Them is the word most people use when they refer to members of Roma minority in the east of Slovakia, nodding their heads towards Roma ghettos they call colonies. Every village has one.
Roma people have been marginalised and persecuted already during the soviet era. Whole communities were relocated in a blunt attempt to change their nomadic way of life and integrate them into the communist society. Then they were left without any support from the government whatsoever.
After the fall of communism the land they were occupying was given to church and private owners who now refuse to sell it, often giving only one reason - we won’t sell anything to black people no matter how much money they give us.
The result is that a large percent of population now lives in conditions that remind you more of those in third world, not European Union. Houses made of scrap materials, in winter covered in black soot from burning firewood, with running water and electricity being a rare exception. Kids dragging their carts along with adults, collecting firewood from surrounding forests. And it’s these kids that are robbed of their childhood and their future.
Racism that was always here was even broadened with the wave of extreme right wing populist political parties taking over the Europe. Kids are mistreated and bullied in school and lose their motivation to escape the poverty in very young age. Reports show mistreatment of Roma women when it comes to medical care. And the most striking thing is to see an unwritten rule in buses - Roma always sit in the back, just like in pre-Rosa Parks America some decades ago.
Yet their pride and love of live was not broken. Despite the way they have been treated by the white majority for decades majority of Romas are neither bitter nor resigned. If only that was enough to break this spell and raise a generation of kids that will not experience extreme poverty and mistreatment.