I didn’t know exactly what to be afraid of

Author: Martin Zaplatilek
Location: Brno
These stories were told by Hanka Veselovska, my pretty girlfriend: a law student.
We were sitting on the floor in the kitchen/study of our little apartment in the largest housing development in Brno, drinking mulled apple wine with one of our friends who had been spending a few days with us.
At first Hana told me that she had no stories for me, but then my friend and I persuaded her, and she began to talk, very reluctantly. Unfortunately there was no power left in the batteries, so I had to ask her to start again. The next time she cut her story short, so I had to keep asking her questions. And then she remembered another story, and told it straight through. The party went on nicely, and eventually we started talking about other things.
"My grandpa in Mlada Boleslav lives near some Roms’ houses. Their street looks much better nowadays but it was quite terrible under Communism: the windows were smashed and boarded up and people were scared to go there.
Grandpa has a funny relationship with the Roms. When he needs to get rid of something, he leaves it in front of the gate of his house and they take it away. When he needs to recycle something, they take it to the recycling station and they share the profit.
One day grandpa discovered a huge boiler in his bakery and he thought he would get about seven crowns per kilo. With great effort he dragged it to his gate. Then he agreed with the Roms that they would take it to the recycling lot, and they could keep one hundred crowns. But it turned out that the metal was only worth seven-tenths of a crown per kilo, not seven crowns, so the Roms got a hundred crowns and grandpa was left with twenty.”
Hanka laughed.
“And then there’s my grandmother in Moravia, near Bojkovice.
When grandma came to see me at Christmas I asked her about her experience with Roms when she was a little girl. I asked her if she was scared of their magic: if she was afraid they would cast a spell on her.
” ‘When I was a little girl I was terrified of them,’ she said. ‘There was a place reserved for them outside the village. The mayor allowed them to come there and stay for a couple of days a year on the condition that they wouldn’t leave any mess behind. They had to clean everything up before they left. If they didn’t, he wouldn’t let them stay there the next year. But they came back every year.
We were forbidden to go to the place where the Roms were. Our parents forbade us.
But our parents also gathered old clothes all year around, ours for example, and when the Romani women came and pleaded for things to wear, they would give the clothes to them.
This wasn’t based so much on solidarity as on fear that the Roms would take revenge in some way if we didn’t give them clothes. We could suffer some misfortune.
Everybody warned us about that. As a child I didn’t know exactly what to be afraid of, but I was scared.’ “

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  1. A really nice story! :o)

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