Roma politically, not factually correct
I noticed that the Spectator keeps referring to gypsies as Roma. Are you aware that you are discriminating against other gypsies like the Sinti, the Lovari, the Kaderlasch and others? Roma is just one of many gypsy tribes.
I hope you did not fall into the 'political correctness' trick of the alleged discrimination of the use of the word gypsy? Or do you think it would be correct to call all North-American Indians just Sioux instead of Indians?
From an old gypsy I found out that he finds it quite amusing that some people try to be clever and call him a Roma. Of course they are not clever because I am first a gypsy and then a Kaderlasch, he said.
[Ed note: The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'Romany' as "a gypsy," and writes that the word is derived from the gypsy expression for "man, husband."]
An end to flies
It amazes me the level to which some people will go to defend their ethnocentric views. I read Mark Stolarik's original letter referencing the lack of screens in Slovakia [Vol. 6 No. 1, Mar. 27 to April 2]. I found it an amusing depiction of the things that North Americans often take for granted when visiting other countries. Like many, I'm sure, I thought it was a tongue in cheek view of differences in culture. It is true that George M. Rebar's rebuttal suggesting that there are no flies in Slovakia is rather ridiculous.
Unlike Mr. Stolarik, however, I found this opinion to be less a matter of ignorance and more a question of perception. I believe that Rebar sees no flies because they don't bother him. In fact, I know this to be true of many Europeans, not just Slovaks. They simply swat the flies if given the opportunity, or they ignore them altogether.
This idea appears to be silly to Mr. Stolarik because he can't let go of his biases long enough to recognise another system of priorities. After reading his most recent opinion on the matter, I mentioned the so-called fly problem to some Slovak friends of mine. Like Rebar, none of them seemed to notice that there was one. On the suggestion of putting screens over their windows, they laughed at the preposterousness of covering a window in warm weather and blocking the view just on account of a few flies. "Why?" seemed to be the primary response. Other concerns were cleanliness and reduced sunshine. One friend, who actually thought the suggestion was good, said that post communist Slovaks probably wouldn't warm to the idea of anything resembling a gate or fence covering their windows. The barred windows for those who live on the ground floor of apartment buildings are an exception, I suppose.
As for Stolarik's empty threat of western condemnation of this fly-accepting philosophy, he might be better served staying in his screened home in Canada. Another option could be to concentrate on things of more importance. It would really be great if this were the only pressing issue concerning Slovakia's participation in the international arena. I can't speak for everyone, but I find his representation of the west to be pretty poor if he can't ignore a few insects long enough to enjoy an otherwise wonderful country. Perhaps he would do well to heed what a Slovak friend of mine had to say concerning this pseudo-issue. "Live and let live. You shouldn't be inside anyway. It is summer and staying inside and playing with flies is pretty stupid!"
International marriages worth the shock
My reply may be a little late but the article, which I have seen in print but not posted on the Internet, deserves comment.
My wife Hiltrud comes from Germany and we will have been married 32 years in August. In 1979 and 1980 we adopted 3 children from Korea. We know what culture shock is about and how to ease through it without too much anxiety and pain. The first few months are like a honeymoon, getting used to the new environment, getting acquainted with the inlaws, learning traffic laws, etc. After that, reality sets in.
The new language (English) is difficult to learn, one cannot contact relatives except by letter and phone, and things just become miserable for the next month or two. This process has to be worked through; there is no substitute. The spouse and inlaws must be supportive in the struggle. But after that, the clouds break up and sun starts to shine again. Hiltrud had to learn English the hard way with no formal coursework. She read the newspaper and practiced her English by talking with my parents and me. The children were able to work with speech therapists in the local school system.
1. The spouse and his/her family must give unqualified support to the new arrival into the family and country.
2. Before the marriage takes place, establish contact via letters, telephone, or e-mail.
3. Parents: Attend the wedding, even if it may entail great personal sacrifice.
Would I do it again? My answer - in a heartbeat! In an "international" marriage, you're guaranteed a liberal education, as your article alludes to. After 25 years or so, the advantages really shine through.
Shareholders must bear responsibility
[Re: Steel deal worries shareholders by Peter Barecz, Vol.6 No. 16, April 24-30] VSŽ is bankrupt. As a stockholder, I sympathise with the minority shareholder, however, it would be best for the Slovak Republic to have US Steel buy VSŽ. Alexander and Július Rezeš are responsible for this bankruptcy, as are the other shareholders.
As a shareholder, one must always accept the risk/reward ratios. In a free society, this is the norm.
Lansford, PA USA
Foreigners even need protection from police
I read the letter published in the last issue about the growing silicon valley in Slovakia [Vol.6.12 March 27-April 2], and I agree with the reader on the need for increased security for foreigners. I'd like to add my experience: I've been dozens of times to Bratislava by car and there was not even one time when I wasn't stopped by police for the most different reasons: they first pretended to fine me for e.g. 2000 crowns, but soon began bidding lower fares and not giving any recipt.
Even three days ago I was coming back to Italy from Lithuania after driving more than 6000 kilometres across four countries, and I was stopped only in Bratislava for asking information near a "no parking" sign where five other Slovak cars were parked. I have to confess that I'm already used to this bad habit and I know that pretending to call the embassy is enough to make them go away. I think that safety for foreigners means not to look at police as something like an enemy.
15. May 2000 at 0:00