If we had a real table, real food…

The Stories Exchange Project 2000 Workshop V EastWest Institute Prague
19 June 2000 Jan Vesely Drug Prevention Program Brno We were looking for a form: how to present stories that have been gathered in the Stories Exchange Project. At first we felt like putting it on stage. So we turned to a guy from a theater in Brno. He said we needed a stage as well, so we turned to a stage designer. But we realized that we didn’t have enough time or money. It became very messy and confusing. But finally an idea grew out of this mess: we decided to have a meal and have people around the table tell stories. So we invaded a house organized by the Drom Center, and we invited the people to eat with us and to talk with us. We thought that was a really good idea. But then we had Roms telling us that they wouldn’t eat goulash, only schnitzel. Then some Roms said they wouldn’t sit at a table with whites. At one point we had a majority of white people at the table and a minority of Roms, so we had to kick some white people out and invite some Roms so that there would be a balance. Helena Javurkova National Project Coordinator The Stories Exchange Project I was there and I couldn’t sit down because there were already too many white people. Sylva Lipkova was also there, and a Romany girl kept urging her to sit down and Sylva kept urging HER to sit down: "I don’t want to sit down; you sit down. You were invited, I wasn’t.” Lucie Conkova Little House Foundation Usti nad Labem There is a tradition in our family that everybody has to eat. You can’t have some people eating and some not eating. You can’t sit down and not eat. If you sit down you eat. Otherwise you’re just not there. David Ferko Usti nad Labem When we got to Brno we somehow got to this Romany housing project, and Ivana came over and said to me, “Thanks for coming. We would like to invite you to eat with us.”
If you had invited me to eat in a small circle, that would have been enough, but I was to sit at the table and eat while there were lots of kids running around staring at me eating. I couldn’t sit down and eat while there were kids running around not eating, or standing around not eating. But we who had come from Usti had had nothing to eat all day. And our feet were sore. Ivana Simikova Counsellor Drom Center Brno I can imagine that, and I know that you felt we weren’t paying enough attention to you: that you were not being well received. But please understand that we were busy: we just didn’t have the time to help you sit down. On the same day I took my finals at the university and I went home to fix my dress for the performance and I ran to Drom with a big soup bowl – I was in such a rush that day, and it was all too hectic. I’m sorry you felt that you were not being welcomed. We didn’t have enough people, and we couldn’t manage all the people who were in the courtyard. David Ferko We were standing there by the door as you were washing the dishes and a Romany woman came up to me. I didn’t know her, but I saw Martina and Katka with her; I didn’t know it was Martina’s mother.
She said “Have you eaten?”
I said no, and she said “Do you want something to eat?”
I said “Yes: I want to eat.” So she offered me food, And that was it for me: she was going to take me where I could get something to eat.
Then I felt a little awkward that we ended up somewhere else and we were sorry about that because we wanted to spend time with you. Ivana Simikova I think that really spoiled the evening for Zuzana and me. We didn’t know where you were, and then finally we knew where you were, but we felt really bad that we weren’t together. David Ferko But other than that I really liked your performance. Jan Vesely We probably counted too much on it being very spontaneous. We thought people would spontaneously contribute their own stories, and we underestimated a lot of things. We were invading people’s homes and they were not as spontaneous as we imagined they would be. People did come and tell stories. But they were talking one on one; people felt awkward talking to the whole big group of people. They were not ready to do that. Zuzana Gaborova Local Project Coordinator, Stories Exchange Project Legal and Social Adviser, Drom Center Brno We thought if we had a real table, real plates, real food, and a real family type of set-up then we could do without microphones – which would destroy the real set-up that we wanted to have, with real food. Jan Vesely We had a great idea: that this would become a regular thing: that we would have a shared dinner where people would tell stories, both Romanies and whites, and this would be the first event of that type that would attract people: one time it would be hosted by the Roms, and the next by the Czechs. Eva Bajgerova Romany Advisor, Usti nad Labem Local Project Coordinator, Stories Exchange Project All that could work. I think the idea is great. Sitting around a table in a family-like situation – and it’s true that in Romany families most of the talking goes on during the meal. But the problem was that it was in the courtyard of a house. I know that if we did that in a courtyard of an apartment building we would have the problem of a hundred and fifty people coming in. Maybe for telling stories you have to have a more intimate set-up. So we’re trying to learn a lesson from what you’ve done. I think we’ll also have a table to create a homey feeling – but we would want it to be more enclosed, more intimate. Maybe we will just have ten people together — and maybe we would have a little side table where a person would be able to write or draw a story and give it to us in that form.

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