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Jan Misurec
26-02-2000
Biographical Details:

My name is Jan Misurec, I'm a Rom, I'm 24 years old, single and I have no children. I have a sister, Rozita, and a brother, Bob, and both are artists. I studied social work at VOS (trade school) in Olomouc. I have never had problems because of my origin, but my relatives have.

I am currently working as a reporter at CRo Praha (Czech Radio's Prague branch). I've enjoyed answering all your questions. I hope that you all, as well as myself, are able to accept people as they are, without regard to their personal characteristics, which are as important for them as for us.

You can e-mail at jmisurec@cro.cz

In your opinion, how well informed is the Czech public about the Roma minority?

I think that Czech society is starting to be better informed about the Roma, and now even the ordinary person is getting this information in some way, and even reliable information. I see as a positive all these efforts, which in this area have been generated recently by governmental and non-governmental organizations, foundations and individuals. I also see a more positive approach in the attitude of the media. I think the majority is starting not to turn it's back on the Roma issue, and even Romani periodicals are beginning to be more accepted. The cancelling of Roma studies at the Philosophical (Humanities) Faculty in Prague is definitely a sad development, though. One faculty is most certainly not able to meet the demand for romologists, and if that faculty discontinues the possibility of study in this field, this can only be to the detriment of all society. Thank God for the school in Graz and Nitra. I think that the 'informed-ness' of children in elementary schools is almost nil. I believe it's very important that they receive lectures on this issue during lessons on civics, ethics, Christian instruction and so on. I think that school is a building stone in constructing all of our attitude toward the Roma issue, and more so for forming the opinions of little schoolchildren. Thanks to the initiation of pre-schooling, a greater number of Romani children have an easier entry into the first year of elementary school, successful completion of compulsory education and so also another possible incorporation into society. Now we are beginning to see the profession of Roma assistants, a very new and important profession. If this profession is included in the ordinary fields of study, it will be the better for it. In time, the need for other ethnic assistants will also arise. The situation as far as the level of awareness is much better at the higher levels of education. In my opinion, the problem could also be helped by the inclusion of people of different ethnicities in ordinary as well as important functions in society. For instance, I myself have never seen a Romani policeman... as long as this remains the fact, prejudices will remain.

What do you think the attitude of Czech society is towards the Roma community?

Czech society is only in search of its attitude towards the Roma. It's learning to pronounce, understand, and even classify the word Rom among a person's good characteristics. I think that nothing takes longer to build than important relationships, whether between individuals or groups, so, please, let's be patient, can't we?

What is your opinion on the suppression of manifestations of racism in the Czech Republic?

Racism existed in the Czech Republic long before it was discussed on the political level. The legislature isn't perfect, in the area of racism it only intimidates a little. I have the feeling the displays of racism in our country aren't prosecuted. I'm still waiting for an apology from Mr. Sladek, when he said in a speech in Parliament that Roma children commit a crime because they are Roma and so should be considered potential criminals. No one charged Mr. Sladek for this statement. Yes, maybe we live in a democratic society, but go ask about prosecuting racism in America, here we're still sleeping...

What is your opinion on the position of the Roma in the Czech Republic?

Roma in the Czech Republic are perceived as scum, the exeception being dark-skinned college students and artists, the media present the Roma as an antisocial minority and they don't have the status of the Poles or the Germans, for example, and they won't for a long time. It's worst for Romani children who are not recommended for adoption because of their origin... Neither do we realize how Romani culture has influenced European culture or how many special qualities and good attributes we can find among the Roma. Thank God that He loves each the same, individuals and nations, and doesn't look at the needful standing in a foolish society.

In your opinion, what do Czechs most often hold against the Roma?

Czechs primarily point to our temperament and unwillingness to conform to their ways, and sometimes they are intolerant if Roma speak Romany in public. Few see the Roma as a natural nation, that is happier outdoors than in, consider as family those who are practically strangers, and home for them is the presence of family members. If these people die, they lose their home, if their father dies, they lose their bread, and if their mother dies, they lose everything. Roma aren't able to live alone and they don't put their parents in to the old folks' home, because they know they would die of sorrow there. You know there are many unwritten laws to which the Roma adhere and in which the whole society should have its basis. If you want to understand the Roma, visit them, start to talk to them, try to trust them, they are the same as you, the same as you and I, they're also afraid of the dentist, of storms, they ae the same...

In your opinion, what do Roma most often hold against the Czechs?

Roma hold their xenophobic prejudices, their intolerance and their inability to put themselves in another's place against the Czechs.

How do you see the future of the Roma in the Czech Republic?

A lot of Roma are still leaving for Western Europe, because they no longer believe the promises made by the politicians and they believe that in the West they will mix with other ethnic groups and that they won't stick out. I believe that the situation will improve, but the state of improvement won't be perceivable immediately. In spite of this, the Czech Republic won't be a country where Roma will be happy.

What do you think are the possibilities of mutual coexistence of Czechs and Roma?

What kind of possibilities of resolution? Those who don't have a problem with Roma never will have them, and those that do have a problem with them woul have this problem even if there weren't a single Rom in the Czech Republic. Perhaps there is a small solution in the level of awareness, tolerance and the repair of all the societal mistakes (Romani pre-schools, schools, Christian groups, cultural centers, resuming Roma studies, etc.).

Have you considered leaving the Czech Republic at times? If yes, for what reason? If no, why?

No, never, I have friends and family here and I probably wouldn't be able to live without them.

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