Středoevropské politické studie – Central European Political Studies Review
ČÍSLO 4, ROČNÍK IV., PODZIM 2002, ISSN 1212-7817 - PART 4, VOLUME IV., AUTUMN 2002, ISSN 1212-7817
The Association of The Romanies in Moravia
Romano jekhetaniben pre morava
Tento článek byl zpracován v rámci výzkumného záměru MSM 1423000001 „Minority, etnika a marginalizované skupiny v České republice“
This article deals with a history of the Association of the Romanies in Moravia (SRM), one of the most-known organizations of Romanies. The SRM, having a seat in Brno, is connected with it´s leader Karel Holomek, who is the core of the SRM activities.
The SRM activities relate to culture, education of children and young, legal and social services, cooperation with the Museum of Romany Culture, etc. It also publishes semi-monthly periodical Romano hangos that has become quite respectable. The SRM is characteristic by an effort to solve the Romany-Czech coexistence problems in a balanced way.
Association of Romanies in Moravia, Karel Holomek, Jana Horváthová, Romany, Gypsies, Helsinki Citizens Assembly – Roamany Section, Romany political parties, Romany Civic Civis Initiative
- Characteristics of Romany Communities in Short
There live over 300 000 Romanies (Gypsies) in the Czech republic. Many of them live on the poorest social level that is characterized especially by a high percentage of unemployment, lack of education and a high involvement in criminal behavior. There is a language barrier of Romany young and that is why they with difficulty adapt to surrounds and end unfairly in the „special schools“ and then work mostly in unqualified positions. That is why the adaptation of Romanies in a society is bad and it is furthermore influenced by a certain discrimination originating from the fact that the behavior of the criminal minority of Gypsies is ascribed to the majority of them.
Unemployment of the Romanies was about 70% in the 90s. The 90% of employed Romanies were building workers, women worked as scrubwomen. The traditional habits and old structures of the Romanies were destroyed (it was partly caused by an assimilation policy of the KSČ). The traditional caste structures, although very often problematic and hardly acceptable in a democratic society, were placed by chaos of values and asocial behavior raised by a rapid change of state paternalism to a competitive trade economics. (Although for example stealing was accepted by some traditional Romany families, it was not acceptable to put a child into a children´s home and also prostitution was taboo.) About one third of economically active Romanies lived off trafficking, giving sexual services or criminal behavior (So-called “Bratinka Report about State of the Romany Community in the Czech Republic”).
Until now the Romanies are influenced by rests of caste division of the community which was characteristic for their cradle – India. On the place of former Czechoslovakia there was a division into: the Slovakian Romanies (called Rumungers), the Hungarian Romanies, the strongly closed Wallach Romanies, a few of German Romanies (called Sinti) and likewise a few of settled and educated Czech Romanies (Moravian). In former Czechoslovakia the Slovakian Romanies were about 70%, Hungarian 15-20%, Wallachs 10-15 % and the rest were the Sinti and the Czech Romanies (Moravian) (Hubschmannová 1993:23, 25).
That is why the Gypsy political elite is numerically quite small so far, even though the integration policy of the ČSSD government slightly improves this trend (the Romany advisors, teachers, schools...).
- Romany Bosses after November 1989
In the Czech history, the highest number of Romanies who reached the representative bodies were candidates of the Civic Forum (OF) and the Public Against Violence (VPN) in the first democratic elections in the year 1990. For the first and untill now last time 9 Romany deputies were in chambers of the Czechoslovak Parliament – Milan Tatár, Dezider Balog, Zdeněk Guži, Ondřej Giňa, Ladislav Body, Karel Holomek, Klára Samková, Gejza Adam and Anna Koptová (Romano kurko, 12/1997, p. 1, Haló noviny, the 29 of August 1997, p. 5). Others, deputies Vincent Danihel and Karol Seman represented the Slovak communists - concretely the Party of Democratic Left (Liégeos 1995: 217).
