Racists always build walls to isolate their victims

By Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia

There are pieces of news that have to be read twice in order to be believed. In the Slovak city of Ostrovany a wall 150 meters long and two meters tall, has been built in order to isolate the Gypsy community from the rest of the population. Isn’t it hard to believe this can happen precisely this year, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in a country which is a member of the European Union? Do these fools know what the construction of that wall represents?

In 1961, the communist authorities that ruled East Germany, divided after the Second World War, built that horrible wall, in order to prevent many citizens from escaping to freedom. For forty years it bore witness of the tragedy of dividing citizens according to their beliefs in closed spaces, in which any attempt to reach freedom is punished with prison or death. I was fortunate to experience first-hand the wonderful night in which the wall was torn down in Berlin. At that time I was a Member of the European Parliament and I belonged to the Justice Commission which at that time was, by chance, holding one of its meetings in Berlin. On November the 9th 1989, Germans from both sides of the hated wall and whose hopes and dreams exceeded their physical strength, grabbed hammers and picks and began destroying the opprobrium which had divided whole families during four decades. That night I went to bed early, but a colleague of mine who was sleeping next door at the hotel, began knocking nervously on my door telling me to wake up since we had to go to the street in order to fully experience a unique historical event: the destruction of the wall. I stayed out the whole night, happy to witness the triumph of freedom. Every rock that I saw fall was like a clarion call announcing a new era. Every blow to that infamy was a note which contributed to the finest hymn in praise of peace and harmony among human beings. Obviously I could not repress the temptation to bring to Spain some pieces of the wall, which I gave to my family and friends. Nowadays, I still have a piece of that cement on my office shelf, a silent witness to so much infamy.

The local and international press have called the Slovak wall the new Berlin Wall, right on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the symbol of European division.

The Mayor of Ostrovany, Cyril Revákl, says that he is not racist since he knows that “there are a lot of decent people living amongst our Gypsy neighbours”. Nevertheless, he justifies the wall’s construction since the gadyè neighbours say ―and this is the main accusation― that Gypsies often take the fruit of the trees growing in private gardens.

A Gypsy who lives condemned on the other side of the wall says that the building of that separation does not help anyone, the gadyè or the Gypsies. Others, resigned to their fate, say that they feel like they are in a zoo. These poor people! Now they will be able to satisfy their hunger and misery with the fruit that the racist authorities will throw them from the other side of the wall, just like my son did when they were kids and they threw apples to the monkeys in the park.

I have just made an unforgettable yet horrifying trip to Poland. Apart from visiting the extermination camps in Majdanek, Treblinka and Auschwitz, where more than half a million Gypsies were gassed along with millions of Jews, I saw the remains of the walls that shaped the ghettos of Warsaw, Lublin and Cracovia. They are hurtful living testimonies from the hardest, most dreadful period of the history of humanity. People were confined behind those walls before being condemned to death.

We know that in Slovakia there is a violent extreme fascist right, which would like to repeat those black pages of Europe’s history. They may be the heirs of those murderers which collaborated with the Nazis that oppressed them from Poland to the north and from Hungary to the south. We, Gypsies from all over the world, are horrified by the maxim that says: “People who forget their history are condemned to repeat it”. It is no coincidence that this phrase is written in English and Polish over the entrance to the fourth block of Auschwitz extermination camp: Kto nie pamięta historii, skazany jest na jej ponowne przeżycie. The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.



Corrección de la traducción realizada por William Pairman gracias a la colaboración ofrecida por Mondo Services.