I watched a video this morning simply titled “Lunk IX: A Short Documentary” by Romani photographer and film maker, Artur Conka. Lunik IX is a Romani “ghetto” in Kosice, Slovakia. I am 3/4 Slovakian Romani. My family come from around Bardejov, which is further north, but seeing my people forced to live like this?

It breaks my heart.

There are allegedly over 400,000 Romani in Slovakia (though the official census only recorded 89,000) and many of them have been settled for generations. They are also heavily discriminated against. In the Slovak language “to gypsy” (cigániť) means “to lie”. In the village of Ostrovany a wall was erected between the Romani neighbourhood and the rest of the village to keep us out.

My family left long before the War or Communist regimes, but nonetheless, I feel strongly connected there. It’s hard to watch videos like this feeling that I can’t do anything at all to help. Yes, growing up in the UK I had an easier life – but there were still hardships and difficulties my family experienced because we were Romani, so I can say that I do understand… seeing things like this always tears me apart. How can I help, living here in the US? How can I make best use of my chances and privileges living here so that I can best help those who aren’t so lucky?

I don’t know. Maybe…. kerav phari buťi … te avel narati …

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