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Ing. Karel Holomek - Roma activist

Karel Holomek was born in 1937 in Brno to a family of original Moravian Roma, who settled in Moravia at the end of the 17th century. His father, Tomas Holomek, was the first university-educated Rom in the former Czechoslovakia.

Karel Holomek studied mechanical engineering at the Military Academy in Brno. He later worked on the faculty as an assistent specialist. For his statements opposing the Sviet-led occupation in 1968, he lost his place in the faculty. Until 1990 he worked a number of industrial trades: truck driver, demolition forman, etc. At the end of this period, he had his own 'samizdat' underground publishing house. After 1990, he was a deputy for the Civic Forum on the Czech National Council for two years.

Currently, he is the chairman of the Society of Roma in Moravia, the honorary chairman of the Society of Professionals and Friends of the Museum of Romani Culture, the director of the International Roma Center attached to the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly, a member of the government's Commission for Human Rights, and the editor-in-chief of the Romani magazine Romano hangos.

Karel Holomek is married and has two daughters.

Karel Holomek on Roma emigration:

"I don't want to run away from problems. I will be here and I will try to do something. I don't want to raise my hand like other Romani representatives and threaten: I will emigrate too." (Lidove noviny, July 24, 1999)

(Lidove noviny, July 24, 1999) According to Karel Holomek, how do the Roma view Czechs?

"They are sometimes unfairly unfriendly toward Czechs. They are not able to take constructive criticism. They're always sure to be obsessed about something. They are only concerned about their own problems and judge everything from their own point of view. We are just gypsies, we don't get work, our children do badly in school... Nobody asks, what can I do to make things better." (Lidove noviny, July 24, 1999)

And what does he think the Roma themselves can do to improve things?

"A lot of things. Take, for example, their relationship with their children. Roma love their children tremendously. But how are they devoted to them? The children grow up like trees in the forest. Nobody cares how they do in school. For Roma their descendents simply aren't their partners. How do they take care that their children go to school regularly? How do they take care that their children succeed in school? They don't." (Lidove noviny, July 24, 1999)

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