Archive | November, 2014

Schizoid week-end(s)

24 Nov

I found out Mielu(Lamb) is in Spain. He is tiny for his 10 years old. Did not go much to school until this year when he became addicted to the football on Saturdays. Parents in prison for a different type of addiction : drugs. His uncles are linked to some of the strongest criminal gangs in Ferentari. They took him abroad. In the best case scenario he is begging there. He used to go to school and came regularly to the football on Saturdays. The scary part is that I can’t be sure if it is better or worse for him being there than living in the ghetto here. The picture down here is from this week-end. Garbage Bogdan’s mother was taken to prison – trafficking drugs from Spain to Romania is the word in the ghetto. His father is dying and his brother is on his way to prison too. He is a great kid. Football is the main reason why he is fine. He plays for a football club. Discipline and hard work that comes with being in a team helps him a lot.

I went to see Siminica- Toto’s mother. Sile- Toto’s uncle was fixing some broken headphones. Crammed in Siminica’s room of a flat (20 squares meters that include a bathroom , a kitchen) live now 5 people including a baby. The baby is seriously sick as she used drugs while pregnant. She charges money from people that come and shoot safely drugs in her flat. There is not state facility  in Ferentari for the swelling number of drug addicted anywhere despite the huge health risk. The stairways of the apartment buildings are always full of drugs. Here an example from this week-end.Drugsonthestairs Ilie, the other uncle is back from prison and works wherever he can. He is trying to find money to buy a bus ticket for Spain. He is off drugs but his health is not good. Ion, the last of Siminca’s brothers is in prison. Drug trafficking.

Ionut was back to the training and is back to school. He is almost 15 .The jacket for 10 years old fitted him well. He promised he will bring Silviu back to training on Saturdays. In this way  we can make sure he is ok and get for him the most basic things he needs like we did in the past.

At the “Adapost”( the center for partially abandoned children) the numbers shoot up due to the cold weather. Some of the last winter children are back. A 12 years old that never went to school is new there. Hopefully from February he will go for the first time to school. It is very unlikely he will stay in school but it is worth to try. Nobody gave Mitica or Toto a chance and they are doing great.

At the “Adapost” things are ten times better than in the center for abandoned children next by. Extreme violence, abuse and over-medication are some things that do not happen here. Still the children have little chances to make it. There are too many reasons why their chances to be successful are significantly lower to fit in here. We did homework with some of them. Nobody seemed to bother to do homework with Bianca – she is deaf and nobody is trained to work with here. She was very happy to do homework. Denisa is taking care of her. She is a child herself but she is amazingly gentle with Bianca.

Then there are the people that help. That know how hellish some of the lives of these children are. Know that some and sometimes many have lice. That their clothes smell bad and their feet might stink. That real help takes years and results might not be that great. That some if not most are Roma. That I am also Roma. And they still come.  It feels great to see them every week-end. I asked for help and we received enough money to cover the needs for shoes for this winter and probably the entire year need for sport shoes is covered. It was enough even to buy some of the much needed winter jackets.

We have now a washing machine in the ghetto which might make socks and clothes last a lot longer than before. Monica face when I brought it up was the best reward one could get for a gift. Monica has nothing, is seriously sick but she never shies away of helping. As are some of the other people in the ghetto that do amazing acts of kindness despite living in what many of us will think is a hell. I know a policeman that arrests youth on bogus charges. He does it because he cares. Prison is the only chance most of those arrested will survive the winter or their spiraling addiction.

I hope what I write helps. I failed enough times to think that the situation of ghettoes in Europe could change fast to the better. But it is possible to change some lives. And it feels great to be among some of you, those that are trying to do it.

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Cum saracii o tara si ma fericii o gramada/ How I got poorer and much, much happier

20 Nov

 English version at the end – slightly different than the Romanian one

Ultimele zile au fost senzatie cum ar zice Mitica. Si nu e (numai) din cauza neamtului care a castigat dreptul sa fie sef peste Romanica incluzand si cardul din care fac eu parte.  Nici pentru ca Romania a batut Danemarca si Mitica s-a dat mare la juma’ de Ferentari ca a stat la VIP si ca vorbeste acum cu “barosane” cu seful FRF-ului.

