Jarmila Balazova

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Biographical Details:

Jarmila Balazova was born January 5, 1972 in Brno, where she also graduated from gymnazium (preparatory high school for university). After that she was accepted to study journalism in the Social Sciences Department at Charles University in Prague, where she wrote the dissertation "Romani Media for 1989", and which she finished in 1999.

In November 1992, she founded the Romani section at public Czech Radio, as well as the Romani broadcast program "O Roma vakeren" (Roma Speak), until September 1998. As of the beginning of 1999, she is working as a producer of children's television shows for Czech Television.

In addition to this, she contributes to a number of magazines, such as Kavarna and Cosmopolitan, and is the edotor-in-chief of the Romani monthly Amaro gendalos.
In your opinion, how well informed is the Czech public about the Roma minority?

Very sporadically, irregularly, and unfortunately also many times not objectively. There are media (NOVA television, tabloids) which always love to take on the so-called "Romani question." On the other hand, some others are trying to deal with this topic more often and with greater objectivity (the weekly Respekt and the Czech Television program Nadoraz). Over the last few years, Roma are making their way on to the pages of the press the broadcasts of the TV and radio stations more frequently than they were before. But they still remain something marginal, something "special", that doesn't fit into a natural form of press, radio or television. I mean to say that they only talk about Roma in connection with Romani topics, that they only appear as representatives of the Roma, not of opinions or individuals.

What do you think the attitude of Czech society is towards the Roma community?

An unnatural and deeply marked inability to distinguish a person as an individual and not as a piece belonging to a pack - to anything. Among some of the outright hateful, the hatred as a rule doesn't even correspond to a negative experience of their own. Others are characterized by their lax approach...they don't care. They don't need these "Gypsies", but to kill them, they think that's too much. But so is doing something against this killing! The third group - very limited in number - love the Roma, just as foolishly as the first group hates them. These "pseudo-humaniarian people" also don't discriminate. And they feel something for the Roma - even if it's compassion, admiration, or even love - as if a single mass. And the last - the smallest group of all - are the "normal" ones. They are like a needle in a haystack, but thank God for them!

What is your opinion on the suppression of manifestations of racism in the Czech Republic?

Amazingly...this suppression is practically non-existent. With all due respect to the exceptions, but because there are so few of them, a person doesn't even have to be ashamed for this generalization. Now at least 8 years since our "Velvet", Roma are barred with impunity from restaurants and discos and are discriminated against in the schools, in employment, and on the street. There can be graffiti on the wall to send some groups of inhabitants of this country to the gas chamber, the media agitate with racist stories, tv music programs with racist videos, gigantic musical publishers with recordings promoting intolerance and physical racism. I don't think I have to single out the worst cases... brutal attacks ending in serious injury or even death!

What is your opinion on the position of the Roma in the Czech Republic?

Naturally. it's a result of the things I mentioned above. Simply and very briefly put. The position is one without equal rights. In spite of the fact that Czech laws and institutions say otherwise, experience proves this argument every day, every single hour and minute.

In your opinion, what do Czechs most often hold against the Roma?

Inadaptability in all sorts of directions. In fact they don't care about that. If a perfect person were to be integrated into this society, his days wold still be numbered. Even if he were "holy", he would still have all the world's rubbish thrown on him by those around him, and he'd be asked to answer for the crime of every Rom in the world.

In your opinion, what do Roma most often hold against the Czechs?

The inability I already mentioned to see a person as an individual and not as a member of a minority. As well as the reluctance, or maybe even the cowardice, to get to know something different and try to understand it.

How do you see the future of the Roma in the Czech Republic?

Realistically. If this generation of Roma struggles hard and grits its teeth, then the next one will have things better. Not that this would make the gadje much happier, definitly not, but maybe it's now educated enough, enlightened and emancipated enough that it will be able to defend itself against the worst displays of racism.

What do you think are the possibilities of mutual coexistence of Czechs and Roma?

Patience, investment in education (among the Roma and non-Roma), greater civic involvement of personalities of the cultural and political fields, and education toward a civil society, multiculturalism and especially the ability to see through generalizations.

Do you think it is necessary to draw the interest of Roma to events throughout society and to their position in society? If yes, how would you go about doing so?

Inarguably, yes. I would try to do it through cultural activities, education and positive motiviation. But it would be foolish to think that 100 percent of the people can be drawn in.

Have you considered leaving the Czech Republic at times? If yes, for what reason? If no, why?

Yes, at times, but more theoretically in connection with the departure of my friends. And then also in connection with a certain powerlessness, when you can't budge that boulder that slightest bit you'd like to. But I don't intend to leave, if it isn't absolutly inevitable. I hope that the situation doesn't come and even with all these wrongs I like it here, this country is mine and my roots are sunk deep here.



Radio Prague Internet Team
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