They did not form any Romany representation or a political formation. On the contrary they were fragmented into a number of insignificant, among the Czechs and the Romanies isolated parties – from the right-wing Romany Civic Initiative (ROI) through the Romany Natinal Congress, the Romany Democratic Congress and the Movement of the Committed Romanies to the left-wing Democratic Syndicate of Romanies. Some Romanies were later candidates for so-called “gádžo” parties – Ladislav Body for the KSČM and the Left Block, Michal Pulo from the Syndicate of the Democratic Romanies for the Party of Miroslav Štěpán Czechoslovak Communists or Monika Horáková for the Union of Freedom. Family relations, personal aversions among particular bosses who were not under democratic control from inside or outside and formal or false memberships played a role in Romany parties (Právo, the 23 of August 1996, Lidové Noviny the 13 of August 1997, Národnosti v ČR, 1993, p. 31-32, Spektrum 90, 1990, p. 101, 106, Davidová 1995: 219-227, Říčan 1998: 48-50).
3. Birth of the Association of the Romanies in Moravia (SRM)
The dominant personality who was the core of the SRM formation was the above mentioned Karel Holomek. Exaggeratedly it is possible to say that as there is not the HZDS without Vladimír Mečiar and the ODS without Václav Klaus there is not the SRM without Karel Holomek. That is why the SRM activity dependent on its own leader is to a large degree a list of his social activities.
This politician defies a picture of a typical Romany leader of the 90´s. Holomek comes from a few (by naci nearly wiped out) Moravian Romanies who became quite familiar with surrounding society. (In this point the Moravian Romanies who survived the Word War II. are something as an antipole to the Wallach Romanies who are quite obstinate and closed community.) Holomek´s mixed romany-czech family put emphasis on education. His father Tomáš was a lawyer and became the first academically educated Romany in 1937. That is why Holomek was permanently criticised by both the Romanies and the non-Romanies (MF Dnes, the 9 of December 1999, p. 4, Pátek Lidových novin, the 6 of February 1998, p. 11).
Holomek was one of the Romany personalities who were involved in the revolutional movement in 1989 and who started to gather around the Roma Civic Intiative (ROI) aspirating to cover the just awakened Romany movement. At first the ROI seemed to be a strong organization and due to a close alliance with the Civic Forum (OF) it sent several deputies to representative bodies on the OF ballot. Holomek himself was in the Czech National Council (ČNR) from 1990 to 1992. But some of the ROI deputies did not carry out their work of deputy too responsibly. There burned out typical personal and clannish disputes among Romany leaders there. Holomek characterised the ROI in this period as an “oriental organization, controlled by padrinos“, as an organization which does not know democratic “rules of a game“: “Who wanted to jump and speak spoke, they were not able to make some agreements.“
This is the reason why Karel Holomek who was together with Emil Ščuka a founder of the ROI, left this organization which later started to call itself a right-wing party. By the end of 1991 he created together with other Moravian Romany Ignác Zima the Association of the Romanies in Moravia - Romano jekhetaniben pre Morava (SRM). Since then he was always elected a leader. In the difference from the ROI that wanted to be a political party, the SRM wanted to work only as a civic organization. Among its members there were the Romanies coming from Slovakia (Rumungers) who had not some noticeable caste disputes with the Moravian Romanies. The Wallachs stayed outside the SRM and also outside a majority of Romany organizations.
”The reason why we concentrated only on Moravia was not any nacionalism, Moravian regionalism or something like that, but only the organizational, financial and operational limits. We wanted an organization which is able to carry out its tasks…“ said Holomek explaining the „Moravian“ titul and field of activity of the SRM. His aim was to form an active and strong Romany partner to municipal authorities, a partner with whom the local political reprezantation and officials could communicate. In the areas where the SRM started to operate it managed to prevent the acute situations between Romanies and non-Romanies which sometimes appeared in Ostrava and the northen Bohemia, pointed out Holomek.
In 1992 Holomek mandate in the ČNR ended. He started to be in business after the return „from the world of politics“. As a civil engineer he recruited unemployed Romanies from the work office and sent them to work on constructions of sewerages, ducts, pavings and excavations. In 1996 Holomek stopped employing Romanies in building industry and started to concentrate completely on the work in his SRM which until then functioned mostly on activistic principle and principle of voluntary or little payed work.
