About four hundred miles east of Prague, in the neighboring country of Slovakia, which separated peacefully from the Czech Republic not so long ago, lie the two communities profiled in the documentary “In a Cage” by the Roma Press Agency.
According to the Czech press agency Mlada Fronta, Slovakia has more than 800 Romani settlements, set apart from the majority community. The count is approximately 700, according to the Slovak daily Sme.sk.
These settlements usually have very high unemployment rates (some even close to 100%) and lack basic services such as running water, sewers, electricity, gas or garbage collection.
The settlements featured in the 2006 documentary “In a Cage” are the village of Rankovce, near the city of Kosice, and the community of Podskalka.
What impressed me was that despite the isolation, lack of opportunities and the deep poverty which the residents experience, they have found ways to preserve their dignity, to establish self-governance and daily routines, and to focus on hope for the future, especially when it comes to education for the young generation.
The documentary’s director-producer is Kristína Magdolenová, a human rights journalist and editor-in-chief at the Roma Press Agency. Her aim is to open doors and to break down barriers of prejudice between the majority population and the Roma, but to also sound an alarm about the dire situation of the Roma living in segregation. Magdolenová says:
“Our aim was to open the door to the world of the Roma. To show them such as the majority doesn’t know them, through their daily problems, joys and cares. To show their real face without prejudice, without fear from their otherness, without misgivings. To show that Slovak society plays with the Roma community, always pushes them further to the edge in this overly hazardous game. A game with human potential, a game which can also be turned against themselves. The film wants to point out that we’re nearing the midnight hour and that we need to stop playing this hazardous game.”
The Czech Republic, where I will be on assignment for my fellowship, also has serious issues with housing segregation in its approximately three hundred “excluded locations,” as Czech ghettos are also termed. But more about that in another post.
The excellent short documentary “In a Cage” about isolated Roma communities can be seen here: In a Cage.
Posted By Tereza Bottman
Posted Jun 6th, 2010