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Motivul principal nu e nici ca m-am intalnit cu niste oameni super buni  incercand sa fac o moderare ( probabil ultima) pentru Aspen Fellows si ca m-am simtit senzational vazand fetele celor de la Antena 3/RTV din noaptea alegerilor la protestele si apoi bucuria de pe strazi.

Motivul e ca m-ati cam saracit. Am pus si eu cu cele mai bune intentii un anunt pe facebook si pe blog ca incerc sa adun incaltaminte de sport si iarna pentru pustii din Ferentari si am zis/scris ca dublez ce primesc. Eu ma asteptam sa strangem de vreo 10, hai 20 de perechi de adidasi. De unde frate !

Am cumparat deja 50 de perechi de adidasi. 15 geci . 25 de incaltari de iarna. Luni sau marti primim inca 30 de perechi de incaltaminte si 50 de cizme de cauciuc.Cumparat 150 de perechi de ciorapi,  majoritatea pentru iarna.  Plus 14 perechi de pantofi folositi dar foarte buni si multe alte haine de iarna care vor tine de cald pustilor iarna asta.

cumparaturi

Am saracit un pic dar ma simt “senzatie”. Habar nu am cum as putea sa va multumesc . Va doresc insa sa simtiti ce simt eu acum. Nu se poate mai bine de asa. E lunga lista celor care ar trebui sa va multumesc pentru ca ne ajutati . Voi va stiti. Si eu ma bucur tare mult ca va stiu – nu de alta dar ma faceti pe mine sa fiu mult mai bun.Multumesc. Si la multi ani Vlad – esti o inspiratie pentru mine!

The last days have been “ a sensation” as Mitica will say. And is not only that a German/Romanian became the president of Romania proving that we, Romanians,  are neither extremist nationalists or cretins as some of those who ruled us thought . Not because Romania beat Denmark and Mitica was on the stadium enjoying VIP status and spent time with a very kind and patient president of the Romanian Federation. The main reason is neither that I moderated (probably for the last time) some of the people I like the most from the Aspen Fellows Romania nor that I enjoyed a lot seeing the long faces of some of the worst propagandists ( can’t call them journalists) from Antena 3 and RTV ( TV stations controlled by corrupt moguls supporting the PM) as they saw the result of elections and the explosion of happiness in the streets.

The reason was that you made me poorer. I thought it was a good idea to ask for donations from people and match them in order to get much needed shoes and winter boots for the children I work with in the week-ends. I thought I will get 10 maximum 20 pairs.

So I ended up buying lots of shoes. And jackets. And socks. I am a bit poorer but I feel incredible. I have no idea how could I thank you. The best thing I could wish for you is to feel the same like I feel. There is nothing better. There are too many of you to list in order to thank to all of you that helped now and in the past. But you know who you are. And I know you and that makes me a much better man than I thought I could be. Thanks. And Vlad – happy birthday – you are an inspiration to me.

Despre nasu Thor, vara-mea Arianca si Gogu in greva foamei

13 Nov

Vară-mea Karina s-a ajuns: stă pe lângă Frankfurt și se poartă ca și cum a fost rebotezată direct de Thor si tac-su la primăria  din Valhalla. E  Arianca- salvatoarea brunetă a Jărmaniei. Se dă nemțoaică get-beget: după trei ani de Nemția urăște cu spume imigranții și mai ales țiganii. Nu contează că tac-su e amestecătură de evreu cu șvab și că mă-sa Geta e cam cea mai cunoscută țigancă din Caransebeș care ghicește. A hotărât fata că e ariancă, e ariancă. Îi trimite ,ce e drept, medicamente maică-mi și scoate ochii la juma’ din neam ( mie și vară-mii Nuța în special) că suntem proști și ne-educați. Cum mama are nevoie de medicamentele germane care costă cam cît salariul meu, înghit în sec și înjur în gând.

Geta, în schimb, o cam spurcă de fiecare data când o bârfește cu maică-mea. Karina e subiectul numărul trei de bârfă după taică-meu și Gogu.

