Elections are coming: or, How in Mukachevo the local authorities pointed to Roma at “their place under the sun”

Discrimination Roma

Yesterday, on September 3rd, in the Transcarpathian Mukachevo there was not too serious, at first glance, event of local scale. In the city on the river Latorica another monument was set. As if the event was minor and perhaps more interesting only for citizen of Mukachevo. However, project proponents obviously hoped to attract wider range attention to their actions and they succeeded. Indeed, in Mukachevo now is a monument to arrogance, contempt and human stupidity, embodied in metal.

It all started innocently enough. The deputy of the Verhovna Rada, Viktor Baloga on his personal page on Facebook has circulated a photo caption: “The idea of Andrej Baloga. The work of the sculptor Ivan Brovdi. The city soon will be decorated by one more sculpture. Who is this, what you think?”. On the photo – Andrij Baloga and Ivan Brovdi near a sculpture – bearded old man with a broom in hand and dog-companion near his feet.

The people started to comment and to wonder who is represented in the monument. Most comments were neutral and the most obvious variations on the theme, “Oh, janitor! It’s cool that you will honor this profession.” However, a recent version of the comments in fact disclosed high “original” concept of the author and his patron – “Gypsy and the dog?”

Already in his next post Andij Balog explains, of course, in a more correct form, that is … “The young sculptor Brovdi as “Roma” sweeps all uncleanness from Transcarpathian region.” Of course, no one can forbid the sculptor to see himself in some “role” because they are creative people and try on some images. But there is another question why the statue “The young sculptor Brovdi as “Roma” is not installed, for example, in front of his house, or, finally, in the yard of the house of Andij Baloga?

Instead, the cynical monument was installed at the intersection, where the largest number of Roma population lives. So now, as soon as the Roma go out of the house, they immediately see reminders of their place in life. Obviously, the Roma, in the representation of authors of the idea can only clean up the streets, always staying in the shade, do the job when all the “white people” enjoy bedtime. And what to say about those Roma who are teachers, doctors, artists, musicians, interpreters, lawyers? Moreover, what about those who aspire to become them and break out of the vicious circle of poverty, social inequality and discrimination? Perhaps they should have established a monument of the Roma, who works as a teacher?

Fast response to a “concept” of sculptures gave the Roma themselves. The musician, Aladar Pap, who represents one of the most famous musical dynasties of Roma in Ukraine, commented on this occasion on the Facebook: “Why Roma have to be associated only with the janitor? Roma craft has nothing to do with that job. So what? Maybe I have to burn my diploma and start sweeping the streets? We are Roma and do not know how to do anything else, right? I want one thing to say to people who are not competent in the history of Roma, expressed in matters in which they can tell me something new. Musicians – is the main profession of Roma. And if you like to be humiliated and mixed with mud, it is your right. I’m not the person, who will be silent and not understand that this is just a way to label the Roma people.”

Indeed, if the members of Mukachevo authorities want to “honor” the Transcarpathian Roma so much, why have they not set a sculpture of Roma musician who plays an important role in Transcarpathian culture and traditions? Or Roma-smiths, Roma-jewelers, Roma-master of wood work or copper utensils – as you can see, there are many options.
Perhaps, if on the project stage the author of this statue consulted with the Roma, the result would have been different.

However, nobody asked Roma: “Get it as it is.” Or, as in the opening the author of the sculpture “slightly” hinted: “… you have to understand, anything is not falling from the sky, it is a present for you, so thank for it Andrij Baloga … trust him, because he is honest, believe him, he is good man” ” … take care, don’t crush, it is a present for you.” Words without unnecessary explanations indicate the level of disregard to the Roma population (stealing, without honor, scratching, and even ungrateful). Perhaps Mr. Brovdi, you had to memorize it in Hungarian and duplicate? (the biggest part of Mukachevo Roma speak only Hungarian). Because the elections are coming. There is a risk that some of those present Roma people do not understand exactly who “made them happy”, and how and to whom they should be “grateful”.

However, the deputy of the Roma Ivan Jonash did it instead of all. That’s interesting, for Ivan Jonash, was it not disgusting to indicate that “this monument symbolizes respect for the Roma, that they do the cleaning up – work!!!» You, by yourself attributed Roma to the group that “can only clean up.” And now Mr. Jonash could ask himself how do the Roma feel that work on other jobs? During the opening of the monument, it was said that all what Roma do they do with the soul “… So, it turns out, the only thing they can do is clean up the streets, but “with soul.”

But worst of all, it is that the government misleads Roma by this quasi “weighty work” of ordinate Roma for “society.” But elections are still coming. Probably it became not so safe, do the banal bribe of people vote through the “Buckwheat package.” The government is stepping in time, and they “upgrade” methods of gaining voters’ support. But what the city government showed it is the arrogant, to the point of absurdity, attitude towards the Roma population.

Colossal amount of money spent on the monument, which degrading Roma population, could be given to others, for the more pressing needs.

Half of the year the local Roma have a critical situation with water supply. If being more accurate, they have no water in the camp. So if the authorities wanted to “stress” their respect and positive attitude to the Roma population, they should take care of high quality central water supply for the people. And then you can install a monument to yourselves, with the sewer pipe in hand! Or the case of water is a “trump card up in sleeve” for the next election elections?

Unfortunately on this affliction was not heard from people at the microphone during the opening of the monument. Either from those not allowed there and those that are always in the shade. From those who stood near authorities, smiling, who was “ordinary, usual” Roma from those who did not support the Romani anthem. Anyone already no longer believes in the promises of the city authorities, words about some improvement. No one wants to close his mouth with handouts from above, such as food or bags of rubble. Roma population wants to function as a full unit in society, acquiring and providing conditions for their comfortable life with their work, not the models / roles of conduct which now are also enshrined in the memorial sculpture.

If the government wants to act as a “father” who dictates who and how should behave, they have to create conditions for a community functioning. Above all, let them fell as people, not as manipulated puppets. Maybe, it is already enough of “handouts”?! Let’s give the chance for Roma to defend them and earn social bonuses. For this they have been ready for a long time. Maslow said it right, “only when fundamental human needs are met, there is the option of self-realization.” So satisfy them, allowing them to free education, health care and employment. And do not throw hateful and derogatory packages every 4 years. Roma are no mass, no seasonal electorate. They are the same people who seek a place under the sun! Enough already to humiliate and isolate the Roma population! Enough to ignore the problems of water supply, segregation in schools, hospitals, and other socially important institutions. But you need to at least take our proposed Program of Sustainable Development of the Roma community and submit an application for the creation of self-government of Roma (which city officials so successfully have blocked for three month); apart from that an “average” Roma cannot get identifying documents due to extremely strong pressure of authorities, and monuments are placed, and “proud” of their profession. Their only profession …

However, this gesture of authorities once again has shown themselves as “vermin … that need to be swept away of the city.” And perhaps those Roma will make it together with other conscious Transcarpathians who still care who represents them and will represent their interests.

Iryna Myroniuk

PS: The centers of legal information and advice that provide free legal aid to Roma people working with the support of the “Roma of Ukraine“, International “Renaissance” Foundation. To learn more about the activities of a network of centers, foundations and principles of work visit the website under “Legal Empowerment of Roma communities.” The views in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the International “Renaissance” Foundation and other civil, religious and political organizations and individuals.