FIVE Roma families were kicked out of their municipally-owned homes on July 28 in the eastern Slovak municipality of Čierna nad Tisou. The mayor’s decision to evict the families, who had lived in the homes for several years, came on the heels of an incident at the local football field which has raised tensions between Roma and non-Roma in this town of some 3,800 people.
A group of Roma from the town allegedly attacked the junior football team during a practice on July 26, beating up the coach and one of the players. The attack was reportedly carried out by a group of Roma parents and youths who had been recently ordered off the football field by the coach, the Sme daily reported. The mayor, Marta Vozáriková, claimed the evictions had nothing to do with the football field incident and had been in the works for months.
According to the daily, the police brought charges against three men, aged 15 to 29, who were accused of inflicting bodily harm to the coach and the player as well as breaching the peace. A 38-year-old woman was also charged with breaching the peace.
A few days after the incident, the town hall ordered the families to move out of their apartments. The eviction was then completed under the supervision of the police. Mayor Vozáriková said that the timing was just a coincidence and orders for the families to move out had been issued three weeks earlier. The apartments were found to be in a “devastated” condition, the mayor said.
“When I was questioned by the government plenipotentiary for Roma communities, I made it clear that these two events were not connected and such claims would only provoke hatred,” Vozáriková told The Slovak Spectator. “We have shown evidence that the eviction notices were issued earlier.”
Vozáriková said that altogether five notices had been sent to five families who had been previously warned that they would no longer be able to live in their municipally-owned apartments if they continued to breach public order and failed to pay their rent. The mayor pointed out that one notice went to a woman who lived alone and had not paid her rent in a long time, while another was issued to a married couple who have “never paid a cent of rent or for services provided”, Vozáriková said. The remaining three cases were “inadaptable” citizens who, according to the mayor, had been warned about possible evictions as far back as January. Vozáriková assumed her office at the end of December 2010.
“I know this community well,” Vozáriková told The Slovak Spectator. “I visited them as deputy mayor and I have worked with them for the past three years. These three families had been fully warned about this step.”
The mayor insists that Čierna nad Tisou does not have problems with its Roma citizens and that ethnic issues are not something she would consider when taking decisions. Altogether there are an estimated 200 Roma living in the town, most of them poor but integrated into town life, the mayor said.
“I granted 15 flats to Roma in April and we have had no problems with them whatsoever,” she stated, adding that, in contrast, the families she had forced out were unwilling to alter their lifestyles.
Most of the evicted family members said they were hoping to find shelter with relatives.
One of the evicted Roma women accused the mayor of buying Roma votes in the recent election for three sacks of potatoes and three bottles of cheap fruit wine, the Sme daily wrote.
Vozáriková denied the accusations.
“If it were so, it would have made no sense to take these steps,” she said.
8. Aug 2011 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani