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Ivan Vesely - Romani Activist

Ivan Vesely on a TV discussion programIvan Vesely was born in 1965 in a Roma camp in eastern Slovakia. His mother is a cleaning woman and his father a railway locksmith. He is the oldest of five children. After finishing elementary school, he was accepted to the military academy in Martin, in present-day Slovakia, and remained a professional soldier until 1989. That year he was demoted and discharged for his attitude to army leadership. After a short period during which he worked as a truck driver, among other things, he registered to study sociology at Charles University. He was accepted, though he never completed his studies. With respect to his previous position, he was rehabilitated as a politically-persecuted person by the army and by order of the Ministry of Defense was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in the reserves.

Vesely is currently devoting himself to his own company, especially work for the Roma community and for the foundation Dzeno (Foundation for the Renewel and Development of Traditional Romani Values), which he founded along with his wife Klara Vesela. He is the vice-chairman of the Romani political party Roma Civic Initiative.

"Ivan Vesely has been on the more radical wing of the representation for some years now. But to narrow his work down only to strong gestures and speeches would be very unobjective and hypocritical. His many years of effort are worth more than just some attractive headlines warning of the possibility of creating Roma self-defense units, but also many concrete, positive steps attempting to make the life of Czech Roma easier. In any case, however, I can agree with calling him a controversial person. Though how he is in reality, according to him, only his family and closest friends really know," wrote Jarmila Balazova about Ivan Vesely in the Romani monthly Amaro gendalos (AG, no. 7/99)

Ivan Vesely is a regular contributor to the magazine Amaro gendalos as well as to Czech dailies. Here we have Ivan Vesely's opinion on the assimilation of Roma into the majority society, which was published in the newspaper Lidovy noviny on September 10th under the title "Where are you marching, proper citizen?".

"The proper citizens in Europe were thinking, why don't the overwhelming majority of the Roma population in the Czech Republic want to be painted white and whether their rejectionist attitude to assimilation isn't at least partly well-founded? Recently everything has gotten out our control. We can't underestimate the pressure of the international public and the recent threat by the destination countries to introduce visas makes it much more dificult to silence our comrades. We are once again at the beginning of our development. For the majority of responsible Romani leaders in Europe the object is clear: a conceptual vision that will enable a certain direction of events that will be geographically complex, politically ambitious and historically long-term. Europe will be shaken in its integrational attempts, which have an objective validity and demonstrate the advance in civilization of a mature society. European culture is mistaken about us and in the course of time it has lost sight of us. But perhaps it realizes that leadership in the progressive development of Europe will someday transfer to younger nations which are in contact with the soul and nature." (Lidove noviny, Sept. 10, 1999)

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