Why people try to make decisions about other people’s lives

Author: Lucie Conková
Location: Usti nad Labem
Though we have the same last name, I am not related to the Conkova in this story.
I work in Predlice, a neighborhood in which the population is ninety-eight per cent Romany. When you go there, you are struck by the legacy of the past Communist regime. But recently things have begun to improve, and sometimes I’m surprised myself at how good things look. Rents in this section of Usti are very low – unlike in the other parts of town – so small companies and shops are moving here. The streets are beginning to look cleaner than ever before. A civic association called FUTURE is responsible for the cleaning and upkeep of the public places. Thanks to their efforts, there is a new playground and a lot of green areas. Another active association is KHERERO ("Little House”),1 which organizes leisure-time activities for children and re-training programs for adults. Also in Predlice is the famous elementary school which directed by principal Bartak with extraordinary skill and inventiveness, and is attended by Romany kids from other parts of Usti.
I know this part of town very well. I used to live there myself. People are used to one another there, and look for ways to work together. They succeed. Those who wanted to leave have left, or live at the outskirts of the neighborhood.
This story is about how Roms from Nova Paka near Jicin were about to move to Predlice.
A Ms. Conkova in Predlice bought her house from the city but wanted to sell it soon afterwards. She could not find a buyer but talked with a relative who works as a Romany adviser in Nova Paka. He knew of a family there whose house had demolished, and he was looking for other housing for them. The family was in a temporary housing facility which was about to be closed down and would soon end up in the street again.
The city board asked the Romany adviser to deal with the situation. He came up with a quick solution. He knew that his relative in Predlice wanted to sell her house, and so he thought he could kill two birds with one stone. He proposed tothe city board to buy the house and offer it to the family in Nova Paka. This would both solve his work problem and help his relative.
So the city of Nova Paka bought the house in Predlice and donated it to the homeless family. Everything went quickly and smoothly. So quickly that no one in Predlice knew about it until it was mentioned in the press.
It was also mentioned there that the deal was facilitated by a Romany adviser – without specifying who that adviser was. Everyone thought it was Eva Bajgerova, who holds this office in Usti. Her bosses thought she did it for personal benefit. What else could it be? She is more than busy giving advice to all the Roms in town.
Not a single family but a whole busload of Roms arrived from Nova Paka with a truck full of furniture. When they saw the tiny house with one bathroom, they were a bit surprised. And people from Predlice sent them back right away.
Our Romany adviser, Eva Bajgerova, began to investigate how this had all come about. She met with her Nova Paka colleague and slowly began to uncover the truth. You already know what happened but she spent several weeks looking for the facts.
The family is now back in Nova Paka, waiting to be moved out from the temporary shelter. But they do not want to move to Predlice.
I do not understand why people try to make decisions about other people’s lives without consulting them.
I also do not understand why the city council tried to move the problem from inside their city limits, where it should have been dealt with, to a place where the concentration of Romany population is ten times higher.
The newspaper article that caused so much trouble to Eva Bajgerova appeared on March 28, 2000. I wrote down this story the next day.

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