Today we introduce you our heroes-similar to Avangers- from Czech Republic and Hungary.
Julius Mika, Czech Republic
It was a surprise in 2007 when 18 Roma schoolchildren from Ostrava won their lawsuit against the Czech Republic. The European Court for Human Rights recognized in its decision that the Czech state had discriminated against them in their access to education.
The youth people have since grown up and some have their own children by now. While they may have helped to change conditions in the Czech schools they are not having much personal success.
Julius Mika is the only one of them succeeding to find the employment. However, he still has unpleasant memories of third grade. He missed part of the school year because he had pneumonia, and when he returned to school he remembers his teacher picking on him. “Instead of giving me a chance to catch up she began testing me on recently new schoolwork topics and slapping me,” Julius Mika is saying. Finally, Julius had to enrol into a “special school” (nowadays called a “practical school”) designed to be attended by pupils with “light mental disability.” Julius, of course, had never been diagnosed with any such disability.
Ostrava based civic association Vzájemné soužití (Life Together) discovered at the end of 1990s that there were many similar cases in the Ostrava´s Roma community. The NGO identified roughly 30 such children and began tutoring them. 18 of them later has succeeded to complete aptitude tests in order to attend mainstream primary schools.
After completing primary school Julius Mika graduated from a technical school with training as a decorator/painter. Julius now hands his experience over to others. He has started to work as a social worker and helps Roma pupils avoid enrolment into the “practical schools.” Recently Julius Mika is engaged for the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) – a Roma-led international organization combating anti-Roma racism and human rights which have consultative status with the Council of Europe as well as with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Why the other 17 are not working. “Because we were born as Roma,” Julius believes. “I too have encountered this a great deal. You see a job vacancy on the Internet, you call and are accepted for it. Then you show up personally and they tell you the job is taken already,” Mika describes his experiences of seeking a job.
Magdalena Karvayova, Czech Republic
Magdalena graduated from several prestigious schools, worked at the Open Society Fund in Prague and has long been involved in the situation of Roma parents in Ostrava.
At the elementary school I was the only Roma in our classroom. From the first to the sixth grade I experienced a bit of hazing. I heard I am a dirty gypsy, there was also physical violence from older schoolmates. I really started to feel inferior, I did not want to go to school, I started having health problems. It was a stress. Fortunately, I had good study results, but in the overall atmosphere was difficult to integrate with my schoolmates.
My daddy and mom were telling me that I should be proud of being Roma. That I should not be ashamed of my origin, and that I am primarily human being as they are. And at that time, the feeling in me came into existence that when I will grow up, I would change the world. Or I would help kids who would go through the same behaviour - so I'm going to became a psychologist. Or I will change the law so that it does not happen anymore - so I'm going to became a lawyer.
Coincidentally, one of our friends knew what I was experiencing at school and mentioned the international grammar school at Hluboká nad Vltavou. The children from 200 states from all over the world were studying there. All courses were in English, which I did not have the best. I had a feeling that I will match there and will not have to advocate every day who I am. After interviewing the director, I was allowed to enter the eighth grade. The director recognized that my English was not good, but he also saw a strong motivation.
Then I went to Anglo-American University where I studied comparative law. I worked at Open Society Fung in Prague as a coordinator of programs for human rights and education. There I felt I was doing something good, but I lacked a community element. Nowadays, the ambition I have and on which I work is to have the national organization, Awen Amenca, to create community leaders. Because they have to push the change they need. Not us as an organization, but the people themselves must do it. Thus, we are trying to support parents in the field of education and we want our children to have a better life than we do.
Laura Farkas from Hungary
I was born in Dombóvár in 1991 and lived in Szakály (a village next to Dombóvár) with my family and 3 brothers and sisters. My parents always worked hard and assured us a background in which we had only the duty of studying.
I have been living in Pécs since the age of 11, when I started studying in the Gandhi College. After passing the final exam I continued my studies at Comenius Technical School, my major was Child and youngster protection administrator.
I chose this profession, because I felt several times lonely in my childhood and was very grateful when somebody helped me in a difficult situation. I myself wanted to help those who are in need, wanted to achieve more, remain and work in the city.
I moved to a leased flat and worked for E-ON as a student to maintain myself. I worked 8 hours a day and only attended to school to take the exams. As soon as I had passed my exams I started working and were very proud of my full-time job. I had a dream of buying contact eye-lances from my first salary to wear it instead of the glasses, which I was bullied for.
As I was working among children, I felt the need of studying further. So I continued my studies and attended to an Evening School.
I had also worked abroad, but later came back to Pécs and finally I was employed by the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta as a labour market coordinator. Firstly I was panicked, since I had had similar problems as my clients had and that even I myself could not solve. Maybe that is why I became successful in this field of work, because I could use my own experiences and motivate others with my own example. I could cope with my failures and take advantage of them.
I suggest to the youngsters to dare to dream and step on a path where they can meet they themselves.
Zsolt Kalányos from Hungary
I am 44 years old. I live in an outer district of Pécs with my family, where Roma people make out more than 70% of the residents. I have been working as a decorator for 25 years. I had also worked as a mentor in the social sphere, but currently I work for an enterprise. I plan to start a business as an entrepreneur in the future. I love my works and I can maintain my family from the money I earn. I suggest the Roma children to study and learn languages as well, that is the requirement of the society.