Roma Slaying Raises Questions of Ethnic Intolerance

The slaying of a Roma family that claimed 3 lives in a cold-blooded shooting this week in Hurbanovo has raised questions over whether the attack by a local municipal police officer was not down to racial intolerance.

Many Roma live on the edge of society, Lunix IX (c) Lester Kovac

Police commissioner Tibor Gaspar said today that no headway has been made regarding the man’s motive. In response to the similarity of this incident to the one less than 2 years ago in Devinska Nova Ves, which ended with eight people dead, Gaspar said the difference this time was they could work with the perpetrator. Some witnesses claim a heated exchange had taken place between the family and the 50-yr officer, who used his illegally held gun to shoot five members of the same Roma family in broad daylight.

In an open letter to all top public officials, the Roma Institute, the  Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture and the Slovak Institute for Mediation are drawing attention to the rising tension and level of aggressive conduct toward Roma in the country, pointing also to certain reactions also of the public, showing ethnic intolerance.

In the letter, addressed to the President, the government, the National Council and public administration bodies, the organisations are demanding the immediate condemnation of the kind of ethnic and national intolerance displayed in this tragedy. They are also calling on the government to stop adopting what they refer to as “repressive anti-Roma measures, and instead adopt pro-active measures to eliminate the growing intolerance of the Roma in Slovakia.

The statement reads “Considering the growing intolerance of the Roma it is no surprise that the popularity of right-wing extreme movements is rising, as well as individual actions targeted at the Roma, which are starting to replace the state and with the silent consent of a large part of the public they abuse the right to impose radical solutions.

The statement continues to criticise how no government has adopted any real policy to deal with the issue of Roma integration, opting instead to accept segregation. The organisations are demanding that the true motive behind the tragic shooting be thoroughly investigated and exposed, and that the respective authorities do their utmost to ensure that this is so. They also call on the government to condemn ethnic intolerance instead of “using populist rhetoric against the Roma”.


  1. We all need to start with education! It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, or what your culture is…..with proper schooling and education, anyone can adapt, grow, and become someone other than what their parents were!
    The school system here in Slovakia is a sacred ground, so proud of the studies and education, but for who? I don’t see anything special, I actually see less here in Slovakia to develope children into adults….I see more turing children into book knowlegable people without any skills for the real world! If seasonal jobs is what the nomads want, then they should be free to move around…it has been 20+ years since communistic rule, and the boarders are open, besides the Swiss!
    Come on… there is work, you just have to swallow your pride and do something less for much less than you want! I see younge individuals entering jobs where they make twice what their parents are making and expect more within 1 year to stay! No experience, only education and they want to be making top dollar without giveing their time to be part of something!
    I have worked since I was 15 years old…. I worked hard to build on what I earn, and am shocked to see individuals with less experience and knowledge of the actual job making just a little less than myself and they are the ones complaining they are not paid enough!
    If you expect more jobs to save anyone, it could possibly help, but the individual must accept the pay and work hard to make more in time, not instantly!

  2. Absolutely no problem with what you are saying Dave, but what I’m missing here is the modus operandi. It’s easy to throw bombs but it never solves anything.
    I think everyone can see the question but no one seems to have the answer.

  3. Alec – I think you are confusing lifestyle choices with integration. The article you quote was part of a series of from my home town area. In most EU countries the “travellers” are allowed to maintain their culture and heritage of being simi-nomadic, if they wish. The fact that they prefer to live in caravans ( 250,000 residential caravans – non Roma – in the UK ) and travel to find seasonal work does not mean that they are not integrated – the kids still attend school, the majority pay taxes etc. – it is part of their lifestyle.
    The communist attempt at integration took away their right to thier nomadic life, settled them in ghettos of substandard housing with little or no supporting infrastructure, often in areas with little or no work. Making people live in houses is not integration, forcing people to change their culture is not integration nor is settling them on blighted land. The numbers of Roma and other “travellers” who are giving up the nomadic ways continues to increase as seasonal work diminishes across Europe.
    Your correct when you say part of the problem is the unwillingness of the majority element of the population to talk openly about the matter but in my opinion the major obstacle to any real progress on the “Roma Issue” is the lack of will, at any level of Sk society, to do anything about it.

