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Roma News May 2021

Romani activist Rudolf Zajda has passed away in the Czech Republic

 

The Romani activist and entrepreneur Rudolf Zajda passed away on the afternoon of 29 April at the age of 60 after a brief illness. His family has informed news server Romea.cz. 

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 2nd May, that Mr Zajda had been best known to the public as the chair of the Association of Romani Advisors in Brno, which offered unemployed Romani people many educational courses aiming to teach them foreign languages and the computer, business and management skills that could increase their chances on the labor market. Zajda was reported as telling Czech public radio's Romani program "O Roma vakeren" in 2005, that "I just hope that our activities will succeed to such a degree that the Labor Offices and the town halls finally notice that Romani people do want to do something for their employability and that the willingness is here".

It was also noted that Mr Zajda had been born on 23 June 1960 in Brno, Czechoslovakia and had earned a Bachelor's degree in andragogy (adult education) at the Jan Amos Comenius University in Prague. 

It was further noted that during the 1990s and shortly after the year 2000 Mr Zajda had been active politically and that just after the 1989 Velvet Revolution he had run in Brno as a candidate for the Roma Civic Initiative (ROI) and was a member of the International Romani Union (IRU). 

 

 

Romani kickboxer from Czech Republic defeats competitor after 90 seconds

On 3rd may, Romea.cz/en reported that on Saturday, 24 April, the historic first-ever tournament under the auspices of the prestigious Asian organization called the ONE Championship, the second most famous martial arts organization in the world, had been held at the Hotel International in Prague, with the high point of the event, called "Night of Warriors: Road to ONE" being the contest between Václav Sivák of the Czech Republic and Marian-Florian Soare of Romania. It was noted that Sivák had knocked Soare out in the first round, which means he remains undefeated among professionals in the sport.

 

 

Czech public health officials asking whether those testing positive for COVID-19 are Czech or Romani - but questions about nationality not being asked systematically

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 4th May that a staffer with the Regional Public Health office in Písek, Czech Republic who was conducting an epidemiological investigation had asked whether a girl who had tested positive for COVID-19 was Romani but had not explained why that question was important to him. It was noted that Ms Lucie Rácová, a mother of three, had been contacted by telephone more than once on 26 March by the Regional Public Health office in Písek and each call had been monitored. 

It was further noted that according to Rácová, in addition to the compulsory questions that were meant to aid in better tracking infected persons, the staffer had also asked whether the people he had been calling about were Czech or Romani. "My daughter had been running a fever since 23 March, so the next day I bought an antigen test for her in a pharmacy and it turned out positive," she was reported as informing Romea.cz.    "I brought her to the district doctor, and on Thursday the infection was confirmed. On Friday, 26 March, Mr Šafránek of the Regional Public Health office contacted us to ask who lives in our household.”

 

 

Brooke Pavek, an American with Romani roots, has more than 700 000 social media followers

On 5th May, Romewa.cz/en reported about Brooke Pavek who is a young American woman whose Romani father is from the Czech lands and whose Jewish mother is from Poland.  It was noted that she was proud of her roots and frequently speaks about them on social media, where more than 700 000 fans follow her, and that she had become so popular among young people thanks to her brief, entertaining videos about history on TikTok that leading media outlets like the BBC or TIME magazine in the US had written about her. It was further reported that she had been making use of her platform to draw attention to the initiative called the.future.is.roma.

 

 

 

Czech court sentences brutal, racially-motivated assailant who attacked Romani man in front of children to 7.5 years in prison

 

On  6th May, Romea.cz/en reported that Denik.cz had reported that on Monday, 3 May that the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic had convicted 40-year-old Jiří Jäger of racially-motivated attempted grievous bodily harm and sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison. It was further reported that the verdict had yet to take effect.   

It was noted that Jäger had first insulted Romani people with racist epithets and had then used a broken bottle to assault a 28-year-old Romani man who had been with his girlfriend and children. The attacker was said to have caused lacerations to the victim.

 

Czech bill to compensate forcibly sterilized women passes second reading, as does bill to close institutions for children under three

 

On 6th May, Romea.cz/en reporetd that a bill to compensate illegally sterilized women had passed a second reading in the Czech Chamber of Deputies that day. It was noted that amendments to the Health Services Act had also been passed to help transform infant care facilities and replace them with care in family environments. 

It was also reported that if the bill to compensate women who were sterilized without their consent is adopted in a third reading, the victims should receive a one-time compensation award of CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 660]. It was noted that the practice of unlawfully-performed sterilizations on the territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia has affected hundreds of women, especially Romani women

It was said that support for the bill had been expressed by Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková. It was noted that in her view, the law was the only opportunity for these women to get justice, as they are no longer able to sue due to statutes of limitations.  

Czech MP František Elfmark was reported as saying this during the debate in the lower house. "Health care facilities performed these surgeries between 1966 and 2012 under the pretext that the consequence of not performing these surgeries would be an immediate risk to the health or life of the patient. Sterilization, however, is a surgery to prevent conception, it has nothing to do with a patient's health or life being threatened". 

Romani scholarship recipient plans to work on AI at Czech university

 

On 9th May. Romea.cz/en reporetd that František Német, a 20-year-old student in computer science from Chomutov, Czech Republic, was planning to work with artificial intelligence (AI) in the future - thanks to winning the FIKS competition (which tests for computer science and problem-solving aptitude) he had been accepted to the Czech Technical University's Faculty of Information Technology in Prague. News server Romea.cz had interviewed the Romani Scholarship recipient about his hobbies and motivation to study.

 

 

Karel Karika: I've had my first jab, the vaccine is the way back to normal life

 

On 10th May, Romea.cz/en reported that Romani community member and politician in the Czech Republic, Karel Karika, was receiving his first dose of vaccine against COVID-19 (3 May 2021).

 

It was further reported that as of 10th May in the Czech Republic more than 3.6 million people had received at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19, according to authorities. One of those people was Karel Karika, vice-mayor of Ústí nad Labem municipality and chair of the Czechoslovak Romani Union (Československá romská unie). 

Karika was reported as saying that he believed it is exactly vaccination that would  return us all to normal life. "Many people in our community believe they do not have to get the vaccine because they already have antibodies or contracted COVID-19 asymptomatically. However, it is necessary to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus as soon as possible, and vaccination can make a fundamental contribution to that," the politician told news server Romea.cz last week, adding that he has already received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and will be receiving the second dose on 14 May. 

"Please do not succumb to all the haters or to the disinformation that this pandemic will resolve itself. The sooner we are all vaccinated, the faster we will all return to normal," Karika was reported as saying.

 

Czech Govt approves crucial Strategy on including Romani people, Commissioner for Romani Affairs to be created

 

On 11th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the previous day, during a cabinet session the Czech Government approved its Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma (Romani Integration Strategy) for the 2021-2030 period. It was noted that this crucial document had been drafted in close collaboration with the Office of the Government and representatives of nonprofit organizations led by the organization RomanoNet, by the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, and by other eminent representatives of the Romani community.

