Slovakia – Presentation Mission to the Roma People

The bold move made by the Presentation Brothers to continue the Chapter mandate of “Singing a New Song” was very much in evidence in Spisske Podhradie, Slovakia, which I visited in March.

Here are two elderly Brothers, Vincent and Michael, (both in their 70’s) in a very remote part of Europe behind the former Iron Curtain, coping with extreme weather conditions (+40 to -40 degrees C), with limited local language skills and a clientele that begged for attention. This could easily be classified as one of the most challenging Missions in which the Presentation Brothers are currently working. The Roma people are the reason the Brothers are in Slovakia. Described to me as the “Gypsies of Europe” they are a very often forgotten people who have been used as pawns over the centuries. I heard their issues discussed in the United Nations. I read Resolutions passed by this august body. The International Community now recognizes that the plight of the Roma people can no longer be swept under the carpet. It was now time for me to see personally and listen carefully to the people on the ground.

What immediately struck me was the primitive conditions of the housing of the Roma people. The extreme variation of temperatures caused me to wonder “What do these people do during the extreme winter months”? There was nothing to stop the cold shrill of the arctic winds from penetrating their porous dwellings. A possible reason for the high infant mortality rate seemed immediately clear.

I was very interested in the Brothers initiative of setting up vegetable gardens in conjunction with the Roma. With very limited resources the Brothers were able to entice some Roma families to begin gardens to grow fresh produce. This not only allowed the families to eat more healthily, but opened their vision to doing something for themselves. Self-esteem and self-worth were in short supply after years of deprivation and finding themselves on the margins. Here was a novel way to instill these uplifting human values.

Three Presentation Sisters are also working within a stone’s throw of the Brothers. Focused around the Nano Nagle Centre, Sisters Anne, Immaculate and Louise provide the Roma with various forms of training. Education, in all of its forms, gives the Roma people, both young and old, a sense of purpose as they avail of the services provided. Truly the Edmund Rice/Nano Nagle Network is doing extremely well in the heart of Europe.

– Denis Claivaz fpm

Note – the Universal Periodic Review of Slovakia in 2009 resulted in more than thirty recommendations to address the problems of the Roma community.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

One Response to “Slovakia – Presentation Mission to the Roma People”