- Establishing of Branches and Regional Representatives of the SRM
It was certainly Brno that became a centre of the SRM. Its branches successively arised in Olomouc, Nový Jičín, Bruntál, Šternberk, Frýdek-Místek and Ostrava. The association grew stronger and started to absorb local activities of the Romanies in particular areas. A chosen active person started to attract successively other colleagues and that is how a new branch of the SRM appeared. In some time the SRM work enlarged into several areas: social, human-rights, cultural and also international. In Olomouc the leader of the SRM branch was Moravian Romany woman – cook Jiřina Somsiová, in Nový Jičín it was Vojtěch Gašpar, in Bruntál it was a bussinesman and musician Dušan Kandra from the Slovakian Romanies. In Šternberk the leader was a municipal policeman Jan Gábor, in Frýdek-Místek it was Vladimír Horváth and in Ostrava Petr Horváth (all Rumungers). These representatives started to be respected and to be invited by municipial authorities to the majority of negotiations concerning the Romanies.
Jan Horváth and his branch of the SRM in Frýdek-Místek were valued by Holomek as the best working branch closely cooperating with local municipial authority. On the other hand, in Holomek´s opinion, Petr Hortváth, who was a chief in Ostrava, was working well on the firts sight, but he concealed his criminal behavior under his work for the SRM. Petr Horváth stole 400 000 CZK from his branch. But the media more commented his paedophile criminal acts commited in children camps of the SRM for which he was given a three-year sentence. (Interview...the 8 of October 2002). Petr Horváth was involved also in other unrightful drawing on finance (120 000 CZK in total) which was uncovered in the SRM by state audit in 2000/2001.
The activity of the SRM was complicatied also because of the debts in levy in 1999. The organization payed dearly several times for the fact that some of its regional branches got around specified purposes of projects and exceeded the budget as well. To prevent such excesses the SRM established an economical body in its Brno center in 2001. (Annual Report...the 25 of February 2002, p. 1). Also the Šterberk branch had some troubles concerning its chief Gábor. Although its members were binded by family relations, in autumn 2002 these troubles caused division of this SRM branch into two organizations with the same name. (Interview...the 10 of October 2002).
During the year 2002 the SRM was, according to Holomek, together with the friendly Democratic Alliance of the Romanies of Petr Tulia in Velké Meziřící and the frequently commented Panel of the Romany Regional Representatives of Ondřej Giňa, the last Romany organization that survived and stayed influential. According to Holomek, other civic organizations in towns had only a few members and lasted for a short time as groups asking for grants. These were for example: in Pardubice the Cultural Association of Citizens having the Romany Nationality, in Zlín the Association of the Moravian Romanies and the Association of the Romany Children and Young, in Rokycany the Vision of the Romanies, in Karviná the Association of the Northen Moravian Romanies, etc.
5. Activities of the SRM – From Dance to Legal Service
In the autumn 2002 the SRM had about 25 professional workers and it worked with the 6 million CZK as the annual budget. (Interview...the 8 of October 2002, Romano hangos 8/2002, p. 7). Its members were also involved in activities of several other groups. The SRM was as the only one Romany organization integrated into the Association of the National Minorities of the Czech republic. Its activists also participated on the work of the Government Council for Human Rights, the Government Council for Romany Questions, the Coordination Council of the Czech-german Fund for Future and the Czech Committee UNESCO and they attended sessions of the European union consultative bodies. (Annual report...the 25 of February 2002, p. 5 and 7).