Gogu a fost bogătașul familiei . Curăța cazane de termoficare și făcea o avere. Nu a plătit taxe și a cheltuit banii pe o grămadă de tâmpenii. Kentane, curve și coniac în baruri procopsite erau visurile lui în timpul lui Ceașcă. Visurile astea i-au mâncat averea după Revoluție . Acum fumează chiștoace și are datorii la dughenele de pe lângă gară care vând alcool contrafăcut. Îl mai sponsorizez din când în când cu bani de un pachet de tigari sau o cafea. Oricum, nu se mai duce la Cățeaua Leșinată – locul în care se matolește cu sfințenie taică-meu. E o chestiune de principiu : după ce te-ai pilit ca porcul la barul de fițe de la Hotel Jiul acum nu mai merge sa borăști oriunde, că râde țigănia de tine.

Gogu a avut două apartamente și eu am avut cheia de la unul dintre ele pentru o bună perioadă de timp. Înainte de a avea cheia de la apartament, Gogu îmi lăsa  Oltcit-ul lui pe mână. I-am spurcat (vorba maică-mii) mașina de multe ori, din lipsă de bani și exces de hormoni și am și bușit-o o dată. Gogu a fost întotdeauna un domn și nu a pomenit nimănui nesimțirile mele.

Acum Gogu stă într-o cocioabă pe care și-a construit-o pe un teren pe care l-a cumpărat când avea bani. Nu l-am mai văzut de câteva săptămâni.

Am o  prietena frumoasă tare, care tocmai a devenit avocată. Mă-sa e din neam de aristocrați, iar tac-su face afaceri. Nu le convine deloc ca umblă cu mine, dar cumva s-au obișnuit, căci relația noastră durează de câțiva ani. Se decide că ieșim împreună- eu cu fata și părinții ei- la un film, la Cinema Central. Faptul că am o verișoară în Germania și o soră blondă sunt cam singurele lucruri bune pe care le pot zice despre familionul meu. Maică-mea e o minunăție de femeie, dar mult prea neagră pentru standardele elitelor oltenești. În concluzie, mă dau practic orfan.

Sunt anunțat că trebuie să mă înțolesc bine pentru ocaziune. E prima oară când se întâmplă un astfel de eveniment și mă înțolesc cu ce a adus mama de la nemțoaica pentru care face curat. Nemțoaica e o mică șefă la fabrica de confecții din Craiova și poartă aceeași măsură ca a mea. Își aruncă țoalele vechi, mama le ia, așa că am un pardesiu ielegant rău: maro cu catifea neagră la guler. E de gagici, e drept, dar nu știu diferența. Mi-am pus și pantofi de lac negri, așa că sunt asortat și frumușel.

Merg țanțos în față cu blonda avocată și în urma noastră familia de fițe. Trecem prin fața primăriei din Craiova – e un nene acolo: murdar, brunet rău, cu barbă și cu un afiș mare cu greva foamei.  Trecem pe lângă el fără să îl bag in seama și când ajung și viitoarele rude aristocrate lângă el începe să urle:

-Băăăăăăăăăăăiii nesimțiților , v-ați ajuns!!! Nu mă mai salutați!!!!! Băăăăăăă ați uitat când v-o puneați ca iepurii la mine în apartament, nemernicilor !!!!

Mă întorc : e nea Gogu care e în greva foamei pentru că e convins că romanii i-au omorât cățeaua lup numita bineînțeles, Lady . Desigur  aici am pus traducerea diplomatică a celor 3 minute de spurcare temeinică.  Gogu injura impecabil.

Îmi cer scuze, râd, îl pup și dau să mă duc la film. Văd fețele foștilor mei viitori socrii care par să fii fost loviți de ciocanul lu’ nașu Thor care a rebotezat-o pe vară-mea. Au o privire de ucigași naziști.

Lady era în călduri și a revenit după vreo 3 zile.

PS. Pusti din Ferentari pe care incerc sa ii ajut au nevoie cam de 70 de perechi de adidasi pe an si cam 40-50 de perechi de incaltaminte de iarna. Marimile de care avem nevoie sunt intre 31 si 38. Daca doriti sa ne ajutati contactati-ma la v.nicolae@diplomacy.edu.Eu voi dubla orice pereche donata.

The unspecials

7 Nov

In the last years there were a good number of people appointed in “special” or “high” decision making positions dealing with Roma issues.