  4. Dave, the Roma do not want to be integrated as you can see from the text of an interview conducted in England.
    “It would be wrong to put gypsies into housing they would be taking away all our culture and we wouldn’t be able to keep pets – chickens and horses
    When my parents died a house dwelling friend took me into her house for the night but I could not sleep upstairs so I slept downstairs on a settee by a door. I like to be by a door, I can’t settle unless I’m near a door. I’d be lost in a house because of all the open space; it would make me feel ill. I think all gypsies feel like I do.”
    Whilst I respect your views I cannot agree with the simplistic analysis that are branded about, even by European Commissioners who are hardly qualified to pass judgment on these complex social issues.Part of the problem in Slovakia is the willingness of the population to talk openly on the subject rather than regard it as a taboo racist issue, as is the case in the countries where there is no perceived problem. At the end of the day Dave I gave up on trying to win hearts and minds as a bad deal a long time ago.

  5. Alec – With 60% of Slovaks supporting even more represive measures against the Roma and enough of them making hateful comments on media sites and social networks to warrant their closure they deserve all the ethnic hostility they are getting and damn sight more. It is Slovak contributors who have demonstrated their total lack of understanding of the problem who have suggested deportation – to where? these are Slovak citizens. Put them on reservations – is that not segregation and exclusion – out of sight out of mind and basically what is happening now. And as for those who are openly advocating extermination – they should be locked up and the keys thrown away OR do you advocate we wait until these ideas are put in practise as they were in former Yugoslav Republics and then what?
    The last thing this issue needs is foreigners, knitting excuses for the locals – they are quite good at that on their own, – or giving tacit support for what is happening at the moment.
    What happens in other countries does not make it right here nor is it an excuse. They cut peoples limbs off and stone people to death in the Middle East so it would be OK to do the same here?
    I think your comment with regards ” not one single country in Europe” may ruffle some feathers. Pray direct me to the internet sites that illustrate Roma communities living in hovels with no water or sanitation or access to public services such as education in Holland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Finland, England or Ireland that have been engineered by the government with the support of the majority of the population.
    The 10% Roma population has not exasperated the situation, it is the deep rooted, discrimination and deplorable attitude of the 90% who, after making pledges to integrate the Roma, have in fact done jack.

  6. Slovaks who happen to read some of the comments here might quite rightly reflect on the ethnic hostility they are also being subjected to.
    Not one single country in Europe respects the human rights of the Roma, except on paper. Not one!
    Of course the situation is exasperated in Slovakia where the ratio of Roma is up to ten percent. Even amongst non Roma people free traveling is virtually forbidden and therefore the essence of the culture is denied. Governments like to control people and it will never be deemed acceptable to allow free spirits to wander the countryside. Do as is done with the tigers and lions and put them in zoos and give ourselves a pat on the back for doing the easy thing.

  7. While it appears EXPATs’ wife reads, he gets his historical perspective and facts from the movies.
    Slumdog Millionaire depicts the conditions in the shanty settlements found near all cities in India. It could just as easily have been set in Rio, Cairo, Joburg or any other city in the developing world. Suggesting that what you have seen in the movies proves that this is the way the Roma or any other people habitually live is rediculous. The majority of shanty dwellers have left the surrounding countryside in the hope of a better life in the cities, the way they live is due solely to their financial status and social standing. Do you really believe that any group of people want to live in such conditions? And yes, they have to fight to survive – Yorkshire saying ” If youv’e got nowt, you’ll steal owt” If you read some of the articles mentioned in numerous previous posts, Roma people will rapidily become assimilated into the “host” population, IF they are given the opportunity and support – both of which are in very short supply in this wonderful country. Here they are excluded from society by the majority, they don’t live as part of the general community because they are not allowed to – circumstance NOT choice.
    Where they come from originally and what happens in India, Brazil or anywhere else is irrelevant, so is their alledged propensity for crime. The topic under discussion is the ethnic intollerence of the Slovak people toward the Roma minority and all the evidence shows that there is a deep rooted malevolent attitude at every level of Sk society towards them and that Slovakia has failed to abide by or enforce the basic human rights of this group.