The SRM was engaged in several activities. It recruited some young Romanies from a work office and put them to work in schools. If they proved themselves they were later employed as pedagogical assistants. The Ministry of education was interested in this method of involing Romanies into young education and later started to apply this method in wider and more proffesional way. (Interview...the 8 of October 2002). Every year the SRM succeded in putting over 10 Romanies into work (2 or 3 of them were employed in schools or in the SRM). (Annual report...the 25 of February 2002, p. 2). But the core of SRM´s work with children was especially organization of children camps. For example, in 2001 five camps were organized and there were 40 children in each of them. In that year the SRM together with the Romany Section of Helsinki Civil Assembly (HCA-RS) sent 300 children to children camps. Also the theatre, musical and dance section worked for young. The funky-jazz musical group “Gulo čar“ (Sweet Grass) and the dance group „M-Dance club“ later arised from these activities. The SRM also organised several football matches. There were also Wallachs Romanies who had bad relations with other Romanies in the SRM football team. (Annual Report...the 25 of February 2002, p. 2)
The SRM also, with some limitation and problems, carried out legal and social consultancy. This consultancy concerned primarily cases of several clients asking for help in housing problems. (The SRM leader considered this part of consultancy to be insufficient with small results.) The lawyer of the SRM also dealt with cases when some of the Romanies complained about the violence from various sides including police, he also delt with cases of moving the Romanies out of flats and with cases concerning the citizenship etc. The SRM legal bureau also tried to influence groups of young Romanies in which there was a danger of criminal acts or in which criminal acts were already commited. Activists of the SRM tried to reduce these acts by influencing parents of troublous pupils and they also tried to solve cases which were put off by police, etc. (Annual report…the 25 of February 2002, p. 4).
- Programmatic Basis of the SRM
The SRM´s main aim is an integration of Romanies into a society (with preservation of Romany language, culture and Romany nationality) in the field of culture, education, social relations, politics, human rights and journalism. A way to this integration is seen by the SRM in the ccoperation with state and municipal authorities and also with non-governmental organizations at home and abroad. The SRM wants to be an equivalent partner with these institutions in fertile, critical and active approach to solving problems primarily in Brno, Ostrava and Olomouc.
The SRM finds work with children and young in after-school education to be the most important part of its program. In this activity it cooperates with basic schools and special schools which have a lot of Romany pupils and which are in places where the SRM works. In this work the SRM tries to achieve the involvement of Romanies – auxiliary pedagogical assistants – by own means or by means of the Ministry of education. In social sphere the SRM together with work offices tries to integrate Romanies in work process and to cooperate with Romany bussinesmen. It also tries to cooperate with schools in improving the level of education of Romany young, etc.
Concerning culture, the SRM feels strongly about saving Romany language and traditions and their cultivation especially in the area of dance and music. In cooperation with the Museum of Romany Culture (in which besides Karel Holomek his daughter, member of the SRM and well-known historian Jana Horváthová is active) the SRM tries to investigate broder history of Romanies. The SRM considers museum (with a seat in Brno) to be the supreme institution in preserving Romany tradition and its development. The SRM connection with museum and with journal Romano hangos that appeared in 1999 was quite strong.
The SRM first of all tried to „eliminate any extremes and to decrease them on a bearable level“, it tried to create a tolerant society and to fight against „any misdemeanours commited by both Romanies and majority community.“ In doing so the legal service of the SRM and also the monitoring concerning the respecting of human rights conducted by the SRM had to help.
Besides cooperation with domestic partner – the Romany Section of Helsinki Civic Forum (HCA-RS) the SRM was also involved in work of international Romany organizations and agreed with the concept of the Romany nation as one of the European nations. It expressed a willingness to cooperate with the political party ROI but only if „its work is not in a discrepancy with the SRM programmatic aims“. (Programmatic aims…the 9 of April 2001, p. 1-2-, Mladý svět, 37/1997, p. 22-25).
7. Involvement of the SRM in Local and Statewide Politics
Although the SRM unlike the Romany Civic Initiative did not profile itself as a political party but „only“ as a civic association, it expressed its opinions about various Romany problems on statewide and also on local level. For the orientation of the SRM the opinion of its leader was crucial. K. Holomek, in 1981 interrogated and several weeks detaind for his dissident activity, a member of the Movement for Civic Freedom from the end of 1988, was one of active politicians of the centrist Civic Movement (OH) after November 1989. That is why also the SRM had good relations with the OH (and its successor – the Free Democrats) until its break-up. Later on Holomek joined the initiative Impuls 99.
