Winter without Heating or Hot Water for Roma in Lunik IX
03 April 2006
According to a 31 October 2005 article by the daily Slovak SME, more than 5,000 people living in Lunik IX, a segregated Romani housing settlement in Košice, eastern Slovakia, were without heat and hot water after the housing estate with 650 apartments was disconnected from public heating and hot water supplies. Since the disconnection earlier in the month, inhabitants had reportedly resorted to heating their apartments using whatever they have available, ranging from electric and gas heaters, to wood from a nearby forest. The estate-wide disconnection occurred despite the fact that some residents pay for heating and hot water supplies as part of their monthly fees to the housing company.
According to the Bratislava SME, the previous week, 4 yearold girl died and an 18-month boy was severely burned in a fire that occurred in the settlement. Many blame the municipal authorities and the housing company as the tragedies may not have occurred if the heating had been working. Chairman of the Roma Initiative of Slovakia, Alexander Patkolo, has accused the Kosice Mayor of racism in connection with the halting of heat and hot water supplies in the housing settlement, which, according to him, resulted in the tragic fire.
Košice Mayor, Zdenko Trebula, denied any responsibility in the matter: "We are sorry about the tragedy that happened due to the fire at Lunik IX, but it was not the fault of the city. It is the result of the attitude of a majority of people living in this city ward toward duties of every citizen."
SME reported that the housing company claimed that it could not heat the apartments because the inhabitants have disconnected and sold several thousand radiators. Members of the municipal riot service, who accompanied the housing company employees during an inspection, however, denied these claims, stating that, in fact, only a few radiators were missing. Mr Trebula was quoted as having stated that the city is trying to find possible solutions, but it is unable to permanently pay losses caused by defaulters. The city plans to partially mitigate the problem by supplying hotair electric converters to those tenants who do not have any payment arrears.
According to reports from Mr Laco Oravec of the Bratislava- based Milan Ĺ imečka Foundation, as of 20 March 2006, the situation in Lunik IX has worsened as the settlement has been disconnected from water supplies in addition to the disconnection from public heating. While some efforts have been made to resolve the situation, inhabitants still suffer from a lack of heating and water. Košice Mayor, Zdenko Trebula, began a collection throughout the neighbourhood towards paying down the debt accumulated. However, the 1000 crowns (approximately 30 EUR) collected from each family has not proven to be enough towards payment of the total of approximately 500 000 crowns (13 000 EUR). Other solutions have been discussed but as of yet none have proven sustainable.
(ERRC, SME, Milan Ĺ imečka Foundation)