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Treatment of Romas, in Romania and Canada

In the January 5/8 edition of Dispatches, Rick interviewed Mona Nicoara, maker of the film documentary Our School.  It follows three Roma children in a special school program in Transylvania, a program that isn't working. The interview brought a number of comments:

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John C Kennedy of North River, Nova Scotia wrote: 

Hello, Rick.

Thanks for your documentary describing a new film on Roma education in Romania.

The educational and broader socioeconomic conditions of the Roma are indeed deplorable, and remain that in most countries where Roma reside. A fine study by Dr. David Scheffel (Svinia in Black and White) of B.C.'s Thompson Rivers University describes systemic racism of the 'white' majority toward the Roma community of Svinia, Slovakia.

Much as your filmmaker said, in Svinia few Roma finish school or are allowed the means to improve their squalid living conditions. The fact that much of the world either knows little about or chooses to ignore the rights of Roma says to me that we really have not progressed much beyond Hitler's treatment of these people.


Duncan Goetze echoed some of her sentiments:

I think it funny that here in Canada we act so surprised when we see education systems as decrepit as the one mentioned involving the Roma, while Native American communities across the country are basically ignored and put into the same level of living, or lower. Attawapiskat is still an issue - and nobody seems to care. No, we shouldn't be greedy and help nobody but ourselves, but how can we criticize other countries while we have a community living in our third world standard backyard?


Michelle Drew of Hamilton shares her experience:

Greetings Dispatches,

I greatly appreciated the spot you did on Mona Nicoara's film, 'Our School'. Nicoara's transparency and dedication to this story and Roma rights are very inspiring.

In my neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario there are many Roma refugee claimants from central and eastern Europe with looming deportation notices. In August, despite our advocacy attempts, a family that had grown close to many in my neighbourhood was deported back to Kosice, Slovakia - home to Lunik IX - one of Europe's largest Roma ghettos. This Christmas, my husband, two friends and I went to Lunik IX to visit the family, bring them some supplies, and learn more about the situation for Roma in Slovakia.

We went to find answers, but left with many more questions. Nonetheless, we were both encouraged and disturbed by our findings.

I was expecting to find a black and white situation; the "good guys and bad guys" as Nicoara mentioned. Instead we found city made up of beautiful people - both Roma and non-Roma, who had decades of deeply rooted fear that separated them from one another. We had two heroes of our adventure. The first, the Roma families who "make do" in their situation, remain positive, and work hard for a better future despite their difficult circumstances. The second, a group of young non-Roma youth who spend a year living and volunteering in Lunik IX learning Romani, coordinating homework clubs, sports, and programs for children and youth. Some of them do this despite their parents disapproval. As Nicoara pointed out it is the young people that will change the racial boundaries between Roma and non-Roma. They are eroding the ethnic barriers that exist in Kosice.

Thank you very much for highlighting Nicoara's film on your show. I hope for more stories of Roma communities in future episodes.

Always a pleasure


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