Concerning local politics, the biggest group of the SRM members sympathized with the ČSSD or directly was a candidate of this party (for example Vladimír Horváth in Frýdek-Místek). Other part of the SRM members voted, with Holomek displeasure, the KSČM. There was no support of the People´s party or of the Union of Freedom (US). The SRM leader was benevolent about the SRM members being candidates of democratic political parties but he had objections to “the strongly right-wing and partly anti-Romanies orientated ODS“. He did not prevent from the cooperation with the ROI but only if „there are no criminals on their ticket“. (Interview...the 10 of October 2002, Lidové noviny – the 25 of July 1999, Infórum...4/1996, p. 2, Hnutí za občanskou svobodu 1994, p. 89) Holomek did not restrain his reservations to some Romany polititians: “Ivan Veselý and also Emil Śčuka to a large degree are very parochial persons, who don´t see things in context.” (Most...2/1998, p. 21) “Deputy Body speeches, the only one Romany in Parliament, are everything except...using the democratic forms of fight...” (Most...3-4/1996, p. 12).
Before the parliament elections in 2002 the Romano hangos - periodical of the SRM – standed up for the Coalition, the ČSSD, the ROI and the Party of Greens and warned against voting the KSČM or the ODS. (Romano hangos, 9/2002, p. 6, Interview...the 10 of October 2002) After the election the periodical strongly attacked agreement between the ROI´s chair Śtefan Ličartovský and the ultra-right National Democratic Party about making a common pre-election clip. (Romano hangos 10/2002, p. 6-7-)
- Organization Structure and Financing
The center of the SRM is called the Headquarters. The headquarters than manages other organizational units – regional organizations. Although the SRM is “Moravian” organization, its branches can be theoretically set up also in Bohemia. But it must be taken into account wheather the locality is inhabited by a larger number of Romanies because the setting up of branches must have a purpose. Branches don´t have to “copy” the territorial division used by state administration. The highest body of the SRM is the Congress of Representatives of Organizations that must be called at least once in two years. At this session the chair and the vice-chair (Jan Gábor from Śtenberk since 1998) are elected, the annual report about the SRM activities in previous period is approved and activities for the next period are determined. Each individual branch can have at least 3 but no more than 10 representatives at these sessions. The usual attendance was several tens at these sessions.
Between the sessions the Council is a coordination body of the SRM. It is composed of the regional organization chairs elected at regional organization sessions. They must be elected at least once in every 5 years. The Council decides about the budget and about the SRM activities towards state, regional institutions, municipal governments, etc. If necessary the Council of the SRM can set up the commissions: economic, social-law, auditorial, inspectional or arbitral and also the administrative apparat subordinated to a chair of the SRM.
The SRM is represented by chair in all affairs. A chair also acts for regional organizations which don´t have legal status. Only a chair can deside wheather he/she empowres a regional representative to act independently with an objective e.g. to develp and realize a project. Resources obtained from activities of regional organizations are at the SRM disposal. When a chair is not present for more than 14 days a vice-chair represents him/her.
The organization is composed of all members on the area that is delineated by the organization. It sets up clubs for children and young or community centers that are attended by both children and adults. There can´t be two organizations in one place. If there are two organizations they must be consolidated into one organization with two organizational parts. Headquarters of the SRM must support financially its regional organizations in 5 % of budgets for children activity projects.
The SRM has both individual and collective members and an entrance is not limited to a nationality. A membership in the SRM can be banned only to persons having a “hateful stand” or “trying to break the organization up and to destroy its activities”. A legal person can become a collective member but only if it is decided by the Council and confirmed by the Congress. A membership in the SRM is documented on lists of members containing signatures of members. These lists are confidential and can not be given to enybody outside the organization. In the organization a chair or a vice-chair are the only holders of these lists. A membership fee is 10 CZK per month and it must be payed by members over 26 years of age. As a membership fee also gifts and tributes from parents for children attending trips and summer camps can be accepted. This is also the reason for a quite high number of members of the SRM. According to chair Holomek the number of members was about 1200 at the end of 1999 and about 2000 in the autumn 2002. Holomek was proud of the fact, that the SRM is the only one Romany organization documenting its number of members. But in media there were mentioned activities of only a few of the members – mostly of Holomek´s – and only a few media information realted to activities of regional branches of the SRM.
