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21.12.2014
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The story of four Roma Families from Cihelna

Until recently four Roma families were living in a abandoned brick factory or Cihelna in Prague 22 in the village of Uhrineves. Some of the families had been living in what was essentially a small ghetto for over six years.

The buildings had no electricity and no running water. The families living here included 12 children between the ages of 4 and 15 who were living in what can be described as very primitive conditions. While poverty exists all over the world, the following photos give a glimpse into the type of situation that many Roma live in here in the Czech Republic and other countries in Central Europe.

The families moved here from Slovakia to work in what was at one time an active brick making factory. Shortly after the fall of communism the factory was closed and the families lost their source of income. Slowly, over the next few years, as they lost their flats, they began to move into the old factory and created living spaces in the building.

Officials in Prague 22 had been aware of the situation for many years and did nothing. It took a newly assigned Roma social worker and a new mayor in Prague 22 to finally deal with problem.



Author: Mark Wiedorn

The site had also become a dumping ground for trash. This is one entrance into the area where the families were living.

As mentioned earlier, there was no running water or other facilities.

This series of photos gives a brief tour of the area the families were living in.

Living conditions were difficult in the winter and in periods of heavy rain.

There were also rats in the trash and the building complex. This was a constant worry for the mothers, especially in the evenings.

The building was surrounded by trash.

The children acted as all children do, despite living in these conditions.

This is the front yard of one of the livings areas.

This is another view of the same area.

With no running water it was difficult to wash clothes and stay clean.

The children lived around the trash and garbage everyday.

It was also very difficult to cook and prepare meals, yet they managed.

Despite conditions on the outside of the building, every effort was made to create the feeling of a home.

The important part of this story is of course the people who were living there.

Children are children, and can maintain a happy outlook even in the worst of conditions.

Even though most of the children there had cheerful outlooks, occasionally it was apparent that below the surface all was not positive.

Children can also pick up and mirror the frustrations felt by adults.

It would be normal for anyone to feel somewhat depressed while living in these circumstances.

It is also possible to have hope for the future.

Conclusion:

The story of the families living at Cihelna has a mixed ending. Due to the efforts of the newly assigned Roma social worker and the new government in Prague 22, all of the families were moved out of Cihelna. The building has been razed to the ground and the trash cleared. All that remains of where these families lived is an empty field.

Three of the families have returned to Slovakia and one remains in Prague 22.

There are efforts underway to improve the quality of life for Roma in Central Europe. Much of this slowly occurring change is due to pressure from the EU. The human rights and minorities rights situations of pre-EU membership countries has undergone great scrutiny. It remains an area where countries like the Czech Republic, and others in Central Europe, need to continue efforts to improve the lives of Roma and their integration into society.

Text and Photos: (c) Mark Wiedorn

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