The only “special”  things about all of them were their incredible lack of expertise to deal with Roma issues at the moment of their employment and the very “high” level of delusional, contradictory and empty  rhetoric they all seemed very capable of delivering .Ex- commissioner Reading is the embodiment of such “specials”.

The fact that none of them were Roma is nowadays a banality as it is the profound structural racism within the intergovernmental and governmental institutions when it comes to the representation and participation of Roma at the decision making level. International NGOs are not doing much better.

The hypocrisy of most of the appointments as senior managers within intergovernmental institutions and national governments when it comes to Roma ( and more often nowadays human rights issues and social inclusion in general) is strident if one cares to examine the discrepancy between glorious lip-service and pathetic concrete actions.

Bureaucracies are famous in being exceptionally risk adverse and conservative the very opposite of innovation. Ironically most of the intergovernmental ones are very keen on innovation at the level of discourse. The “specials” were/are a perfect reflection of the institutions that employed them. Their words are revolutionary while their actions were practically same as previous ones. In this way we ended up with most of the Roma budgets being spent on what is most familiar to bureaucrats –conferences, papers and word production. Rationalising  giving away Ungaro scarfs and bringing Roma musicians for entertainment at luxurious and at the same time ridiculous and useless events seemed to be the only “innovations”.

None of the “specials” proved to be capable to think, find or implement focused, easy, cheap and fast to medium term (4 years maximum) solutions that could lead to a break of the vicious cycle of exclusion facing a majority of Roma. None of them quit during their mandates despite of many catastrophic failures or embarrassments. Being hugely overpaid seemed to be the only sanction they had to put up with.

What could make a “special” truly special.

Genial ideas, courage, capacity to adapt fast and legitimacy based on concrete results, inspirational should do it. Considering the overall situation nowadays even a normal spine, a minimal common sense, some basic concepts about ethics, basic understanding of racism and empowerment and an energy level above comatose might make a huge difference.

A few things the “specials ” should do.

  1. Prepare one or more of the many very smart and courageous Roma to became the next “specials”. Not only that will give a hint of credibility to his/her position but could be a concrete action to prove that the rhetoric about “Roma empowerment” is not an empty one.
  2. Promote and fight for the idea of an independently administered European fund for watch-dog organisations fighting racism and corruption.  A good part of that funding should focus on fighting anti-Gypsyism. Such a fund can solve the problems we have nowadays with Hungary, Russia or Azerbaijan some of the countries that seem to prefer to have no such watch-dogs. It should be based on contributions from Member States , administered by some of the real specials we do have in Europe and distributed to some of the brave but dying watch-dog organisations in the countries we need them the most.
  3. Revive and improve some of the good previous initiatives that were left to die by incompetent “specials” before. European Roma Platform, The Road Map of the Spanish Presidency, OSCE Action Plan for Roma and Sinti are just some of those.
  4. Come up with a working plan that make sense and that has clear time-frames and nexuses ( meaning strategic goals that can lead to a cascading change). Such a plan should be based on real life niches, incentives and opportunities and not on delusional fantasies based on virtual interaction with Roma . Such plans should have clear indicators for failure and the “specials” jobs should depend on it. Points a, b and c could be part of this type of plans.

All the “specials” before were incapable to focus or did not want to expose their own uselessness. They talked about everything and achieved almost nothing. None of them were accountable to anybody. The coordination among the different “specials” remains a mess.

This archetype of “specials” is unfortunately very present within the elites of the civil society in general including Roma movement.

It is not hard to change the status quo. But changing it, means indeed to be special. The title ,only, doesn’t suffice. The unspecials need to go or be retired.

PS. We all make mistakes. The Ungaro scarfs is a huge one. The fact there is no recognition of it within the European Commission is a lot more worrisome than the mistake itself.

PPS. The idea that people appointed in these senior positions can learn whatever they need to learn and more important is for them to know the system of the institutions they work for is simply inept. Learning how an institution works is much easier than having expertise in Roma issues.

To make it clearer : nobody employs a janitor with 30 years experience in cleaning an University as the professor of nuclear physics regardless of how well he/she knows the University, how connected she/he is or how many years she/he has until reaching the retiring age.