Local organizations are financed from the membership fee and a part of it – 15% - is given to the Headquarters. Particular bodies of the SRM can decide when there is more than a half of members present. Each written or verbal proposal must be discussed. Resolutions are adopted by a majority. Only a budget and “resolutions at the Congress sessions” are adopted by 60% of votes. The SRM Council is elected secretly, other voting can be carried out by acclamation. Chief and vice-chief are elected secretly at the first meeting of the Council after the Congress session. (Statutes, the 12 of April 2002, p. 1-4, Romano hangos 16/1999, p. 2, 6-7-).
The SRM and its regional branches were given money for specific projects from the Ministry of education, finance, defence, also from work offices, from the municipal government of Brno, from the town of Olomouc and the town of Ostrava, Frýdek-Místek municipal authority, from the Foundation for the Civic Ssociety Developement, the Open Society Fund and also in a form of gifts, grants etc. (Sources of incomes of the SRM, 2001). When the SRM was indebted it was helped by the Charta 77 Foundation or especially by Jiřina Šiklová who was a friend of Holomek from dissent. On the contrary Pavel Tigrid or Jaroslava Moserova did not show, according to Holomek, too much helpfulness concerning solving the SRM debt problems. (Interview…the 8 of October 2002).
9. Semi-monthly Periodical Romano Hangos (Romany Voice)
Because of the poor quality of at that time widespread semi-monthly periodical Romano kurko (Romany Week) managed by Mikuláš Smoleň, the SRM decided to issue its own periodical in 1999. Romano kurko was called by the SRM chief a “disgusting sensationalist rag” receiving 3 millions CZK per year from the government. (Interview…the 10 of October 2002). In Romano kurko, which had a seat in Brno, a difficult maturement of Romany elite was reflected. It was predominated by long texts, curt information from meetings and sessions of various governmental, civic and Romany authorities, initiatives and associations and there were also fairytales for children, illustrations, recipes. Last page contained prisoner´s offers to meet with women. For example, in Romano kurko 13/1998 on page 8 Jan Huňáček from Valdice so as Josef Kotlár from Vinařice who is interested in bodybuilding and travelling write that “solitude is grey”.
Romano kurko also became an arena for fight among particular Romany bosses. For example, in Romano kurko 25/1996 on page 5 the ROI chief Emil Ščuka says: ”There worked whole groups in the ROI and certainly they were familiar, favouring own family, brother, sister…When somebody from Rusenek family was “harmed” all the family rebeled against me and also the ROI…Demeter family was the same…”
Romano Kurko later changed its black and white paper into coloured paper with more catching photographs but the content stayed the same. For example, in Romano Kurko 12/1997 on page 3 the editor Mikuláš Smoleň writes completely seriously: “According to my already mentioned remarks which I tried to point out, although a more detailed analysis should be carried out, in advance I agree with you, dear readers, that you yourself are able to give in the bounds of the Czech republic better proposals and initiatives concerning our common thing and I do not doubt about it because I saw it in many families, but let me express in the name of Romano Kurko that I am convinced of the fact that the future of Romanies in our republic is really in hands of all of us if we would want and desire it.”
The first issue of Romano hangos (Romany Voice) - having a seat also in Brno - was published on the 5 of February 1999. It was presented as a “semi-monthly periodical of Romanies in the Czech republic”. Since that the amount of 3 millions CZK was divided between “old” Romano kurko and “new” Romano hangos. At first, the SRM was not stated as a publisher. Romano Hangos editor Holomek (editor up to now) promised in editorial: “We will not listen to and we will not descend to a mutual malignment, accusations, promoting of personal interests or interests of a small group and also of interests of any political party or organization…But it does not mean that we will not give space for critical voices and polemic.”.
