Friday, 24 July 2009

No! No! No!

Sajokaza Roma Women's Committee

No! No! No!

Sajokaza has made the Hungarian National headlines this week in an article entitled 'Nem! Nem! Nem! (No! No! No!)
Some of the Roma have been stealing electricity - one man has gone to prison for this heinous crime.
The Solyom Telep (settlement) has no gas, only partial electricity, no sewage system and only 4 standpipes for 1,200 people. The old electricity meters were removed 60 years ago and not replaced so 200 families have been obtaining electricity illegaly and dangerously. The debts are now enormous and in order to prevent more people going to goal (which is obviosly more expensive in the longer term) the National government has agreed to clear the debt provided the Local Municipality pays 10%. They have refused.
The Jaibhim Community got up a petition and organised a film festival to raise the 10% to give to the Municipality - still the Municipality refused. This means that the government money, 90% of the debt, cannot be drawn down and there is no way to force the municipality's hand without a change in the social rules of the whole country!
The politics here are crazy and clearly loaded against the Roma. The local municipality has the power to help but point blank refuses to do so - you can draw your own conclusions.

The Roma Community together with Jaibhim have formed a women's committee (with a man who wants to get into politics on it too ?!!!) called 'Helping Hands' and they have asked to send a representative to the Municipal Social Forum (which has no power but can make suggestions to the Municipal Government) Guess what? They have been refused.
So now Jaibhim are useing the money raised by the film festival (which could have provided the 10% match funding) to pay off the debts of those families most in crisis and threatened with the prospect of going to goal to prevent even more suffering.
Who are the criminals here?
Many of the Roma have been to prison for the most petty of crimes. The latest is for the non-payment of fines imposed for not sending their children to school ... and therein hangs another tale ...

An electricity meter in one of the newer 'Che' houses that replaced older dilapidated structures in the 70s

This house does have electricity but no gas, running water or toilet/bathroom

No utilities here

Water carriers

Water carriers 2

Water carriers 3

Temperatures can reach 37 - 40 degrees C in Summer.

Paint buckets being washed out in the same place that the drinking water comes from

One of 4 pumps in the Solyom settlement serving 1200 people

The children are a novel hosepipe connector - see below

This hose pipe is connected directly to the pump

Keeping cool!

Gusti does 6 hours community work a day for the local municipality

Bea, Maria & Maria watering the plants and flowers in the village. This community work enables them to top up their benefit.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Camping Sajokaza Style!

We are the guests of the Jaibhim Community Ambedkar School and - the same organisation coincidentally Tina worked with in India 10 years ago. This Buddhist community runs the school for Roma in Sajokasa and is currently looking for native English speakers to teach - not a huge salary but job satisfaction guaranteed!
The school is named after Dr B R Ambedkar (1891-1956) Dalit, political leader, activist, philosopher, anthropologist, revolutionary, and revivalist of Buddhism in India. He was also the chief architect of the Indian Constitution and one of the first 'untouchables' to obtain a college education achieving multiple doctorates from Columbia University.

Andras, Terez's youngest son, with the Gypsy flag at the community centre entrance.

Dr B R Ambedkar

We are parked up in the back yard of the community centre (best campsite yet) sharing the facilities with the teachers.

Terez, whom we first met on a rainy afternoon last September on our research trip is taking care of us again! She graduated from the school this year with much celebrating - see the video on the website

Judit - one of the teachers 'cooking up a storm'

Szuszi can be here only part time and brings Gergely, a young film maker from Budapest to make a film about us making our 'photographies' in the settlement for an internet news site.

This is Ilona Lakatos, a student of English, together we wrote an article for the community website homepage

Laszlo Gal demolishing the old building single handed!
photo: Ilona Lakatos

As well as running several schools the centre has organised a new project with unemployed men - a bricklaying course started this week. In the grounds of the community centre is an old, unsafe outbuilding (white building in foreground minus its asbestos roof which was removed very carefully earlier in the week)- the project is to demolish it and rebuild it with brick.

The Crew!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sajokaza - a 'shock' of photographs

Sajokasa is a village 30 km NE of Miskolc with a population of 3000 of which 1000 are Roma Gypsies.
The majority live in a settlement on the edge of the village - where the tarmac ends the Roma habitation begins.
The houses have no running water and no sanitation.
Sajokasa is a former mining community (dejavu!!!) where, once upon a time, there was full employment. Now there is none. Among the Roma there is practicaly 100% unemployment and most survive (not more than that) on the benefit they receive once a month.
Are we in Europe ... ? Is this the 21st Century ... ?