It was further reported that the strategy has six chapters, addressing problems in the areas of emancipation; support for equality, inclusion and participation; antigypsyism; education; housing; employment; and health. It was said that it also includes a section on tasks specifying clear assignments for each ministry, and the Government has committed to fulfilling several breakthrough measures.

It was reported that the position of Government Commissioner on Romani Affairs is meant to be established as soon as possible and that the Government had also committed to follow and monitor how each measure specifically impacts Romani people.

Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková was reported as saying that, "the most important thing is the participation of Romani people, without whom change in the areas addressed by Strategy 2021+ will not be possible". It was reported that in her opinion, it was exactly the low participation by Romani people in administering public affairs that was one of the main reasons the measures and financial support adopted to date for this area had not been effective.

 

Czech documentary film LETY will screen online for free on 13 May, followed by live chat with producers

Romea.ca/en reported on 11th May that on Thursday, 13 May at 20:00 the online streaming service "Moje kino live", run by the Aero Cinema in Prague, would offer the documentary film "LETY", produced by ROMEA TV, free of charge. Immediately after the screening, a livestream chat with some of the film's producers would be held, which viewers would be able to join with their questions through the Facebook page of the ROMEA organization.  

The screening was said to be being held on the day when the commemorative ceremony was traditionally usually held at the site of the burial ground for the victims of the concentration camp for Romani people near the village of Lety u Písku; because of measures against the ongoing pandemic the ceremony had been cancelled this year. It was noted that the 2019 hour-long documentary film "LETY", by Romani community members Renata Berkyová, František Bikár and Viola Tokárová, captured 20 years of efforts by many stakeholders to remove an industrial pig farm from the site of the former concentration camp and the ongoing debate about the history of the place.     

It was further reported that the film combined investigative research into previously unclarified facts that influenced the circumstances of the farm being bought out by the state with testimonies from eyewitnesses, footage from the archives of Czech Television, ROMEA TV, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and interviews with those directly involved, such as Čeněk Růžička, Fedor Gál, Vladimír Mlynář, Markus Pape, Mayor of Mirovice Adolf Vondrášek, Petr Uhl, archaeologist Pavel Vařeka, Daniel Herman and others. The documentary recently won an award at the AKE DIKEHA? film festival, special recognition from the artistic director of the festival, Hamze Bytyci. 

 

Vojtěch Lavička: Ghettos in the Czech Republic are determined by poverty, nobody judicious believes they can disappear

On 12th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the local zoning of addresses where housing benefits cannot be drawn - the "bad" addresses where any incoming tenants will not be allowed to claim such benefits - had been frequently presented both by the media and by politicians as an effective instrument for combating "trafficking in poverty", but that it was difficult to say what basis we might use for agreeing with such claims. It was further reported that the number of socially excluded localities in the country, according to qualified estimates, was decidedly not declining - on the contrary, new socially excluded localities are springing up, or the bigger ones are "crumbling" into several smaller ones.

It was also noted that if we look at the wording of the law that sets forth the conditions for adopting a local ordinance of a "general nature" about such housing benefit-free zones, we would comprehend quite quickly that this was notmuch about combating trafficking in poverty as it is about providing local governments with an opportunity to have an across-the-board impact on areas where "socially undesirable phenomena" occur.

It was said that this meant that towns were predicting that the people who newly moved into such addresses would inevitably commit such asocial behavior. For that reason it was argued that they are pre-emptively not approving housing benefits for people who newly take up residence at such addresses, even if the applicants fulfill all the conditions for receiving such benefits and are otherwise entitled to them by law. 

It was further argued that towns were doing this solely on the basis of newcomers having chosen a "bad" address and that what clearly flows from the wording of the regulations is that from the beginning, this is more about hindering "bad" and "problematic" residents than it is about hindering the business cycles of those who speculate in apartment units and temporary accommodations... 

Vojtěch Lavička went on to say, “imagine you are a five-member Romani family living in Přerov, and you learn that you have to move house. You are impoverished and out of work, and you have therefore been drawing a housing contribution at your current address, in accordance with the law. 

Because you are Romani, it is quite difficult for you to find another place to rent in a locality of Přerov that is considered "problem-free", as none of the owners of rental housing in that kind of locality want to rent to you because of your nationality. Because of that discrimination, your choice of where to move narrows down to somewhere near the train station, but there is more than one housing benefit-free zone in place there, which means you will not be able to draw the housing contribution if you relocate there, and economically you will not be able to cope without the benefit. “

 

Czech town installs brass tablets in pavement to remember the tragic wartime fate of its Jewish residents

 

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 13th May that bronze tablets had been installed in the pavement of the streets of Česká Lípa in 2021 to remind passers-by of the tragic fate of the Jewish people who lived there prior to the Second World War.

 

The brass tablets had been added to the paving stones in the streets of Česká Lípa in order to draw attention to the tragic fate of the Jewish people who had lived there before the Second World War. Nine such tablets were inlaid three years ago and another five had been added this year on 6 May.

It was noted that the tablets commemorate the names of residents and the dates of their births and deaths in concentration camps during the war.

 

Czech Museum of Romani Culture commemorates Holocaust victims in online ceremony

On 14th May, Romea.cz/en reported on the 13 May 2021 commemorative ceremony at the burial ground for Romani prisoners who died in the former concentration camp at Lety u Písku. (PHOTO: Museum of Romani Culture, Czech Republic)

 

It was noted that on 13th May the Museum of Romani Culture in the Czech Republic had held an online commemorative ceremony honouring the memories of the victims of the Holocaust who had been imprisoned in what was referred to at the time as a "Zigeunerlager" in Lety u Písku; due to the COVID-19 pandemic the traditional commemorative ceremony, which is usually attended by 100 or more people paying their respects, could not be held directly at the site of the former camp.

It was further reported that these specific events took place:

“At 8 AM the museum sent out a video greeting from Čeněk Růžička, a longtime organizer of the commemorative ceremonies at Lety, in his role as the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic

At 9 AM a photo gallery was published online of the employees of the Museum of Romani Culture enacting a small-scale ceremony at the Lety u Písku Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Bohemia.

At 10 AM a new video thematizing the events at both former "Zigeunerlager" in the wartime Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the camp at Hodonín u Kunštátu and the one at Lety, was broadcast online by the museum.”

 

Czech Govt commits to investigating property confiscated from Romani people during WWII in order to compensate them

 

It was reported by Romea.cz/en  on 14th May that an analysis should soon be undertaken in the Czech Republic to map the property owned by Romani people living in the Czech lands during the interwar period that had been subsequently confiscated from them by authorities between 1938 and 1945 during the Nazi German occupation.  It was noted that the analysis should serve as a background material for establishing a compensation procedure. The new Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma 2021-2030 counts on performing such an analysis and was approved by the Czech Government at its most recent cabinet session. 

It was further reported that:

“According to the Holocaust.cz website, the authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939–1945) ultimately deported more than 5 500 Romani people from the Czech lands to the Auschwitz death camp. After the war, roughly one-tenth of that 5 500 returned to their homes. 

