The policeman knew the skinhead - A young Rom speaks about a racially-motivated attack in Hungary

15 May 1998

During the first week of May, 1997, the ERRC interviewed a young Romani boy named Viktor Csányi, who was a victim of a skinhead attack while on an excursion with a group of Romani schoolchildren in April 1997. The following is Viktor's account of the incident.

On April 26, I went on an excursion to Kismaros with a group of twenty Romani children from Budapest. We were all members of the Gypsy High-School Students' Club (Cigány Középiskolás Klub), and I was the only boy in the group. We were accompanied by two adults, Mónika Rózsa, staff member at the Gypsy Methodological Center (Cigány Módszertani Központ) that is run by the organisation Romano Glaso, and János Csányi, my father. We were told there are very few Roma living in Kismaros because Roma were apparently not allowed to settle there.

We were staying in a camp. The rooms in the camp had graffiti on the walls: it was hate-speech against Roma, including a riddle that concluded with a reference to Hitler. We spent the day walking the streets of the village. During the day, some local children called us „stinking Gypsies". We are used to that, though, so we do not even bother to react anymore. My father used to hear such remarks when he was in kindergarten, even if at that time the skinhead movement was non-existent in Hungary.

In the evening, I and two girls from the group went for a walk. We were on our way back to the camp when we came up to two men. The men stopped in front of us, blocking our way, and stared in our faces without saying a word. The two girls and I didn't want any trouble, so we walked around them and headed for the camp. About a block away from the place where this encounter happened, a group of skinheads appeared from around a corner. They rushed at us carrying baseball bats and wooden sticks, shouting hate expressions like „rotten Gypsies"; and „stinking Gypsies". The two girls managed to escape, but I was surrounded by the skinheads, who started beating and kicking me. Somehow I dragged myself away from the scene but by that time, I was wounded severely on the head and had numerous bruises on my head, face, and eyes. [Two lines of stitch marks were visible on Viktor's head at the time of the interview.]

One of the girls who escaped ran to a nearby house. The people there invited her in and told her, „Come, come, it must be Erzsi's son and his gang playing hooligans again." Both girls finally came back to the camp, where they told the others what had happened. The caretaker said there was no phone in the building, so one of the girls from the group had to go outside again to call the police from a pay-phone. She was approached by the skinheads who by then were finished with me. She told me the skinheads grabbed her and wanted to know whether she belonged to the visiting Roma group. She pretended not to know what they were talking about, and because she is only part-Romani and has a light complexion, the skinheads let her go. However, they followed her for a while, so she had to walk by the camp not to let them know she was with us.

The police arrived at the place where we were attacked and at the camp within twenty minutes after the girl made the call. The two girls who saw the skinheads gave the police description of the attackers, and on the basis of that, the policemen quickly found them. One of the skinheads was carrying a wooden spoon in the pocket of his jacket, supposedly because this is a sign of a call for violence, similar to what I have heard about them wearing certain colours of shoelaces in their boots.

I was taken to the Jávorszky Ödön hospital in Vác, where I was treated by a doctor. I gave copies of the medical records from the hospital to the lawyer who took on the case. I was later questioned at the police station, where I spent a couple of hours sitting next to the skinhead who attacked me. The skinhead showed no signs of being sorry. My father was with me, and we heard the policemen addressing the skinhead familiarly, as „Gyurika". We figured out from the way they were speaking that because Kismaros is a small village, both he and his mother are known in the community andof course know the policemen too.

Hell broke loose during the night after the attack. The girls were terrified. They got into crying fits and they couldn't go to sleep; we spent the whole night trembling and waiting for the attackers to come to the camp. The Gypsy Methodological Center now arranging for a psychologist to consult the traumatised children. My mother, Rózsa Mendl, a psychologist herself, suffered a nervous breakdown because of the case and had to be hospitalised.

The Gypsy Methodological Center hired a lawyer, Dr Irén Boros, and they filed a lawsuit against the attackers. I have told my story to many people, and I am really concerned about what the outcome of the lawsuit will be. I know it rarely happens that people like these skinheads are charged and punished for what they do to us. But something must be done against this.

According to information obtained by the ERRC, police concluded its investigation and forwarded the case to the Vác City Prosecutor's Office in late February 1998, proposing charges of „violence against members of an ethnic minority" against five suspects. At the time of publication, the case file remains in the hands of the prosecution. ERRC is following the case closely.

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