We weren’t in the U.S. during segregation

Ludek ŠtastnýPragueJuly 2000
The events described in my story took place this summer in the Rewaston settlement where we have a cottage. By reading the story you’ll learn something about us, about our neighbors, and also about Roma.
The other day we were having a chat with one of our neighbors, hoping that he might have something interesting to tell us.
The moment we started sounding him out for a story and mentioned the Czech-Romany project he remembered that he had a big piece of news: "Some colored people have bought a cottage right above the well. Šnajberk has told me about it. Great piece of news, isn’t it? We’d better start locking everything up now.”
We said that for all we knew the new neighbors might be fine, and anyway we couldn’t tell until we’d met
But the man went on: “You needn’t worry about that. We’ll meet them soon enough. The worst one can do is give them something. One day they come asking for a few logs, and a week later you arrive at the cottage and find all your wood supplies gone.”
Well, at that point we thought it best to put an end to this conversation and went home. A day later we met the neighbor again and he reported that it was confirmed. He had met a new kid on the path, a boy “just as black as your shoes”. He said he was planning to have a look at the new neighbors and make their acquaintance the following day.
That was the last we heard of him that weekend, so we could not find out how he had fared.
Later in the week we met Mr. Šnajberk, the local Nosy Parker and usually the first one to know about everything in the settlement. He lost no time in enquiring: ” What about your new neighbors, have they moved in yet? Wonderful, isn’t it!”
As we found out, Mr. Šnajberk was convinced that a cottage about five metres from ours had been bought by some Roma. We told him that no one new had moved into the neighboring cottage but that the one above the well reportedly had a new owner.
Šnajberk retorted: “That’ll be them, those colored …” His reaction made us wonder whether we weren’t in the US during segregation.
Šnajberk went on to inform us that a week earlier some Roma had wanted to stay overnight with Mr. Hríbek. Apparently they told him that their relatives had bought a cottage somewhere around, that they were celebrating the purchase, and that all the guests could not fit into the house. “This has been a good settlement without any thieves. We’ve all known each other. Things will change now… And are you really sure that they haven’t moved into the cottage next to you?” Šnajberk gave us a suspicious glance, making us feel as if we were harboring some dark secret.
The following weekend I met another neighbor, just after he’d had a chat with the garrulous Mr. Šnajberk. Before I could even greet him the neighbor started enquiring: “Have you seen the Gyppos yet? They’re in the cottage right next to you! Hadn’t you better think of selling? Assuming that anyone will still buy it from you…”
Once again we had to explain that there were no new inhabitants in that cottage, and that we had not yet seen any Roma anywhere around yet.
How did it end? Well, we’re halfway through autumn and we’ve still not seen any Roma in the settlement, neither in the cottage next to us nor in the one above the well.
Mr. Šnajberk spent several weeks as a Jeremiah, telling his bit of news to everyone, and the cottage owners spent a lot of time discussing the potential horrible consequences. But by the end of summer the upheaval was long forgotten.
Our settlement has stayed monochrome: as white as ever.

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