  8. EXPAT: “Slumdog Millionaire showed how these people live.” Typical American educated by mass media TV and Cinema, lol

  9. errr Expat , we know know where they one came from, but the fact you found it important to tell us astounds me ! Why is it Slovaks have this habit to `educate` us all ?? Do you think because they are from India, slumdog, etc that is why they live the way they do in Slovakia after 100-200 years ??? Your own ignorance stuns me!

  10. I am not racist or a biggot, I was only pointing out that in one Slovak Magazine, they had to point out the ethnicity and roots of the Roma. I could care less about what happens to tell you the truth, I am impartial and only ponted out that some jounalist thought it was important to trace where the Roma do come from originally. I am not saying that Slovaks were created here in Slovakia, come on that is not the point. The point is after civilization and the creation of the divided countries and boarders, the immigration to all of the world from Inida was wide spread. Slumdog Millionaire showed how these people live and fight to get anywhere, however even after hundreds of years of living amongst or allong other cultures, they have managed to stay segregated and without any such integration amongst society. That is my only point.

  11. Expat: Wow, they’re just like real people….

  12. Roma screw Roma and Ayran Slovaks try to screw anyone and everyone that moves, have you not been reading the news and of what a bunch of crooks Slovaks are , of Deafly etc in Slovakia and what is your point Expat?

    All people come from somewhere else, were a tribe, somehow arrived in Slovakia. What do you think God planted Aryan Slovaks in Slovakia ?????? What is wrong with these people coming from India and any different from the Poles, Turks, Hungarians etc etc that planted themselves here …….Oh that`s right racist, bigoted Expat, these Roma are brown !

  13. My wife just showed me an article that claims it has solved the long questioned search for “Where do the Roma come from”, as it turns out one man traveled to some small outlying villages in India and found some words in their dialect that were unique to these areas. He then brought the words back to the Romas in Slovakia and recieved a translation of these words from their language to be the same words. ??? I didn’t need a huge research grant to tell you where they come from! Just look at them, no offense, but they, are Indian (From India)… They have just been nomads for so long they lost their home… I don’t see anything that will solve this issue unless there are drastic measures taken! Look at what some Roma did to another Roma group here in Slovakia. They were forced to move out of their shacks and into these storage container homes (much better than what they had) and then they sold their old shacks (yes sold!) to another family without the mention that these homes were going to be leveled! The Roma are even screwing their own people over with all these land clearings!

  14. A couple of little snippets of news which failed to make it into mainstream press and TV reports here.
    On the 12th June the European Court of Human Rights passed down a verdict that Slovakia had violated the Convention of Human Rights, specifically article 3, with respect to Roma communities.
    This is the latest in a number of similar rulings and it has been noted that successive SK govts. have failed to make good their commitments to improve the situation. EU diplomats please note this when you vote to give this place more money.
    Following the shootings in Hurbanovo, a number of social networks and media outlets had to close their sites because of the number of openly, inflamitory comments being posted about the victims. Many comments were praising the gunman as some kind of hero. Other comments suggest deportation, the creation of “reservations” and extermination as solutions to the Roma problem.
    In a survey in 2010, two thirds of those questioned, wanted to see even more represive measures taken against the Roma.
    And finally, It has been pointed out that since the killings took place not one politician, government official or senior member of the clergy has condemned the posted comments or offered any condolencies or sympathy to the victims or their families.
    Speaks volumes about Slovak society, does it not?

  15. I thought once I would watch awhile before I responded . All very good idea`s but all of you miss two major points . Firstly , Aryan Slovaks have to learn and just accept that different people of the world and even in Slovakia have different living styles . The comments on Expat`s post, all ring of an age when American`s considered the native Indian, as a savage, because he hunted, and shagged and treated woman badly and dressed differently and did not pray to a god they approved of etc etc ….Can that happen with Aryan Slovak, I just dont think so for a very long time, as they do not have the education, living envioronment NOT to be racist or bigoted ! It is in their living blood .

