|Settlement in Slovakia|
Slovakia: The Roma People, “Livin' On the Edge”
By Tibor Blazko
2 April 2011
Photo by Flickr user matýsek/Matus Kacmar (CC BY 2.0)
One of the major ethnic minorities in Central Europe are the Gypsy/Roma/Romani people. It is unclear how many of them live in Slovakia because often they label themselves as ethnic Slovaks or ethnic Hungarians in the polls.
They arrived centuries ago here, and even though this is their home, they're not fully integrated with the majority. In the Slovak language, for example, “to gypsy” (cigániť) means “to lie.” On the other hand, they are popular for their dynamic music and, historically, they've been considered excellent blacksmiths and horse herders.
Traditionally, they've been living in their own communities, some of them as nomads. They survived various assimilation initiatives, some of which would be deemed unacceptable today. During World War II, from 220,000 to 1,500,000 Romani were killed by the Nazis.
During the socialist era, nomadic way of life was prohibited, and instead of their wagons and ghettos, the Roma received new flats. One of Slovakia's largest and best-known Roma neighborhoods is Luník 9 in Košice.
The media tend to focus a lot more on the problematic members of the minority than on the ordinary Roma, while some people in the majority population tend to believe that most of the unpleasant facts about the minorities are concealed to keep “social harmony.”
Fortunately, along with the state's positive discrimination, various non-governmental organizations are working with the Roma, visiting them regularly, teaching them how to deal with money and highlighting the importance of educating their children. The work done by Jozef Červeň  (SLO), a Catholic priest from Luník 9, is a good example of this kind of effort.
But life could be hard even for the educated and otherwise “mainstream” members of the Roma community.
ENAR's initiative has been widely commented on in the Slovak online space.