First we travel further through Poland and into Slovakia. In Slovakia there are many conflicts between the Roma people and the Slovaks. A Roma girl got a third degree burn when racialist youth threw multiple molotov cocktails into the house where she lived.
It is smouldering in this part of Europe. Jobik in Hungary, a fascist political movement, captured more than 20% of the votes in the last election. What’s currently happening in France and Italy is not a good sign. In one way it is an important provocation the Roma people expose to Europe, it will show us whether we learned of our close history or not. Old ghosts are awakened. Take a look at our somewhat over-praised homeland – also here statements about the Roma people who does not belong in the new Europe have been expressed.
Alex asks me why I want to go to Romania. It is my mother country and I was shocked the first time I came here in 2001. The hate against the Roma people was rather noticeably. The most Romanians have never spoken with any Roma. That is probably not so strange, since children are raised with phrases like: If you don’t behave, we will give you to the Gypsies, and they eat people. I have met several young and otherwise rather enlightened Romanians who still believe this.
The governments have not made the situation any better – nothing about the Roma people is taught in Romanian schools, even though they account for 10% of the population. Different regimes have wanted to keep this lower class’s existence and the element of fear. It is always good to have someone to kick when the major part of the population have lived at the bottom level.
With my photo exhibitions I want to try to create arenas where Romanians can met representatives from the Roma people. In 2009 I had two exhibitions at Gypsy festivals. I personally handed the book “Rrom-sigøynerreiser” (Rrom – Gypsy travels) to the Romanian president Traian BÄƒsescu and got several articles in newspapers and national TV where I talked about the necessity of tolerance for the Roma people.
Today Romania is Romania relieved of finally be a part of Europe and the western alliance, but it requires that the nation also looks at its relation with the Roma people and is working deliberately with informing and fight deep-rooted negative attitudes. When Madonna held a concert in Bucharest during the summer 2009, she was booed off the stage when she allowed herself to say a short positive sentence about the Roma people.
The GPS navigation takes unsuspectingly towards Ukraine, which is the shortest route to Romania, but we most certainly don’t want to go there. There are visa requirements and several times when I have been to Romania, I have been warned against travelling through Ukraine. We are following the NRK vehicle, and suddenly we are at the border to Ukraine. For the last part, Alex is relaxing in the back of the vehicle. We are turning back and have to drive a few hours extra before we enter Hungary. We sleep over in the first city. The following day we are going to the Gypsy village where Tudor Lakatos is awaiting us. We are one day behind schedule, but we are getting closer.
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