    Second , There has to be SOME political will to actually do something, rather than talking about doing something ….so no chance there ! No votes in spending voters tax dollars on helpless causes .

  16. Interesting, and spot on with those last six lines, Dave. Commercial TV news in SK is abominably bad full-stop but its coverage of Roma issues is the absolute pits. I didn’t see the coverage you’re referring to because my blood-pressure simply can’t cope with these channels anymore. The Markiza newsreaders wearing hockey-shirts the morning after the final with Russia was far from the worst of their crimes, but it was a final, final straw for me.

    As to Matovic, I tend towards cynicism as he does have form as a political ‘stuntsman’. If genuine insight and action comes out of what he’s doing, I’d be prepared to take some of that back. But isn’t allowing himself to be filmed loading stuff into a campervan an example of media illiteracy? He must have known how JOJ were going to spin his plans.

    1. James – JOJ didn’t film these activities it was their usual cut and paste cartoon graphics with Motovics’ face Gimped onto cut out figures.
      A bit like Noggin the Nog or Captain Pugwash if you can remember them – crass, childish attempt at making light of a serious article.

      1. Sorry Dave, I was letting cynicism get in the way of reading you properly.

        Otherwise, not much left to say, is there, other than a string of unprintables?

  17. Igor Matovic and another MP are going to spend a week living in a Roma community. (Svinia?) I know Matovic is a bit of a showman but I genuinely believe that this is not a political stunt, I think it is some clever manoeuvre. Could it be that he has grasped the potential political power of the Roma Community? or does he plan an assault on the governments record. If it is the latter he will certainly have the moral high ground in any subsequent debates and be quite correct saying the govt. don’t know what they are talking about.
    I think it is a brave move and a real attempt to see first hand the day to day living conditions and problems of the Roma and I hope he and his colleague will take the opportunity to talk to the people to get their perspective on the issues.
    Personally, I would make every politician spend a week in a Roma community but somehow I can’t Bobby and his Merry Men setting up camp – they would rather visit their yachts and villas or distant lands with even more corrupt governance than this one.
    Last point – did anyone see the JOJ news coverage of this story?
    They did everything to make light of the topic, ” Holiday in a Roma village” was the caption followed by plurile graphics of Matovic and Co loading their campervan with holiday accessories, cooking over open fires and hunting rats.
    It just about sums up the general attitude to the Roma issue – do jack about it and make fun of those who wish to get to grips with it. Sick, sick country.

  18. James,

    I am also uphauled with comments about “3 less” or “they deserved this”… no one deserves to die!
    Education is first… you must not just enforce something, you must teach them why and show them how! The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, is totally crap…. You can, and you can with the patience to give and the effort starts with everyone, not just the government, but all society. Racism will always be around, as a word in the dictiinary and many uses, it is not a word to die! I like to think of myself as a verytolerant person, sure I don’t like the certain things certain cultures do (just look at the middle east, N. Korea, China, and other cultures). But do I hate the ones that are innocent and only trying to survive, NO! Just yesterday I whitnessed one of the biggest racist actions I had ever seen, and by a transit driver! A family of about 7 Arabs in their Abaya (Common in the Arab Gulf countries, a cloak for women which is worn over other clothing when in public), were shut out of the tram I was in, as the driver quickly closed the doors as they approached…. Several on lookers just stared and looked almost relieved as the tram pulled away! Honestly, this is just wrong, this should not be tollerated as well!
    So what do we do? Just watch or make the difference by stretching out a hand and by allowing anyone to become part of your community? Suppose with this tradegy some poeple will maybe open their eyes, and hopefully in the right direction!

  19. Expat, your second post is more reassuring than the first, which had me thinking you thought Milan J’s actions were somehow understandable. Before we go anywhere else with this topic, never forget that three people have lost their lives in tragic, violent fashion.