The website also reminds people of the Protectorate-era camps at Hodonín u Kunštátu and Lety u Písku and their role in that process. "The Government of the Czech Republic has not yet taken the step of fairly compensating Romani people for the property confiscated from them during the Second World War," the new Strategy states. “

 

 

Czech town unveils plaque to the "Black Partisan" Josef Serinek

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 15th May that on Saturday, 8 May, on the occasion of Victory Day, a memorial plaque had been unveiled in Svitavy, Czech Republic to Josef Serinek, a participant in the Czechoslovak anti-Nazi resistance given the nickname of "Black Partisan" because of his Romani nationality. "So his bravery, honor and legacy will not be forgotten, a memorial plaque has been installed at the house where he spent important years of his life," said representatives of the town of Svitavy on the installation of the plaque for the partisan whose cover name had also been "Black".  

It was reported that the commemorative ceremony had been attended by former soldier and current vice-chair of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, Zdeněk Guži, who gave a brief speech in front of the building on Pražská Street where the "Black Partisan" lived for several years after the war and ran a pub.

 

 

 

Even in hell, she chose good: Alfreda Markowska, the Polish Romani woman who saved Jewish and Romani children from the Nazis

On 16th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the life story of Alfreda Noncia Markowska read like a screenplay for a film and that she had been a Polish Romani woman who had saved at least 50 Jewish and Romani children from the Nazis.

It was noted that "Grandma Noncia", as her family had called her, had passed away this year on 30 January at the age of 94. and that she has been called the "Romani Irena Sendler" and is the very first member of the Romani nation to ever receive a Commander's Cross with the star of the Order of Polonia Restituta, which is the second-highest civilian honor the Polish Republic awards for exceptional service. 

It was further reported that:

"If the Jewish nation exists today, if the Romani nation exists today, that is just thanks to people like you," then-President Lech Kaczyński told Markowská when giving her the commendation at an official ceremony on 17 October 2006. Held at the Presidential Palace, the event was attended by representatives of the Polish state and public life, guests from Germany, Israel and the USA, and Romani representatives.

"This commendation is in honor of an act of the highest value - saving human lives under the conditions of the hell prepared for our country by the Third Reich, Hitler's Nazism. You saved citizens of our country when there was not just the danger of being imprisoned or exiled for saving them, but the danger of being put to death," the Polish President said on that occasion.

"I thank you for your exceptional heroism," Kaczyński told Markowska. She was 80 years old at the time.   

 

Czech court hands down sentencing in pool brawl case, one Romani man acquitted for having attempted to stop the altercation

 

Romea.cz/en reported on 17th May that the District Court in Teplice, Czech Republic had handed down sentences on 13 May 2021 against the defendants in the case of a 2018 altercation at a swimming pool that had received national attention. It was said that defendants Jiří Demeter and Roman Dunka would be sent to a maximum-security prison for one year for having been accomplices to intentional battery and rioting. 

It was further reported that in 2018 they had assaulted David Michajlak at a swimming pool in Dubí (Teplice district) after he had attempted to intervene in a dispute between two women; he suffered moderately severe injuries as a result. 

It was also noted that the verdict had yet to take effect and the defendants had already appealed and other participants in the conflict, defendants Radek Čonka and Michal Dunka, were given suspended sentences of two years in prison. 

 

Czech lower house committee chooses attorney now facing disciplinary action for making light of racist crime to join public broadcasting board

 

On 19th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the previous week the Czech Chamber of Deputies' Electoral Commission had used a secret ballot process to choose yet another potential candidate to be appointed to the board of public broadcaster Czech Television. Attorney Michael Mann it was reported had been chosen as a replacement for candidate Jiří Grund, who had withdrawn for personal reasons. It was noted that Mann is infamous for his public response to a scandal involving the racist insults and death threats made on social media against first-graders attending the Plynárenská Street Primary School in Teplice, Czech Republic, most of whom are of Arab or Romani origin.

Mann represented one of the racist commentators involved and it was noted that a disciplinary procedure had been opened against him by the Czech Bar Association because of his remarks made to the media about that case. The social media content at issue was said to have been posted in response to the official photo of the first grade class after it had been published online by a local news outlet, commenting as follows:  "It's a good thing they're from the Plynárenská [Gasworks] Primary School. The solution is right there."

 

 

Barbora Ellen Bilá: I want to go to college and make my grandfather's last wish come true

 

On 20th May Romea.cz/en reported that Barbora Ellen Bilá, a 17-year-old student of business and economics in the Czech Republic  is aiming for a career in international business. It was noted that before that, she would like to complete high school and then college, which she is doing with the help of a scholarship from the Romani Scholarship Program.

It was noted that in an interview for Romea.cz, Bilá had revealed that she had promised her grandfather, who supported her in her studies and believed in her, that she would earn a college degree. It was said that as part of her scholarship, she has been attending the BARUVAS program, which aids Romani students with forming bonds and establishing contacts, and she describes the experience as follows:  "At BARUVAS I got to know many amazing people who have become important to me. I also got information about opportunities to study abroad."   

It was noted that the ROMEA organization's scholarship program is not just about financial aid during one's studies. Other components of the program are educational supports in the form of tutoring, the ability to take extracurricular courses, and the regular BARUVAS student meetings.

Romea.cz/en noted that students not only educate themselves further at those meetings, but have an opportunity to get to know each other and establish relationships across the country. Bilá was reported as saying that, "the ROMEA organization is also assisting me with buying textbooks, workbooks and other aids."

 

František Kostlán: Both the Jews and the Roma were victims of the Holocaust

 

On 21st May, Romea.cz/en reported that František Kostlán had been commenting on the scandal around the Terezín Initiative (TI) in the Czech Republic, which earlier this year, through its governing body and that of its Institute of the Terezín Initiative (ITI) had refused to allow the names of the Romani victims of Nazism to be read aloud on the Yom HaShoah holiday, had more aspects to it and is more complex than some observers had described. It was argued that this is not about "racism" or "xenophobia", but about a Holocaust legacy that is not being managed.

It was also noted that František Kostlán had said that it is absolutely impossible, in this case, to agree with the rejection of the reading of the names of the Romani victims of Nazism.  Leo Pavlát was blamed of the controversy.

 

 

Director of Jewish Museum in Prague responds to commentary by František Kostlán, says its remarks about him are "gossip"

 

On the same day it was reported by Romea.cz/en that the director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlát, had responded to a commentary by František Kostlán on the scandal of the fact that the governing bodies of the Terezín Initiative (TI) and its Institute of the Terezín Initiative (ITI) had rejected the reading of the names of the Romani victims of Nazism on the occasion of Yom HaShoah in the Czech Republic. In his commentary, Kostlán had written about Pavlát's role in the decision; Pavlát has objected to that part of the article and is accusing Kostlán of having "fabricated gossip" and "neglecting to back up his arbitrary claims with any facts"; news server Romea.cz is publishing Leo Pavlát's statement in full here. 

