Even a skinhead can have a good heart

Katerina SidonovaPrague
When I was studying at the Pedagogical Faculty, I used to spend one afternoon a week and three weeks in the summer with Romany children from Zizkov. I wanted to become a teacher in specialized classes for Romany kids.
Unfortunately this was impossible because there were enough teachers when I finished my studies. So I accepted work at the Center for Children and Youth in Need, where I worked as a tutor in the asylum department.
I worked with children and youngsters who had problems with parents, who were on the run from home; with children whose parents did not care how their children lived, children who lived at railway stations, abandoned houses, canals…
One day a newcomer knocked on our door and my boss told me to go and talk with him.
"You’re going to take care of this client,” he said.
So I went into the corridor and saw a boy of about fifteen in a bomber jacket and high boots. And his head was shaved. I turned around and went to my boss.
“I’m not going to take care of a skinhead,” I told him.
“He is in need,” my boss answered.
“I don’t care what his problems are. I just can’t speak to such a person. I feel like vomiting when I look at him.”
My boss was silent for a while, then shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe this isn’t the right job for you.”
OK. I took a deep breath and returned to my new client.
His name was Vasek. His parents were divorced. His father had a new family and had no interest in his son. His mother had a new partner and wanted to put Vasek into a children’s home. The only friends he had were skinheads. They accepted Vasek into their gang, and he felt good with them.
I asked him if he believed that the skinhead ideas were good.
“Yes,” he nodded. “The Czech Lands should be only for Czech people. There is no place for any other nationality. Gypsies, Jews, anarchists and drug addicts destroy our society. The most important thing in the world is ORDER. The skinheads are here to maintain ORDER.”
I had to open the window to gasp for fresh air.
“Have you ever beaten up anybody?” I forced myself to ask.
“Sure,” he said proudly. “I beat the Gyppos. I beat anarchists as well.”
“Have you ever injured anybody?”
He answered as if he was boasting: “I broke both legs of one anarchist with an iron rod.”
“Because he was an anarchist.”
“What happened to him, do you know?”
He knew, because the wounded boy lived in the same neighborhood. “He’s in a wheelchair,” said Vasek.
It was hard for me to swallow, but Vasek was my client and I had to work with him. I was supposed to help him.
He stayed in the Center for several months, and slowly I got used to him.
And several things happened that changed my attitude.
One night a client of ours came in drunk. He was aggressive, and started a fight with another boy.
I was pregnant at that time and felt absolutely helpless. The fighting boys were sixteen. They were big and strong and I was a pregnant, weak nothing.
“I’ll call the police,” I said. “I don’t know what else to do.”
“Don’t do that,” Vasek pleaded and went straight between the two fighting guys. After a while he succeeded in separating them.
Next day he had a black eye, but he was smiling.
Another night a boy whom we had rejected came and pleaded to be let in. I couldn’t do that because he was a drug addict and we were forbidden to accept people on drugs. His name was Tomas.
I made a mistake and allowed him to go to our kitchen and have something to eat. He grabbed a knife and ran out of the building, shouting that he was going to commit suicide.
I was scared. What should I do?
Again it was Vasek who helped me.
We went out into the dark and searched for Tomas. Vasek finally found him and persuaded him to go back. Blood was dripping from his wrists. Vasek bandaged Tomas and took him to hospital.
By the end of his stay, Vasek decided to visit the anarchist boy he had crippled. When he came back from the visit he was deeply moved by the fate of his former enemy. He kept telling everybody how courageous and brave the crippled boy was.
He went to see him one more time to say how sorry he was for what he had done.
I had several sessions with his parents. I wanted to get him back into the family, but they were no longer interested.
He was too old and too spoiled for a normal children’s home, so he had to go to a “pastak”, an institution for young criminals. We had no chance to save him from that.
But since then I know that even those who say they are skinheads can have a good heart.

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