Uzhgorod Roma: outcasts in their own city (+ PHOTOS)

Alla Khayatova, Photos by Jozef Kish  12 April 2014 14:15  81065934 066756
Uzhgorod Roma: outcasts in their own city (+ PHOTOS)

Lack of work, sometimes - even of documents, terrible conditions of life, and allowance for children as usually the only family income. These are the realities of everyday life of Uzhgorod Roma.

In Uzhgorod, there are about 5,000 residents of this particular minority, there are about 5 Roma settlements, and in each of them the picture is about the same - often absence of water supply, not to mention the sewer system, and a lot of trash. However, the residents of the camps not only complain about life, but also teach their children music. Today, the world celebrates the Day of the Roma, and we visited Radvanka to hear both festive tunes, and everyday realities of local Roma. 

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"Few children go to school. Children are dirty, unwashed. Mothers do not care about children. They receive allowance, and live off that money, but they do not use it for children's well-being..." - the senior and respected in the camp Aranka describes the reality.

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All of her 70-something years she has lived in this camp, in the Radvanka neighborhood on the outskirts of Uzhgorod. She says that they have always lived like that, in such conditions, outcasts in their own city. However she blames not the authroties, but the Roma themselves - mothers, who spent allowance for children on themselves, men, who do not work, and children, who do not want to study. She says that she raised two children, has four grandchildren, and now having 8-9 children in a family is not uncommon. "Can you imagine how they live in such a family?".

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There are indeed a lot of children on the streets of the camp. Shoni and, as he introduced himself, Chiki now, at half past eleven, are not in school. 

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Why? "Because we do not want to," and one of the brothers does not even have a birth certificate. But not all children are neglected here, not all of them are those who have never seen kindergarten, school, and, it seems, hot water and soap... Here on this street, there are students. And also football players. Young Roma are proud of their football achievements - Martin and Tomi show us their cups for school competitions.

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Adults have their own passions. Emotionally, they show us meters on poles. Among other things, residents of Radvanka complain about the power company: they installed meters for buildings on poles, but they charge too much, Gypsies say, and also are dangerous - with bare wires... Rudolph Baloh shows: "People here complain - something is wrong, they charge 18-20 thousand. But this is not possible, people here do not cut wood ot anything like that, and they pay such big money for electricity - for that, for a refrigerator and a light bulb?".

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Local leader Andriy Hazhi says: This camp in Radvanka is not the largest one, but the problems are typical: absence of water supply and sewage, a lot of garbage, and bad roads. And most importantly, the Roma are poor because they have no work.

"Well, they collect scrap metal and live off that. There is no work. We want to work, but there are no jobs, and people are scavenging." However, he adds, they are ready to remove the garbage, that has accumulated in the camp, themselves if the city provides the truck...

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And of course, there are political issues. In order to change their lives for the better, Uzhgorod Roma are going to vote. "Every time before the election we hear lots of promise. But after the election, they immediately forget everything, forget the Roma. We would like to have a Roma candidate in the Regional Council, in the City Hall" - Andriy Hazhi says. He assures that they will definitely go to vote, well, at least those who have passports...

Speaking of passports, Zoltan Tyrpak also has a suggestion: he suggests to check documents of the Roma who come to Uzhgorod, because locals suffer from them. "Roma from other districts come, make trouble here, and then the police takes our children. We suffer because of that, we must do something about it" - the man says.

And today is the International Roma Day, although the atmosphere in the camp is not festive. However, for the festive concert, young Andriy learned the Roma anthem - and deftly performs it on his synthesizer for the guests. He says he was rehearsing the piece for three months. The family is proud. Andriy belongs to the respected Roma family: his shirt is clean, the house is nice. But he is a Gypsy, just like his neighbors: he has a talent and uncertain fate... However, the music is flowing freely and smoothly out of the instrument under his hands.

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See more pictures in the photoreport.

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