 

Czech Charter 77 signatory and sociologist Jiřina Šiklová has passed away, advocated for Romani equality

 

On 23rd May, Romea.cz/en reported that news server Aktuálně.cz had reported that Jiřina Šiklová, the gender studies advocate, signatory of Charter 77, and sociologist, had passed away at the age of 85. Her son confirmed her death to the news server on 22nd May. 

It was further reported that during the normalization era in communist Czechoslovakia Ms Šiklová had assisted with the export of banned literature by authors still inside the country and the import of banned literature by Czechoslovak authors living in exile. It was noted that she had spent a year in prison in 1981 for doing so. 

After 1989 it was reported that she had established the Department of Social Work at Charles University in Prague. It was noted that in lecture plans at social science faculties all over the Czech Republic she had advocated for gender and the relationship between the sexes as an issue and a subject. 

 Vojtěch Lavička on the Ostrava incident: Knowing how to communicate can prevent dangerous conflicts

 

On 24th May, Romea.cz/en reported that Czech media outlets and social media users had been abuzz with the recent case of a 16-year-old Romani youth who brutally assaulted an older security guard at a shopping centre. It was noted that as is usual, the media were covering the case quite superficially, mentioning just one side of the story and taking no interest in the other side, with a few notable exceptions.

It was reported that the incident had happened on Monday, 17 May, at a shopping mall in Ostrava near a playground. It was further reported that from the video footage of the incident that is being circulated online people could see about 10 children and young adults standing around in an open area near the mall

It was further argued that the security guard coiuld have handled the situation better before the attack took place, but that this was note been reported on social media.

 

Petr Ščuka: Romani flag accessories with Swarovski crystals are popular

 

Romea.cz/en reported on 25th May that Romani community member Petr Ščuka was the only manufacturer in the Czech Republic producing T-shirts, bow ties or linen bags featuring Romani flags made from hand-glued, imported Swarovski crystals that he sells through his e-shop. It was said that the idea to establish an online business had come to him three years ago after he produced such a t-shirt for himself with the sparkling little crystals. 

Tit was further reported that that product had got an enormous response from everybody he knew. "People were stopping me at Romani events to ask where I got the t-shirt. I always told them that I just bought a plain t-shirt and put the Romani flag on it myself by gluing on the little crystals. Even though I saw how captivated people were by my idea, I didn't go into business right away," Ščuka was reported as telling news server Romea.cz. 

 

ROMEA TV program discusses current COVID-19 disinformation and hoaxes on the Czech Internet

 

Ton 26th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the latest episode of the TRIN program on ROMEA TV discussed the disinformation circulating on the Czech Internet, some but not all of it about COVID-19. It was noted that some familiar hoaxes were claiming that Romani people didn't have to pay for prescription medicines (or for swimming pool access), while others were newly alleging, falsely, that the Pirate Party wants to curtail health care for senior citizens, or that a certain parasite has been found in the respirators that are now required in certain settings.  

All of these hoaxes were reported to be currently spreading through Czech social media with the force of an avalanche. The guests on the TRIN program are Janusz Konieczny, analyst with the Czech Pirate Party, and Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA public benefit corporation, which runs the Romea.cz news server and ROMEA TV.  

It was noted that both guests had long been involved in tracking such disinformation and hoaxes. Ryšavý asked during the discussion,  "We can explain to people that they should check the sources of the information they see online until we are blue in the face, but it's not enough. In some situations we have to intervene. When we do so, those whose posts we have removed will accuse us of censorship. Is this censorship, or is it self-defence?"

 

The ruling that took 15 years: Czech town ordered to compensate some of the Romani residents whom it evicted and relocated

On 27th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the High Court in Olomouc, Czech Republic had finally handed down a decision in the years-long dispute between the town of Vsetín and the former residents of an apartment building in the town centre that no longer even exists today, awarding some of those former residents compensation for the damages associated with their being evicted and relocated in the amount of CZK 302 000 [EUR 12 600] total, as Jana Raszková, spokesperson for the town hall, had communicated on Monday 24th May to the Czech News Agency in a press release. It was noted that the town had evicted and relocated the families, all of whom were Romani, from their homes in 2006 under Mayor Jiří Čunek (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL). 

It was further noted that the building they had been evicted from was in poor condition and the town had subsequently demolished it. Some of the evictees were said to have been relocated into apartment units made out of repurposed shipping containers in the Poschla locality of Vsetín, while others had been relocated into properties in another administrative region altogether in the areas of Jeseníky, Olomouc and Prostějov. 

It was also reported that from the beginning the Romani evictees had alleged that the town leadership used force to evict and relocate them and caused them mental anguish. Some evictees were said to have criticized the fact that employees from the local authority forced them to sign papers that they were unable to read that were related to buying the properties - sight unseen - into which they were then relocated. 

It was further reported that allegedly the evictees had never been given the opportunity to freely choose where they would move their families. A total of 52 Romani people who had suffered this treatment had later filed a lawsuit against the town. 

 

Slovakia: Racist politicians launch hateful anti-Romani campaign over state's pandemic benefit for impoverished children

On 28th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the Government of Slovakia had approved a proposal for a one-time payment of EUR 333 per child as compensation to families for the limitations imposed on them as a consequence of the pandemic, and a wave of anti-Romani hatred had been sparked by the move. It was noted that according to Slovak MP Peter Pollák, Jr (OĽaNO), who was himself a Romani community member, the Government should have more clearly described to the public who the primary recipients of the benefit would be much earlier in the process.  

It was further reported that according to Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) the decision to approve the proposal had been made by the governing coalition. The proposal had not just sparked criticism of the Government but a wave of hatred against the Romani minority online.  

It was also noted that some of the disinformation spread online included the untruthful allegation that the finances of "white working families" were being collected to support Romani households with many members who live in settlements or at the Luník IX housing estate in Košice. It was also said that the Denník N daily  newspaper in Slovakia had reported that politicians were taking advantage of the Government decision in order to smear Romani people.

 

 

After European Court of Human Rights ruling, Slovak court acquits yet another Romani victim wrongfully indicted for reporting a brutal police attack

 On 29th May, Romea.cz/en reported that on 13th May, the District Court in Košice, Slovakia had acquitted Robert Rybář, a Romani man who, along with other Romani community members, had been charged with making false accusations and committing perjury against the police officers who perpetrated a brutal raid in 2013 on the settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou. The acquittal is now final.     

This is the second such decision after the District Prosecutor withdrew indictments in March against five of the six Romani community members charged with such offenses in relation to this incident. The local prosecutor did so after receiving the Slovak Prosecutor-General's standpoint on the case and after reassessing the evidence.

 

Peter Sagar. A Living Tradition CIC

Romani activist Rudolf Zajda has passed away in the Czech Republic

 

The Romani activist and entrepreneur Rudolf Zajda passed away on the afternoon of 29 April at the age of 60 after a brief illness. His family has informed news server Romea.cz. 

