Communication by the Deputy Ombudsman for National Minorities on the occasion of the International Roma Day
"There are two golden bands on my forehead. One is my Gypsy identity and the other one is my Hungarian identity." The quote comes from Tamás Péli, a painter whose thoughts are a faithful reflection on the dual identity of the Roma / Gypsy communities in Hungary.
The International Roma Day that has been celebrated on 8 April since 1990, offers a good opportunity to draw the attention to the work of our fellow countrymen of Roma origin and their achievements. Just think of the athletes, artists, researchers, doctors, teachers, and many other professionals of Roma origin who help not only their close community, but who are doing a very valuable job for all members of the majority society.
However, one cannot consider the situation of the Roma in the Hungarian society, without addressing – in contrast with the growing numbers of talented pupils and university students, professionals or representatives of the Roma nationality with active participation in public affairs – the profound social problems in the fields of educational segregation or labour market marginalization that the masses of citizens belonging to the Roma community have to face. It is indeed very difficult to proudly assume the Roma identity and culture for a man who may be forced to experience the disadvantages of the same identity from day to day.
The Roma community has been an integral part of Hungarian society for almost six hundred years. This is why it is important to pay a particular attention on the International Roma Day to the good and inspirational examples, to the Roma role models who proudly undertake their background and who can give hope and show the way for those who still cannot see how to break out of their disadvantaged situation.
The words by Tamás Péli quoted in the introduction have been idea behind the Golden Band Prize launched by the Roma Press Center in 2015 with the aim to make us better understand – and acknowledge – the Roma people in Hungary, our "ordinary heroes" who, with their expertise, their enthusiasm, their creativity and their desire to act play an important role in building their immediate environment and community, as well as in a shaping the society’s attitude in a positive way.
Budapest, April 6, 2018
Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay Prof. HC
university professor, deputy ombudsman