how they could manage to survive. The most unknown data about them are the data about their mortality and cemeteries. You can almost never see an older gipsy, which could be a sign that they die prior to the average.
When I think about the way my parents raised me, and how other parents raised my friends, with whom I played football and went to school, I remember how we never, but really never, played with Roma children. Gypsies, as we always called them, were from a lower class than we were, even in our childish world. We tried to avoid them as much as possible, sometimes we even feared them, sometimes we beat them, sometimes they beat us, but with this ‘weird’ group we had no contact. They held a reputation of bad, dangerous guys, who sometimes inhaled glue, although we never attempted to include them into our society, and decide for ourselves if we were right or wrong. We simply considered they stink and were disgusted by them. I never had a Roma friend or classmate, and I didn't communicate with them. Even the media indoctrinated hate toward the Roma, through the news («Today, the young man of Roma nationality attacked a young woman and took all her money»), movies or some other forms of «education». For example, in the best Yugoslavian movie ever, «Who is singing there? », there is a scene where the main character, Danilo Bata Stojković, says «We know who usually steals», referring to the only gypsies in the bus.
Two weeks ago, I visited Brussels to participate in the European Blogging Competition, and during that journey I saw many Roma from various Balkan countries, mostly from Serbia, in the city center. Most surprisingly, a woman with a child asked me in my own language, «Hey countryman, do you have one Euro for me? », and I could not stay careless. When I tried to start a conversation, as it was lunch break, she replied in bad Serbian, so we exchanged only few sentences. A few moments later, I witnessed how she had been thrown out outside the bakery, followed by curses in French, which I couldn't understand. I realized that this was probably one of the many similar scenes how civilized Europe's capital deals with gypsies.
But, through our short conversation, I noticed one big difference. To my question, «Does your child go to school? », she answered «Off course, there is no joking with Belgian police», and she added «I can choose between his school and my prison, but in prison there are no Euros from the tourists». She also told me that she's very happy because she doesn't live in Serbia or Hungary anymore, where the authorities of these two countries don't pay attention to poor people. She's sure that her child will be happier than she is, and that he won't have to swim across the Danube, as she had to in search for a better future. “Few months ago, I was playing the accordion, but it did not pay off, as I am directly breaking the law, and as I can’t follow these rules, I gave up. Now I simply outstretch my hand, the police are urging me from the street, but I can stay at least for few hours, which is enough”, she added and continued, “Mišo (her son) goes to school, and he will earn his own bread, and as for me, if God blesses me with something that is fine, if not, there is nothing else to do. Mišo is the only important one in this situation. If God blesses my Mišo, I would be more than happy”. In the Balkans, it is the only way that Roma population can be happy (if God blesses them), because the state will not do anything for them. As a beginning, the state could start to implement the law on compulsory primary education for the Roman people, and there would be for sure less Roma on the streets. Till then, we can keep saying that they stink, avoid and discriminate them, but in my opinion, it is better to give them a chance. As an illustration, let’s hear this likeable street musician, who played on the streets of Brussels. He plays the trumpet very nice; he’s originally from Trnovo (a village nearby Sarajevo) and he is happy if somebody talks to him. An open dialogue is for sure a better way to include the Roma people into our societies, than to be constantly running away from them. They don’t need a lot and they are not worse than we are.