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 2nd May, that Mr Zajda had been best known to the public as the chair of the Association of Romani Advisors in Brno, which offered unemployed Romani people many educational courses aiming to teach them foreign languages and the computer, business and management skills that could increase their chances on the labor market. Zajda was reported as telling Czech public radio's Romani program "O Roma vakeren" in 2005, that "I just hope that our activities will succeed to such a degree that the Labor Offices and the town halls finally notice that Romani people do want to do something for their employability and that the willingness is here".

It was also noted that Mr Zajda had been born on 23 June 1960 in Brno, Czechoslovakia and had earned a Bachelor's degree in andragogy (adult education) at the Jan Amos Comenius University in Prague. 

It was further noted that during the 1990s and shortly after the year 2000 Mr Zajda had been active politically and that just after the 1989 Velvet Revolution he had run in Brno as a candidate for the Roma Civic Initiative (ROI) and was a member of the International Romani Union (IRU). 

 

 

Romani kickboxer from Czech Republic defeats competitor after 90 seconds

On 3rd may, Romea.cz/en reported that on Saturday, 24 April, the historic first-ever tournament under the auspices of the prestigious Asian organization called the ONE Championship, the second most famous martial arts organization in the world, had been held at the Hotel International in Prague, with the high point of the event, called "Night of Warriors: Road to ONE" being the contest between Václav Sivák of the Czech Republic and Marian-Florian Soare of Romania. It was noted that Sivák had knocked Soare out in the first round, which means he remains undefeated among professionals in the sport.

 

 

Czech public health officials asking whether those testing positive for COVID-19 are Czech or Romani - but questions about nationality not being asked systematically

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 4th May that a staffer with the Regional Public Health office in Písek, Czech Republic who was conducting an epidemiological investigation had asked whether a girl who had tested positive for COVID-19 was Romani but had not explained why that question was important to him. It was noted that Ms Lucie Rácová, a mother of three, had been contacted by telephone more than once on 26 March by the Regional Public Health office in Písek and each call had been monitored. 

It was further noted that according to Rácová, in addition to the compulsory questions that were meant to aid in better tracking infected persons, the staffer had also asked whether the people he had been calling about were Czech or Romani. "My daughter had been running a fever since 23 March, so the next day I bought an antigen test for her in a pharmacy and it turned out positive," she was reported as informing Romea.cz.    "I brought her to the district doctor, and on Thursday the infection was confirmed. On Friday, 26 March, Mr Šafránek of the Regional Public Health office contacted us to ask who lives in our household.”

 

 

Brooke Pavek, an American with Romani roots, has more than 700 000 social media followers

On 5th May, Romewa.cz/en reported about Brooke Pavek who is a young American woman whose Romani father is from the Czech lands and whose Jewish mother is from Poland.  It was noted that she was proud of her roots and frequently speaks about them on social media, where more than 700 000 fans follow her, and that she had become so popular among young people thanks to her brief, entertaining videos about history on TikTok that leading media outlets like the BBC or TIME magazine in the US had written about her. It was further reported that she had been making use of her platform to draw attention to the initiative called the.future.is.roma.

 

 

 

Czech court sentences brutal, racially-motivated assailant who attacked Romani man in front of children to 7.5 years in prison

 

On  6th May, Romea.cz/en reported that Denik.cz had reported that on Monday, 3 May that the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic had convicted 40-year-old Jiří Jäger of racially-motivated attempted grievous bodily harm and sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison. It was further reported that the verdict had yet to take effect.   

It was noted that Jäger had first insulted Romani people with racist epithets and had then used a broken bottle to assault a 28-year-old Romani man who had been with his girlfriend and children. The attacker was said to have caused lacerations to the victim.

 

Czech bill to compensate forcibly sterilized women passes second reading, as does bill to close institutions for children under three

 

On 6th May, Romea.cz/en reporetd that a bill to compensate illegally sterilized women had passed a second reading in the Czech Chamber of Deputies that day. It was noted that amendments to the Health Services Act had also been passed to help transform infant care facilities and replace them with care in family environments. 

It was also reported that if the bill to compensate women who were sterilized without their consent is adopted in a third reading, the victims should receive a one-time compensation award of CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 660]. It was noted that the practice of unlawfully-performed sterilizations on the territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia has affected hundreds of women, especially Romani women

It was said that support for the bill had been expressed by Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková. It was noted that in her view, the law was the only opportunity for these women to get justice, as they are no longer able to sue due to statutes of limitations.  

Czech MP František Elfmark was reported as saying this during the debate in the lower house. "Health care facilities performed these surgeries between 1966 and 2012 under the pretext that the consequence of not performing these surgeries would be an immediate risk to the health or life of the patient. Sterilization, however, is a surgery to prevent conception, it has nothing to do with a patient's health or life being threatened". 

Romani scholarship recipient plans to work on AI at Czech university

 

On 9th May. Romea.cz/en reporetd that František Német, a 20-year-old student in computer science from Chomutov, Czech Republic, was planning to work with artificial intelligence (AI) in the future - thanks to winning the FIKS competition (which tests for computer science and problem-solving aptitude) he had been accepted to the Czech Technical University's Faculty of Information Technology in Prague. News server Romea.cz had interviewed the Romani Scholarship recipient about his hobbies and motivation to study.

 

 

Karel Karika: I've had my first jab, the vaccine is the way back to normal life

 

On 10th May, Romea.cz/en reported that Romani community member and politician in the Czech Republic, Karel Karika, was receiving his first dose of vaccine against COVID-19 (3 May 2021).

 

It was further reported that as of 10th May in the Czech Republic more than 3.6 million people had received at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19, according to authorities. One of those people was Karel Karika, vice-mayor of Ústí nad Labem municipality and chair of the Czechoslovak Romani Union (Československá romská unie). 

Karika was reported as saying that he believed it is exactly vaccination that would  return us all to normal life. "Many people in our community believe they do not have to get the vaccine because they already have antibodies or contracted COVID-19 asymptomatically. However, it is necessary to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus as soon as possible, and vaccination can make a fundamental contribution to that," the politician told news server Romea.cz last week, adding that he has already received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and will be receiving the second dose on 14 May. 

"Please do not succumb to all the haters or to the disinformation that this pandemic will resolve itself. The sooner we are all vaccinated, the faster we will all return to normal," Karika was reported as saying.

 

Czech Govt approves crucial Strategy on including Romani people, Commissioner for Romani Affairs to be created

 

On 11th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the previous day, during a cabinet session the Czech Government approved its Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma (Romani Integration Strategy) for the 2021-2030 period. It was noted that this crucial document had been drafted in close collaboration with the Office of the Government and representatives of nonprofit organizations led by the organization RomanoNet, by the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, and by other eminent representatives of the Romani community.

It was further reported that the strategy has six chapters, addressing problems in the areas of emancipation; support for equality, inclusion and participation; antigypsyism; education; housing; employment; and health. It was said that it also includes a section on tasks specifying clear assignments for each ministry, and the Government has committed to fulfilling several breakthrough measures.

It was reported that the position of Government Commissioner on Romani Affairs is meant to be established as soon as possible and that the Government had also committed to follow and monitor how each measure specifically impacts Romani people.

Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková was reported as saying that, "the most important thing is the participation of Romani people, without whom change in the areas addressed by Strategy 2021+ will not be possible". It was reported that in her opinion, it was exactly the low participation by Romani people in administering public affairs that was one of the main reasons the measures and financial support adopted to date for this area had not been effective.

 

Czech documentary film LETY will screen online for free on 13 May, followed by live chat with producers

Romea.ca/en reported on 11th May that on Thursday, 13 May at 20:00 the online streaming service "Moje kino live", run by the Aero Cinema in Prague, would offer the documentary film "LETY", produced by ROMEA TV, free of charge. Immediately after the screening, a livestream chat with some of the film's producers would be held, which viewers would be able to join with their questions through the Facebook page of the ROMEA organization.  

The screening was said to be being held on the day when the commemorative ceremony was traditionally usually held at the site of the burial ground for the victims of the concentration camp for Romani people near the village of Lety u Písku; because of measures against the ongoing pandemic the ceremony had been cancelled this year. It was noted that the 2019 hour-long documentary film "LETY", by Romani community members Renata Berkyová, František Bikár and Viola Tokárová, captured 20 years of efforts by many stakeholders to remove an industrial pig farm from the site of the former concentration camp and the ongoing debate about the history of the place.     

It was further reported that the film combined investigative research into previously unclarified facts that influenced the circumstances of the farm being bought out by the state with testimonies from eyewitnesses, footage from the archives of Czech Television, ROMEA TV, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and interviews with those directly involved, such as Čeněk Růžička, Fedor Gál, Vladimír Mlynář, Markus Pape, Mayor of Mirovice Adolf Vondrášek, Petr Uhl, archaeologist Pavel Vařeka, Daniel Herman and others. The documentary recently won an award at the AKE DIKEHA? film festival, special recognition from the artistic director of the festival, Hamze Bytyci. 

 

Vojtěch Lavička: Ghettos in the Czech Republic are determined by poverty, nobody judicious believes they can disappear

On 12th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the local zoning of addresses where housing benefits cannot be drawn - the "bad" addresses where any incoming tenants will not be allowed to claim such benefits - had been frequently presented both by the media and by politicians as an effective instrument for combating "trafficking in poverty", but that it was difficult to say what basis we might use for agreeing with such claims. It was further reported that the number of socially excluded localities in the country, according to qualified estimates, was decidedly not declining - on the contrary, new socially excluded localities are springing up, or the bigger ones are "crumbling" into several smaller ones.

It was also noted that if we look at the wording of the law that sets forth the conditions for adopting a local ordinance of a "general nature" about such housing benefit-free zones, we would comprehend quite quickly that this was notmuch about combating trafficking in poverty as it is about providing local governments with an opportunity to have an across-the-board impact on areas where "socially undesirable phenomena" occur.

It was said that this meant that towns were predicting that the people who newly moved into such addresses would inevitably commit such asocial behavior. For that reason it was argued that they are pre-emptively not approving housing benefits for people who newly take up residence at such addresses, even if the applicants fulfill all the conditions for receiving such benefits and are otherwise entitled to them by law. 

It was further argued that towns were doing this solely on the basis of newcomers having chosen a "bad" address and that what clearly flows from the wording of the regulations is that from the beginning, this is more about hindering "bad" and "problematic" residents than it is about hindering the business cycles of those who speculate in apartment units and temporary accommodations... 

Vojtěch Lavička went on to say, “imagine you are a five-member Romani family living in Přerov, and you learn that you have to move house. You are impoverished and out of work, and you have therefore been drawing a housing contribution at your current address, in accordance with the law. 

Because you are Romani, it is quite difficult for you to find another place to rent in a locality of Přerov that is considered "problem-free", as none of the owners of rental housing in that kind of locality want to rent to you because of your nationality. Because of that discrimination, your choice of where to move narrows down to somewhere near the train station, but there is more than one housing benefit-free zone in place there, which means you will not be able to draw the housing contribution if you relocate there, and economically you will not be able to cope without the benefit. “

 

Czech town installs brass tablets in pavement to remember the tragic wartime fate of its Jewish residents

 

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 13th May that bronze tablets had been installed in the pavement of the streets of Česká Lípa in 2021 to remind passers-by of the tragic fate of the Jewish people who lived there prior to the Second World War.

 

The brass tablets had been added to the paving stones in the streets of Česká Lípa in order to draw attention to the tragic fate of the Jewish people who had lived there before the Second World War. Nine such tablets were inlaid three years ago and another five had been added this year on 6 May.

It was noted that the tablets commemorate the names of residents and the dates of their births and deaths in concentration camps during the war.

 

Czech Museum of Romani Culture commemorates Holocaust victims in online ceremony

On 14th May, Romea.cz/en reported on the 13 May 2021 commemorative ceremony at the burial ground for Romani prisoners who died in the former concentration camp at Lety u Písku. (PHOTO: Museum of Romani Culture, Czech Republic)

 

It was noted that on 13th May the Museum of Romani Culture in the Czech Republic had held an online commemorative ceremony honouring the memories of the victims of the Holocaust who had been imprisoned in what was referred to at the time as a "Zigeunerlager" in Lety u Písku; due to the COVID-19 pandemic the traditional commemorative ceremony, which is usually attended by 100 or more people paying their respects, could not be held directly at the site of the former camp.

It was further reported that these specific events took place:

“At 8 AM the museum sent out a video greeting from Čeněk Růžička, a longtime organizer of the commemorative ceremonies at Lety, in his role as the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic

At 9 AM a photo gallery was published online of the employees of the Museum of Romani Culture enacting a small-scale ceremony at the Lety u Písku Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Bohemia.

At 10 AM a new video thematizing the events at both former "Zigeunerlager" in the wartime Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the camp at Hodonín u Kunštátu and the one at Lety, was broadcast online by the museum.”

 

Czech Govt commits to investigating property confiscated from Romani people during WWII in order to compensate them

 

It was reported by Romea.cz/en  on 14th May that an analysis should soon be undertaken in the Czech Republic to map the property owned by Romani people living in the Czech lands during the interwar period that had been subsequently confiscated from them by authorities between 1938 and 1945 during the Nazi German occupation.  It was noted that the analysis should serve as a background material for establishing a compensation procedure. The new Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma 2021-2030 counts on performing such an analysis and was approved by the Czech Government at its most recent cabinet session. 

It was further reported that:

“According to the Holocaust.cz website, the authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939–1945) ultimately deported more than 5 500 Romani people from the Czech lands to the Auschwitz death camp. After the war, roughly one-tenth of that 5 500 returned to their homes. 

The website also reminds people of the Protectorate-era camps at Hodonín u Kunštátu and Lety u Písku and their role in that process. "The Government of the Czech Republic has not yet taken the step of fairly compensating Romani people for the property confiscated from them during the Second World War," the new Strategy states. “

 

 

Czech town unveils plaque to the "Black Partisan" Josef Serinek

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 15th May that on Saturday, 8 May, on the occasion of Victory Day, a memorial plaque had been unveiled in Svitavy, Czech Republic to Josef Serinek, a participant in the Czechoslovak anti-Nazi resistance given the nickname of "Black Partisan" because of his Romani nationality. "So his bravery, honor and legacy will not be forgotten, a memorial plaque has been installed at the house where he spent important years of his life," said representatives of the town of Svitavy on the installation of the plaque for the partisan whose cover name had also been "Black".  

