Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Other Side of the Tracks

These two photos, showing you a view in two opposite directions, represent a hot social issue in Belgrade. Just a little over a year ago, I showed you this photo regarding an international sport competition organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) under the sponsorship of the International Olympic Committee. From July 1st to the 12th, this competition brings together student sportsmen and sportswomen. The second photo shows only part of the many new apartment buildings going up to house the competitors. These apartments will then be sold, and actually quite a few of them already have.

So that the competitors (and future occupants) won't have to look out on the huts of several hundred gypsy and refugee families who are living in the unhygienic conditions you can see in the first photo, the City has razed their homes, forcing them to the streets. The City has promised new housing to those squatters who have national identity cards, but only a tiny percent do. These are primarily Serbs who have escaped from Kosovo, and not the gypsies.

The sign you see on both photos reads, "No one is worried about Belgrade's citizens. They're only interested in refugees. They get everything, and Belgrade's children get nothing, and must go on the street. We are praying for help."

This is an eternal problem for Belgrade's gypsy population. In the past, they have been promised resettlement, but residents near possible relocation sites have staged protests to keep them out.

What's your view?



11 comments:

bfarr said...

I think that is common problem everywhere these days. We need to take care of our own and see what can be done to help others.

Thérèse said...

Victims on both sides.
Thanks for making us aware of what is going on.

Through My Kitchen Window said...

I think the minute you say the word "gypsy' there is a connotation attached that says these people are nomadic and that squatting and relocating is their way of life, which probably makes the authorities who make these decisions feel better.

Do they not realise what they are creating because without any social or monetary assistance, these people will be forced to resort to crime out of desperation just to survive.

LA / nodecaf said...

Two generations ago, my family was part of that "gypsy problem" living in and around Belgrade. Now most of us hold advanced degrees in art,music,literature or education. The difference is economic and educational opportunity, while leaving dignity and a sense of community intact. The same Roma families have been in Serbia since the early 1300's, and the Roma communities have added a rich fabric to the cultural legacy of the region that is reflected in the arts. You would think that after 800 years things would have changed, but sadly we are still seen as a plague to be wiped away.

LA.

soulbrush said...

oh my goodness bibi, this happens the world over, here in the uk there is a 'gypsy' problem too (now they are called 'travellers') and back in africa, it is a huge huge problem. how to solve it? 'take from the rich to give to the poor'..but is that fair? what's fair got to do with it? life isn't fair...rant rant rave....

Virginia said...

A problem of epic proportions here in the US. The Hispanic population that comes here many times illegally, puts a huge drain on our schools and hospitals. What is the answer? I wish I knew.
v

Erin said...

yes, everywhere we face this problem...and everywhere our economies are pushed to the brink as a result. small rural towns throughout the US now have non-english speakers descending upon them and are faced with providing for them...having to change the education system to accomodate non-english speakers...fair, NOT. my bone of contention with this is the fact that many, if not most of these illegals refuse to speak english or even attempt to learn it and we bend over backwards with programs to help. that just irks me to NO END. i could go on...but, the problem is not country-specific. where my Aunt lives in Rome, Italy they have a huge problem with illegals from Africa...and how to deal with providing for them...housing, et. al.
oh my.

Bibi said...

Hi, all. Thanks for your comments. Just to clarify, these people are not from other countries. Many Serbs from Kosovo fled when that country fell into the hands of the predominantly Muslim Kosovars. The Roma in question are undoubtedly Roma born in Serbia or perhaps Kosovo, too. They have their own language, but know Serbian, too. They do have their own schools here, but can also attend Serbian schools. You can probably imagine that they are ridiculed and ostracized there, and few complete their education.

Babooshka said...

They now refer to most as "travellers" in the UK. In certain areas problems such as you have described. I admit here on timewarp island I am not entirely up to speed anymore. Maybe my views naive but to force people from their homes and ridicule them is just not humane. In times of economic downturn some hit on the those that differ from ourselves first Very thought provoking post.

Tash said...

People should not have to live on the streets - or in such terrible poverty. And so much of the world still does, even right here & right there, a few miles away from $5M homes. I wish I had even a bit of a solution. I just look at it as helping one person at a time - one kid to get thru school, one person to get a job,... I've been meaning to read "Bury me standing" about gypsies in Europe (I think). Really great post.

Ribbon said...

This is very sad...
Here in Australia we are very protected in our daily lives from such tragedy. There are certainly concerns and issues surrounding homeless people, but nothing like what you guys experience.
It's the never ending battle of the haves and have nots...

best wishes Ribbon