Janos & Jani

Edit & Szandi

Annemarie getting 'Saturday Night Fever'.

We have brought with us a little photo-printer so that we can give back something to the people we photograph. This is incredibly popular; everybody wants to be photographed with every single relative and every baby has to be pictured with each parent and sibling individually, every tatoo has to be recorded!
When we took the first set of pictures back on Saturday, we were 'mobbed' and had to make many, many - a sok (pronounced shock) of photos - more. (trans:sok = many)
Nice pun!
Ofcourse we will run out of paper and ink soon but not before every family has a record of themselves at this precise juncture of their lives.


Monday, 13 July 2009

'We are living in fear ... all the Roma people are ... '

Prejudice against Roma has swelled into a wave of violence. Over the past year at least 7 Roma have been killed in Hungary, and Roma leaders have counted some 30 molatov cocktail attacks against Roma homes often accompanied by sprays of gunfire.
This painting depicts the funeral of Robert Csorba aged 27 and his 4 year old son who were gunned down as they tried to escape from their home which was set on fire in such an attack. Both were buried in the same coffin.

These two paintings were created last week at the Fonyod Artist's Summer School in reponse to the murder of Robert Czorba and his four year old son in February this year. The artists will be credited in due course - apologies for the delay.

The extreme right wing party Jobbik has used the issue of what its leaders call 'gypsy crime' to rise in the polls to near the 5% threshold for seats in Hungary's parliament in next years election, which would be a first for the party. (In the Euro election they gained 3 seats so the can keep the BNP company!)
Opponents accuse the Hungarian Guard, the paramilitary group associated with the party, (see previous posts) of staging marches and public meetings to stir up anti-Roma sentiment and to intimidate the local Roma population.
Experts on Roma issues describe an ever more aggressive attitude towards Roma in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, led by extreme right wing parties, whose leaders are playing on old stereotypes of roma as petty criminals and drains on social welfare systems at a time of rising economic and political turmoil. As unemployment rises officials and Roma experts fear the atacks will only intensify.
'One thing to remember, the Holocaust did not start at the gas chambers' said a senior state secretary in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.
excerpts from an article by Nicholas Kulish in the New York Times.

This poster is a parody of the Jobbik Euro Election poster (transl. 'Hungary for the Hungarians'. The well chosen doppelganger representing Krisztina Morvai bears a strong resemblence to Kathy Bates in 'Misery' don't you think? Ouch!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Fonyod, 26 June 2009

Tibor comforting Irene after the incident with the Hungarian Guard

Group discussion

Late in the afternoon we decided to go into town to explore ... a railway station, a shopping precinct, a plethora of cafes, bouncy castles and ice cream stalls lakeside.
We walked about 50 yards from our building and straight into a commotion. Roughly 20 people, men and women, dressed in black uniforms emerged behind us just as our group of Roma painters was returning to base towards us. Isztvan and Szuszi came up fast behind us asking if we were alright. But nothing had happened!
Such is the level of fear and anxiety among the Roma now that all the Hungarian Guard - the people in black uniforms with roaring white lions stencilled on their backs - has to do is turn up next door to where the Roma were having their Summer sojourn and the peace and tranquility was destroyed in an instant.
The menacing behavior and aggressive posturing by the Guard, the equivalent of our National Front, is designed to provoke and intimidate. The whole event had to be planned ... to disrupt - it was certainly no coincicence that they all congregated in such close proximity to the Roma house.
Tina managed to grab one photograph of the confrontation - see above - and it is a telling one we think.

Everyone was distressed and disturbed by what had happened - apparently there was an exchange in a bar earlier - one of the Guard had made derogatory remarks about 'the black ones' to some of the Roma women. Tibor, the workshop leader decided that there should be an open discussion about what had happened, thus giving people the opportunity to vent their feelings. This we did until well into the early hours.
It was sad to see us split into two camps - the forthright proud Roma angry and loud and the more moderate 'what can we do about it' resigned Roma, quietly despairing.
Divide and rule ... that old potatoe ... came into our minds. History repeating itself?