It was reported that the commemorative ceremony had been attended by former soldier and current vice-chair of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, Zdeněk Guži, who gave a brief speech in front of the building on Pražská Street where the "Black Partisan" lived for several years after the war and ran a pub.

 

 

 

Even in hell, she chose good: Alfreda Markowska, the Polish Romani woman who saved Jewish and Romani children from the Nazis

On 16th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the life story of Alfreda Noncia Markowska read like a screenplay for a film and that she had been a Polish Romani woman who had saved at least 50 Jewish and Romani children from the Nazis.

It was noted that "Grandma Noncia", as her family had called her, had passed away this year on 30 January at the age of 94. and that she has been called the "Romani Irena Sendler" and is the very first member of the Romani nation to ever receive a Commander's Cross with the star of the Order of Polonia Restituta, which is the second-highest civilian honor the Polish Republic awards for exceptional service. 

It was further reported that:

"If the Jewish nation exists today, if the Romani nation exists today, that is just thanks to people like you," then-President Lech Kaczyński told Markowská when giving her the commendation at an official ceremony on 17 October 2006. Held at the Presidential Palace, the event was attended by representatives of the Polish state and public life, guests from Germany, Israel and the USA, and Romani representatives.

"This commendation is in honor of an act of the highest value - saving human lives under the conditions of the hell prepared for our country by the Third Reich, Hitler's Nazism. You saved citizens of our country when there was not just the danger of being imprisoned or exiled for saving them, but the danger of being put to death," the Polish President said on that occasion.

"I thank you for your exceptional heroism," Kaczyński told Markowska. She was 80 years old at the time.   

 

Czech court hands down sentencing in pool brawl case, one Romani man acquitted for having attempted to stop the altercation

 

Romea.cz/en reported on 17th May that the District Court in Teplice, Czech Republic had handed down sentences on 13 May 2021 against the defendants in the case of a 2018 altercation at a swimming pool that had received national attention. It was said that defendants Jiří Demeter and Roman Dunka would be sent to a maximum-security prison for one year for having been accomplices to intentional battery and rioting. 

It was further reported that in 2018 they had assaulted David Michajlak at a swimming pool in Dubí (Teplice district) after he had attempted to intervene in a dispute between two women; he suffered moderately severe injuries as a result. 

It was also noted that the verdict had yet to take effect and the defendants had already appealed and other participants in the conflict, defendants Radek Čonka and Michal Dunka, were given suspended sentences of two years in prison. 

 

Czech lower house committee chooses attorney now facing disciplinary action for making light of racist crime to join public broadcasting board

 

On 19th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the previous week the Czech Chamber of Deputies' Electoral Commission had used a secret ballot process to choose yet another potential candidate to be appointed to the board of public broadcaster Czech Television. Attorney Michael Mann it was reported had been chosen as a replacement for candidate Jiří Grund, who had withdrawn for personal reasons. It was noted that Mann is infamous for his public response to a scandal involving the racist insults and death threats made on social media against first-graders attending the Plynárenská Street Primary School in Teplice, Czech Republic, most of whom are of Arab or Romani origin.

Mann represented one of the racist commentators involved and it was noted that a disciplinary procedure had been opened against him by the Czech Bar Association because of his remarks made to the media about that case. The social media content at issue was said to have been posted in response to the official photo of the first grade class after it had been published online by a local news outlet, commenting as follows:  "It's a good thing they're from the Plynárenská [Gasworks] Primary School. The solution is right there."

 

 

Barbora Ellen Bilá: I want to go to college and make my grandfather's last wish come true

 

On 20th May Romea.cz/en reported that Barbora Ellen Bilá, a 17-year-old student of business and economics in the Czech Republic  is aiming for a career in international business. It was noted that before that, she would like to complete high school and then college, which she is doing with the help of a scholarship from the Romani Scholarship Program.

It was noted that in an interview for Romea.cz, Bilá had revealed that she had promised her grandfather, who supported her in her studies and believed in her, that she would earn a college degree. It was said that as part of her scholarship, she has been attending the BARUVAS program, which aids Romani students with forming bonds and establishing contacts, and she describes the experience as follows:  "At BARUVAS I got to know many amazing people who have become important to me. I also got information about opportunities to study abroad."   

It was noted that the ROMEA organization's scholarship program is not just about financial aid during one's studies. Other components of the program are educational supports in the form of tutoring, the ability to take extracurricular courses, and the regular BARUVAS student meetings.

Romea.cz/en noted that students not only educate themselves further at those meetings, but have an opportunity to get to know each other and establish relationships across the country. Bilá was reported as saying that, "the ROMEA organization is also assisting me with buying textbooks, workbooks and other aids."

 

František Kostlán: Both the Jews and the Roma were victims of the Holocaust

 

On 21st May, Romea.cz/en reported that František Kostlán had been commenting on the scandal around the Terezín Initiative (TI) in the Czech Republic, which earlier this year, through its governing body and that of its Institute of the Terezín Initiative (ITI) had refused to allow the names of the Romani victims of Nazism to be read aloud on the Yom HaShoah holiday, had more aspects to it and is more complex than some observers had described. It was argued that this is not about "racism" or "xenophobia", but about a Holocaust legacy that is not being managed.

It was also noted that František Kostlán had said that it is absolutely impossible, in this case, to agree with the rejection of the reading of the names of the Romani victims of Nazism.  Leo Pavlát was blamed of the controversy.

 

 

Director of Jewish Museum in Prague responds to commentary by František Kostlán, says its remarks about him are "gossip"

 

On the same day it was reported by Romea.cz/en that the director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlát, had responded to a commentary by František Kostlán on the scandal of the fact that the governing bodies of the Terezín Initiative (TI) and its Institute of the Terezín Initiative (ITI) had rejected the reading of the names of the Romani victims of Nazism on the occasion of Yom HaShoah in the Czech Republic. In his commentary, Kostlán had written about Pavlát's role in the decision; Pavlát has objected to that part of the article and is accusing Kostlán of having "fabricated gossip" and "neglecting to back up his arbitrary claims with any facts"; news server Romea.cz is publishing Leo Pavlát's statement in full here. 

 

Czech Charter 77 signatory and sociologist Jiřina Šiklová has passed away, advocated for Romani equality

 

On 23rd May, Romea.cz/en reported that news server Aktuálně.cz had reported that Jiřina Šiklová, the gender studies advocate, signatory of Charter 77, and sociologist, had passed away at the age of 85. Her son confirmed her death to the news server on 22nd May. 

It was further reported that during the normalization era in communist Czechoslovakia Ms Šiklová had assisted with the export of banned literature by authors still inside the country and the import of banned literature by Czechoslovak authors living in exile. It was noted that she had spent a year in prison in 1981 for doing so. 

