Slovakia, a small country in Central Europe, is home to a Roma community of nearly 600,000 people. Most of them endure extremely precarious living conditions in a chaotic yet fascinating environment. Read more.
Romas of Slovakia, the forgotten ones of Europe.
Slovakia, a small country in Central Europe, is home to a Roma community of nearly 600,000 people. Most of them endure extremely precarious living conditions in a chaotic yet fascinating environment. Removed from Slovak cities and villages, the Roma are confined to encampments with an apocalyptic backdrop, where dozens of ramshackle huts made of odds and ends coexist with dilapidated concrete buildings that appear to have been bombed. It is within this end-of-the-world setting that the Roma survive as outcasts.
While some projects supported by the European Union have slightly improved the living conditions of certain Roma individuals, changing attitudes and racism seem irreparable. For most Slovaks, the Roma, whom they often refer to as "the blacks," are perceived as genetically lazy, alcoholic, and violent. However, most Slovaks only know the Roma through media portrayals, and due to fear, they have never ventured into a Roma camp. If they had, they would have realized that it is not as dangerous as portrayed, and the reality is far more nuanced. Yes, it is unclean, and there are undoubtedly some who are lazy and a few who are violent, but the majority of Roma aspire to a better life for themselves and their children, acutely aware of the misery in which they live. Yet, they face systemic obstacles and a policy that is designed to keep them on the fringes of society. Walls are erected to isolate them from other neighborhoods. Their children, considered disabled, are enrolled in specialized schools. Employment opportunities are denied to them. So, while awaiting better days, they continue to demonstrate, as they did for centuries, an incredible energy for survival.