Claude Cahn - One of these days

02 April 1998

This time, when the villagers gathered with their furrowed faces, crossed their arms and blocked the Romani family from moving in, it all went differently. The mayor, of course, said he had nothing against Roma, he just didn't want this particular family to move in. But he had never met this family, and neither had anyone else in the village.

Thirty Roma and non-Roma people assembled and discussed what should be done. They decided that on the following day, they would travel to the village in question and help the Romani family move in. It was, after all, their house - they had bought and paid for it. The thirty people decided they would form an association - the Friends of the Romani Family N Association. They would travel with them to the village in question, carry their bags and move them in. Then they would brew some mulled wine and invite the neighbours. It would be a moving-in party. Of course, they would call the police and the press - you never know what can happen.

There were some sceptics: it will be dangerous, some said. And they were of course correct: it was dangerous. Others said, "Fine, we can move them in, but what will happen when we leave?" So the newly-formed Friends of the Romani Family N Association resolved that they would stay in the village until they were sure that the family would not be evicted by angry villagers as soon as they left. This, they realised, might take some time, but the people of the Friends of the Romani Family N Association decided that this was a project worth undertaking.

Some insisted that it was the wrong thing to do. They argued that it would be better to write a letter to the Ombudsman to point out the illegality of the villagers actions. They argued that there was no sense in doing anything rash and nothing was ever gained from provoking the ire of the rest of the country, since it was taken for granted that the rest of the country was firmly on the side of the villagers and was proud of these particular villagers for taking a stand against the Roma. They argued that the best thing was again to invoke protection from the Capital City, as they had always done in the past. This was not, after all, the United States.

But the newly-formed Friends of the Romani Family N Association, which now called itself the FRFNA, withstood these arguments and on the following day the now-sixty-person FRFNA set off with the Roma family N itself and all of the family's belongings. Members of the press travelled with the FRFNA and the police, who had been notified in advance, met the group halfway but did not try to stop them and accompanied them all the way to the village.

It was not at all clear what would happen when this group arrived in the village where the Roma family N had, two days previously, been prevented from moving into their house, but as the first reports of the actions of the FRFNA were broadcast on the evening news, all over the country, strange things began to happen. For example, all the way across the country, in the town of H, when, as usual, one of the ten local policemen gave a large fine to a Romani man for not carrying his identification papers with him, the 2000 Roma of H gathered and peacefully barricaded the police department until the money was refunded. Roma in the village of S went that evening to the local discotheque, where no Roma were ever allowed inside, and vowed not to leave until they were all served.

And in the village of M, as the actions of the FRFNA appeared on the news in one of the village bars, a local snorted and spat on the floor; "Goddam Gypsies," he said. "I'm a goddam Gypsy," said the woman tending bar. It felt good to say - she had always been unwilling to say it before. And she closed the bar and went and caught a bus to join the now several hundred people of the FRFNA.

All of this did not happen in one small Central European country in the Autumn of 1997. Not yet. But soon.

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