After 1989 it was reported that she had established the Department of Social Work at Charles University in Prague. It was noted that in lecture plans at social science faculties all over the Czech Republic she had advocated for gender and the relationship between the sexes as an issue and a subject. 

 Vojtěch Lavička on the Ostrava incident: Knowing how to communicate can prevent dangerous conflicts

 

On 24th May, Romea.cz/en reported that Czech media outlets and social media users had been abuzz with the recent case of a 16-year-old Romani youth who brutally assaulted an older security guard at a shopping centre. It was noted that as is usual, the media were covering the case quite superficially, mentioning just one side of the story and taking no interest in the other side, with a few notable exceptions.

It was reported that the incident had happened on Monday, 17 May, at a shopping mall in Ostrava near a playground. It was further reported that from the video footage of the incident that is being circulated online people could see about 10 children and young adults standing around in an open area near the mall

It was further argued that the security guard coiuld have handled the situation better before the attack took place, but that this was note been reported on social media.

 

Petr Ščuka: Romani flag accessories with Swarovski crystals are popular

 

Romea.cz/en reported on 25th May that Romani community member Petr Ščuka was the only manufacturer in the Czech Republic producing T-shirts, bow ties or linen bags featuring Romani flags made from hand-glued, imported Swarovski crystals that he sells through his e-shop. It was said that the idea to establish an online business had come to him three years ago after he produced such a t-shirt for himself with the sparkling little crystals. 

Tit was further reported that that product had got an enormous response from everybody he knew. "People were stopping me at Romani events to ask where I got the t-shirt. I always told them that I just bought a plain t-shirt and put the Romani flag on it myself by gluing on the little crystals. Even though I saw how captivated people were by my idea, I didn't go into business right away," Ščuka was reported as telling news server Romea.cz. 

 

ROMEA TV program discusses current COVID-19 disinformation and hoaxes on the Czech Internet

 

Ton 26th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the latest episode of the TRIN program on ROMEA TV discussed the disinformation circulating on the Czech Internet, some but not all of it about COVID-19. It was noted that some familiar hoaxes were claiming that Romani people didn't have to pay for prescription medicines (or for swimming pool access), while others were newly alleging, falsely, that the Pirate Party wants to curtail health care for senior citizens, or that a certain parasite has been found in the respirators that are now required in certain settings.  

All of these hoaxes were reported to be currently spreading through Czech social media with the force of an avalanche. The guests on the TRIN program are Janusz Konieczny, analyst with the Czech Pirate Party, and Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA public benefit corporation, which runs the Romea.cz news server and ROMEA TV.  

It was noted that both guests had long been involved in tracking such disinformation and hoaxes. Ryšavý asked during the discussion,  "We can explain to people that they should check the sources of the information they see online until we are blue in the face, but it's not enough. In some situations we have to intervene. When we do so, those whose posts we have removed will accuse us of censorship. Is this censorship, or is it self-defence?"

 

The ruling that took 15 years: Czech town ordered to compensate some of the Romani residents whom it evicted and relocated

On 27th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the High Court in Olomouc, Czech Republic had finally handed down a decision in the years-long dispute between the town of Vsetín and the former residents of an apartment building in the town centre that no longer even exists today, awarding some of those former residents compensation for the damages associated with their being evicted and relocated in the amount of CZK 302 000 [EUR 12 600] total, as Jana Raszková, spokesperson for the town hall, had communicated on Monday 24th May to the Czech News Agency in a press release. It was noted that the town had evicted and relocated the families, all of whom were Romani, from their homes in 2006 under Mayor Jiří Čunek (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL). 

It was further noted that the building they had been evicted from was in poor condition and the town had subsequently demolished it. Some of the evictees were said to have been relocated into apartment units made out of repurposed shipping containers in the Poschla locality of Vsetín, while others had been relocated into properties in another administrative region altogether in the areas of Jeseníky, Olomouc and Prostějov. 

It was also reported that from the beginning the Romani evictees had alleged that the town leadership used force to evict and relocate them and caused them mental anguish. Some evictees were said to have criticized the fact that employees from the local authority forced them to sign papers that they were unable to read that were related to buying the properties - sight unseen - into which they were then relocated. 

It was further reported that allegedly the evictees had never been given the opportunity to freely choose where they would move their families. A total of 52 Romani people who had suffered this treatment had later filed a lawsuit against the town. 

 

Slovakia: Racist politicians launch hateful anti-Romani campaign over state's pandemic benefit for impoverished children

On 28th May, Romea.cz/en reported that the Government of Slovakia had approved a proposal for a one-time payment of EUR 333 per child as compensation to families for the limitations imposed on them as a consequence of the pandemic, and a wave of anti-Romani hatred had been sparked by the move. It was noted that according to Slovak MP Peter Pollák, Jr (OĽaNO), who was himself a Romani community member, the Government should have more clearly described to the public who the primary recipients of the benefit would be much earlier in the process.  

It was further reported that according to Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) the decision to approve the proposal had been made by the governing coalition. The proposal had not just sparked criticism of the Government but a wave of hatred against the Romani minority online.  

It was also noted that some of the disinformation spread online included the untruthful allegation that the finances of "white working families" were being collected to support Romani households with many members who live in settlements or at the Luník IX housing estate in Košice. It was also said that the Denník N daily  newspaper in Slovakia had reported that politicians were taking advantage of the Government decision in order to smear Romani people.

 

 

After European Court of Human Rights ruling, Slovak court acquits yet another Romani victim wrongfully indicted for reporting a brutal police attack

 On 29th May, Romea.cz/en reported that on 13th May, the District Court in Košice, Slovakia had acquitted Robert Rybář, a Romani man who, along with other Romani community members, had been charged with making false accusations and committing perjury against the police officers who perpetrated a brutal raid in 2013 on the settlement in Moldava nad Bodvou. The acquittal is now final.     

This is the second such decision after the District Prosecutor withdrew indictments in March against five of the six Romani community members charged with such offenses in relation to this incident. The local prosecutor did so after receiving the Slovak Prosecutor-General's standpoint on the case and after reassessing the evidence.

 

Jan Rác, Romani activist and researcher, has passed away

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 31st May that Jan Rác (1957-2021) had passed away. It was noted that the Romani activist, collector and researcher Jan Rác had passed away on Friday, 28 May 2021. He was 64. It was further noted that his close co-workers informed news server Romea.cz of his death. Mr Rác was born in Kraslice, Czechoslovakia, in 1957. 

 

It was said that as a young man he had apprenticed as a concrete technician in construction work, but he would become known to the public as a Romani activist, as a collector, and as a researcher. 

It was further reported that Mr Rác's entire life had been dedicated to studying the culture and history of Romani people. His passion for collecting had been part of that vocation. 

It was noted that since the age of 20 he had been collecting books on Romani subjects and Romani literature. He had also collected musical instruments and recordings, products handmade by Romani craftspeople, and works of art. 

 

Peter Sagar. A Living Tradition CIC, June 2021

 

 

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