How can Roms have a white tent?

"New Roles for Roma in an Integrated Europe?”
Session III, ARTS OF TOLERANCEDiscussions, Workshops and Performances organized by the Stories Exchange Project in Terezin, formerly a Nazi concentration camp from which Jews were sent to Auschwitz Eva BajgerovaUsti nad Labem
Romany AssistantRegional Government
Local CoordinatorThe Stories Exchange Project
What has the Stories Exchange Project meant for our region?
What is it doing for our country?
What can it do for Europe?
We’ve informed our families about the project, we’ve informed our friends about the project. We’ve taken the stories and the questions they raise to the wider public – in cities throughout the Czech Republic, in Vienna, in London.
We’re spreading knowledge, we’re spreading information.
One of our achievements was a tent we put up last month in the center of our town – which is also the center of our region.
We had an information center in the tent. We talked in the tent about Romany questions, about the problems of the Romany minority. We answered questions like, “What you do when your Romany neighbors throw garbage out the door and let it stay on the sidewalk?”
We explained that it’s important to cooperate, that it’s important to exchange views, that it’s important to talk, to confront problems, to listen to criticism, to criticize ourselves, to learn from other people’s mistakes – and to teach.
John ErwinDirector, The Stories Exchange Project
Let me just add a footnote.
The place where the tent was set up was the main square in Usti nad Labem, a city which is now famous for Maticni Street, where something other than a tent – a wall between Czechs and Roms – was put up in 1999.
Eva’s team in Usti thought that the opposite of a wall should be put up—- and it worked!
David FerkoLocal Coordintor The Stories Exchange Education Project Usti nad Labem
Many people came there. We had the tent up for three days, and we had people dropping by. We had people looking in and walking away, but we also had people walking in and sitting down to talk.
We had people who came in and sat down and started telling us stories. They started with stories, but then they switched to reality: they switched to their everyday experience with the Roma or with the white majority.
And it culminated in a kind of joy, you know?
A joyful exchange of information.
For example we had a visitor who was pretty tough. He walked in, and said, “I don’t like you, you Roma people.”
But we talked with him; we explained things to him.
In the middle of that he stood up and walked out. But still I call it a success, because he did listen to us for a couple of minutes.
Martin Cichy
History MajorUniversity of Usti nad Labem
Participant The Stories Exchange Project
You’re right: that’s how it was. People just came there to talk and talk and talk, and to tell us about their experience, and some of the stories we put down on paper.
I think many of these people were happy that they had an audience. They could talk and tell us what their problems were. We listened to them, we advised some of them.
We listened. We told them what we’d do. They told us they would do that too. It was just informal chatting, really. But people were happy that they had someone to listen to them and to talk with them, someone who understood their problems.
We were sitting there in the tent under hot sun and we were listening to people talking and talking and talking
David Ferko
There’s one more thing we should mention.
Some people asked us, “how can Roms have a white tent?” It was funny.
People were asking us, “why is the tent white?”

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