    As to the wider topic, first you have to have the image of the kind of society you want. For me, people of different cultures living in tolerance, making a contribution and getting help where needed is the basic definition of that. If that’s too woolly, be more pragmatic. ‘White’ Slovakia loses most of its bright young professionals to foreign countries. Those who stay all (I exaggerate but not by THAT much) want to be lawyers, whether they’re capable of it or not. There is foreign investment in the country but a major skills shortage, which demographics will only make worse in the coming years. Meanwhile, there is a significant ethnic minority living here, of whom 70% are unemployed. Thus, rather than contributing to society, they’re a drain on it.

    Education has to be a step to putting that right, but Slovakia often condemns the Roma as educationally ‘subnormal’ and 80% of them don’t progress beyond basic school. One of the first steps in remedying that has to be a recognition by parents that they do not have a divine right for little Zuzanka to be educated in a whites-only class. That’s segregation. But, with some joined-up thinking at all levels of society (I know, I know…), the Roma could, in time, be given better educational opportunities and could begin to fill those skills gaps.

    That’s for the longer-term – 20 years down the line, even if you put the reforms in place right now. For the shorter term, my impression is not that ‘Roma people don’t want to work’. Some of them don’t, but that hardly makes them unique. In fact, you often see them digging holes, laying rail tracks, or working on other construction-type jobs. And they seem to be strong, willing workers. Where this happens, my impression is that it’s generally by local arrangement. A job needs doing, a proactive community leader will round up a bunch of guys to go and do it. One of the candidates at the last presidental election (Martinakova, I think) talked of extending this kind of local-level co’operation, and of providing decent local transport links from Roma settlements to towns. It’s no good saying people ‘don’t want to work’ when they live next to a rail track, miles from a station or bus-stop, and can’t actually get anywhere.

    Then you look at what’s not working. Clearly, putting people in places like Lunik IX or building new apartment blocks and failing to monitor them is not working. It won’t work either to do what some Slovaks would clearly like to do and just try to forget the Roma community exists.

    It’s not an easy issue, and I do concede the point made on a previous thread that the EU and western countries who preach on it lack real understanding of it. But you are right, Expat, with your last sentence. It’s decades, perhaps centuries too late, but Slovakia needs to start thinking and acting. It also needs to crack down mighty hard on racism. It’s depressing that one of the first thoughts I overheard relating to Milan J’s activities was ‘good, that’s three less of them’. As long as that kind of thinking remains commonplace (and it is commonplace), I can’t be that optimistic.

  20. David,
    Well put… It is just hard for me to believe that the state is willing to fork out so much funding to a community to only keep it quiet! They are not quiet, nor do they blend in to the country side! I would like to say that I am horrified to think that these so called nomads, which roam the countryside looking for work are the same as these living in the communities within Slovakia. These are settled and in my own opinion, no longer nomads. They are a society within a society. They are a group that will not adapt to social concepts within any 3rd or higher world standard, they are living as those did over 200 years ago, no running water, no sanitation, limited education and opportunities.
    It is sad to think that this has been allowed for the past 20 years even after the communist rule expired. Out of sight, out of mind! Hardly out of sight! When I pass some of these villages established by the Roma I can only think, wow, that land would be so nice to see a typical “American Style” community built on, what a location and nice land…. this is with looking beyond the shanty shacks and trash all over!
    So, how do you clean them up and adapt them to Slovakian society after over 200 years of being here and only making their living standards worse?
    I would love to see the EU funding to do something good, like give a good scrub of all these communities (possible relocation to temporary houses with proper utilities) and manage these communities closely! That means daily visits, daily inspections, daily cleanups! Put a dog in a house after being on the street and the dog will piss and Shit on the carpets, move the dog to be in and able to get out, the dog may not want to sleep where it shits??? Step by step… heck if you can train a dog (sorry for the animal connection), but if you can train a dog to do certain hygienic things, such as poop in a certain place or to not destroy certain things in the house, then there is certainly hope for the Roma, again I am at a loss for an analogy that isn’t training an animal… Perhaps Crocodile Dundee?? Anyway, I am not trying to bash the Roam, they live as they have for hundreds of years, without any vision of becoming anything more than what they currently are.
    I would love to see something done… as in America, Slovakia is losing it’s working force, this means paying less to those willing to work, like the Mexicans in America. But if we continue to pay for benefits that exceed this pay for a normal working person, why would they even want to work… much better to go through the trash and find their extras…
    David, you make good points and I wish everyone would stop making comments like “the Problem with the Roma is, they are here”…… My wife is horrible when it comes to comments and racist slurs, but I do understand her views, but she has not come up with anything to fix the problem, only complain and say they are the blight of society.
    I disagree with her in many ways, and the Roam issue is one I can’t figure out… I just don’t know how a country can have such a separate culture and community living in it and they benefit off of the government being scared or too occupied to deal with the issues.
    If I owned 1000 acres of land and on 10 acres a Roma community formed, I would be sure that I would be there to observe, govern, and to police these areas all the time, as I would not want the 10% to become 50% in 10 years! If they wouldn’t accept my rules and want their own, then I would send them on their ways and say “sorry, but if you want to live here, you much obey our laws and our ways”! If they fight, then I let the surrounding communities to decide the outcome, not like a dictatorship, but to resolve the issue with proper diplomacy and tact.
    The Slovakian government needs to organize itself… Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance! Stop reacting and start to be proactive!