The first Brno editors were Gejza Horváth and “white” Roman Krištof (he later became vice-chair of the Intersection Commission for Romanies concerns), later they were replaced by young Romany woman Kateřina Danyová and former editor of Rovnost Roman Růžička. Large editorial board was composed of well-known and not so much known activists from the whole republic: gypsy adviser Jan Horváth from Brno, Jan Rác from Zlín, Jiřina Somsiová from Olomouc, Pert Horváth from Ostrava, Štefan Polák from Kyjov, historian Jana Horváthová from Brno, Vládo Oláh from the Romany Fellowship in Prague and Czech Danara Meluzínová from Brno. The editorial circle was also very large with one no-gypsy Pavla Bartoňová.
Romano hangos was published on black and white paper. Comparing with Romano kurko, Romano hangos articles were much more short, vital, varied in genres, without grammatical mistakes and they were approaching respectable reporting and journalism. A large space was given to Romany culture, dance groups, the periodical informed about frequent voting of Romany Miss several times a year. It was not limited to the Czech republic, for example in 1999 the situation of Romanies in Kosovo was discussed. Majority of texts was written in the Czech language, some of them were written in the Romany language. After several first issues a quality of the periodical consolidated on a present-day level.
There were also articles criticizing the chief-editor in Romano hangos. In Romano hangos 5/1999 on page 2 the ROI chief Emil Ščuka says: “ I do not understand the SRM…In head of this movement is no Romany. Engineer Holomek is not a Romany. He comes from a mixed marriage, he did not grow as a Romany…In a way I feel sorry for him because of his situation.” But later larger polemics stopped and a majority of comments and positions were written by chief-editor Holomek. It is worth to cite his contribution critizising some Wallach Romanies. No Czech politician would say this because of the discretion: “Attendance of the Castle representative at funeral (of Wallach “king”)…shows subordination to false ideas. It looks like they want to show servilely the best will to help to solve Romany problems. But I would thing over to be connected with somebody who is unrelentingly refusing helping hand on the condition that the rules of a game must be accepted...On this occasion it is necessary to ask: ladies and gentlemen, what are you going to do with things from your side that are destroying society you are living in…Let Wallach Romanies have their own government and laws. But they can not be in conflict with laws of the society in which they want to live. Nowhere in Europe or in the world it is in a different way...”(Romano hangos 11/1996, p.6).
The periodical did not promote only the SRM. It also informed about the effort to revive and reform the ROI in which there was only 150 members at the end of 2001 (Romano hangos 2/2001, p. 1,3), likewise it informed about the Wallach Romanies who elected two own “kings”. (Romano hangos 13/2001, p. 1,3,). In the autumn 2001 the periodical had 2560 subscribers but only 40 of them payed for the subscription (Demand note…). The periodical was also distributed for free in work offices and other places with concentration of Romanies.
The SRM has partly features typical for other Romany associations: dominant chief for the long term, participation of family members on other positions in organization or in its surroundings, deficiency in financial discipline and management, certain manipulation concerning a maintenance of membership base, occasional rivalry towards other Romany associations. But the SRM visibly differs in effort to solve Romany-Czech coexistence problems in a balanced way. Except “gadžo” institutions it does not hesitate to criticize negative features of the Romany minority, it does not have subjective, injured and verbally radical position which has usually the aim to make other Romany chiefs visible at home or in European institutions sensitive to racism problems.
Also the education and character of the SRM workers seem to be much higher, the organization has a good repute abroad. It achieved to keep its long-lasting periodical that surpasses in quality the competitive Romany periodical. Among Czech population the SRM personalities are much better accepted than other gypsy groups. Well-known are Karel Holomek, his daughter Jana Horváthová and his son-in-law Vladimír Horváth, probably the only one Romany surgeon in the Czech republic, and also the sister of Vladimír Horváth - former deputy of the US Monika Mihaličková (who is not connected with the SRM). The question is, if such positive assessment can be said about the activities of distant branches of the SRM outside the Brno center that are led by not so much known people and the other qouestion is, what would happen with the SRM if the Holomek family left it. With respect to all social, financial, cultural and other limits of Romany organizations, caused historically by both the Romanies and the majority of society, I would label the SRM´s work to be the most acceptable among activities that other present-day Romany organizations have to offer.
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Copyright (c) 2002 Pavel Pečínka
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