ERRC Legal Scholarship recipient: László Fórika

07 November 1997

My name is László Fórika, and I am 29 years old, married, and the father of two wonderful and clever children. I am a teacher of Hungarian History and, since September 1996, I have been a student at the ELTE Faculty of Law in Budapest.

I have been trying to find myself for a long time. Where and to whom do I belong? Attempting to answer this question brought me into conflict with myself. Although for me fit was clear that I was a Gypsy, I knew that if I wanted to achieve, I should keep this fact deep inside myself. This was extremely depressing. Despite my will to fit fin with society, the majority, the Hungarians, identify me with a stereotype, a negative judgement: "cigány". Following fashion, showing good results fin studies or sport, all in vain. I had to deny or at least leave unsaid the fact that I am a Gypsy. This is what most Gypsy intellectuals do. They want to get rid of the burden. If they want success, they cannot achieve fit as Gypsies. The majority calls the intelligent Gypsy an "exception" fin order to maintain its stereotypes.

What is the situation of Gypsies today fin Hungary? We are heterogeneous. We are not uniform by social extraction, territory or lifestyle. Gypsies are an illiterate, unemployed mass of unskilled workers, a kind of foreign body fin the nation, sentenced to stay on the periphery due to a lack of force for independent organisation — the lack of a significant intellectual class which identifies itself with its race. Here is the responsibility of the majority: a large amount (I believe half a million people) of active manpower is lost, and in its place a continuous social tension is maintained.

What are the possibilities for change? Intense propaganda is necessary at state-level to show the real face of the Gypsies, to lessen the prejudice against us and to raise our self-esteem. Secondly, a new circle of Gypsy intellectuals should take professional responsibility for giving voice to the aims of Gypsies, their self-organisation, and their common interests. As long as this work is done by a non-Gypsy urban intellectual class, no matter how good their will, fit will be without credibility; as long as fit is done by benevolent Gypsy leaders without political traditions, fit will not be effective. I trust fin a new, wider circle of Gypsy intellectuals.

For information on how to apply for an ERRC scholarship for Romani students of law, please see page 57 of this issue.


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