  21. EXPAT – I agree with most of your observations BUT I must point out that the problem, as highlighted by Lunix IX and areas that are far worse, is that you can not solve the problem by giving people decent homes when they have no experience of such living, nor do you educate people by using a big stick. The problem, as I see it, is the Roma are concentrated in Ghettos where they have little opportunity to learn how to live normally because they are surrounded by their peers who have no perception of what is or is not acceptable. Remember, many of these people have never had running water let alone proper sanitation, it is as alien to them as you or I living on the space station. Furthermore, I do believe it is a failing of the public servants that these estates fall into such a terrible state. There is no attempt, at the moment, to teach and to train these people or to “police” their behaviour.
    We have a small enclave of “prosperous” assimilated Roma, if you pass their block of flats you can not distinguish theirs from the other residents. The children are all clean, well dressed, well behaved and attend schools, most of the parents have jobs. This shining example of what can be achieved was not, however, engineered by Slovaks – it is the work of the Canadians and the local Roma community.
    In my opinion, the integration of the Roma must be done in stages, for example move families into the container homes, support and teach them to adopt to this new life and way of living, once a family has proven it can look after “public property” THEN give them a decent flat/house not in a ghetto, but amongst the general population with continued support and monitoring.
    As for the “benefit culture” of the Roma, don’t forget that up to the mid 50’s they were allowed to follow their nomadic way of life, indeed it was encouraged because it gave the state a mobile, cheap labour force particularly for agricultural work. The settlement of the Roma in isolated communities, very often on blighted or contaminated land was the master plan of the commies. The fact that many were settled so far from any real work opportunities suggests that it was an “out of sight – out of mind” solution and now that there is no longer “state work” for them many do just idle their time away living off the rest of society. By all means, make all Slovaks work for their benefits, I fully agree, but there has to be a carrot and stick approach to this problem and a fair amount of common sense.

  22. “adopt pro-active measures to eliminate the growing intolerance of the Roma in Slovakia”….. How about raise the level or living standards allowed by the Roma? If they cannot clean up their living areas, keep their children safe from disease and infection, elimiate the trash and constant blight of their communities….then they could possibly be accepted as members of society.
    The picture above of Lunix IX explains their lack of adaptation in society. They are not living as society should accept, so why should Slovakians allow this to continue. Afterall, who is paying for them to be here and live off the government? Every tax payer in Slovakia! Why can they be allowed to destroy the housing that has been “GIVEN” to them? In my own opinion, they are like the Indian Slumdogs…. Without the Government stepping in and setting a standard fro living, this means acceptable conditions they must upkeep, not the public servants! Stop paying them certain benifits until they do something to bring their living standards up! Letting them live like animals and segregationg them in small communites around the cities and towns to destroy everything and live like animals…. this needs to stop!
    I am horrified when I pass these areas, I just can’t believe that people would not want to do something about it within their own community! Just grose!

  23. Could not have put it better myself!

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