This month I would like to talk about a wonderful humanitarian (with whom I've talked to) that has helped many gypsies that are living through bad conditions or lived through the holocaust:
By: Chad Zemel
Describing: Paul Polansky
“What was the saddest story from a gypsy that you’d ever heard? ... Mothers aborting their babies in the UN lead poisoning camps in Kosovo and seeing their other children becoming mentally retarded from the lead poisoning and the UN doing nothing about it for six years.” (Zemel and Polansky, 2)(There were no fathers in this camp when this camp was started) This is just one of the many examples Paul Polansky talks of in his books. He is a scribe (writer) for most of his career (as proved above). He has 4 children and got married twice (from divorce). He started getting interested in being a writer of the Roma when he found Czech heritage in his family during World War Two in a concentration camp called Lety. Paul Polansky has done many humanitarian acts during his career and he’s been awarded for doing so.
Paul Polansky has a very interesting yet tough career. He is helping out these gypsies that many people discriminate against. Most of his job is writing down the life stories of what happened in the WW2 concentration camps. A lot of time he lives with these gypsies even though there is so much danger from Czechs and Albanians. “Today I live with a Romany family in a small town north of Prague. Six of us live, eat, and sleep in 2 small rooms in a two-storey apartment building owned by the city council. Although this family has never applied or received welfare from the Czech Government, the town hall is determined to move them and the other six Romany families in the building out of the centre of the town. These Roma people pay a high rent for miserable conditions, but the town hall has refused to repair a broken municipal sewage pipe in the basement of the building. Last year a Molotov cocktail was thrown through this family’s window, injuring 2 children. The municipal street lights were turned off minutes beforehand.” (Polansky, 2 and 3) This is just one of the many places he’s lived to understand the gypsies’ lives. His job consists of 3 main parts. Part 1= To live with and understand the gypsies. Part 2= To write down/record their stories. Part 3= To let others know and understand the life of a gypsy and how much different they are compared to people you see on the street wondering for money or even an average American and how different they are than Jews in the Holocaust.
There are many examples of these actions. Paul Polansky has steered President Vaclav Havel in the right direction, that Czechs (not germans) controlled World War Two concentration camps for gypsies, and there are still survivors living in and around these areas. He has also found that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has beaten, attacked, move them out of their land and have done mass murders of gypsies. Not only that, but he has found the population before the war, there were 150,000 Roma in Kosovo, as for today only 30,000 of the 150,000 remain. “He spent much of the early 1990s interviewing and documenting the stories of the Romani victims of the Holocaust in the Czech Republic, and later becoming a researcher, United Nations advisor on Romani issues, and advocate for the Roma in Kosovo.” (Voice of Roma, 2) Also, he’s travelled to nearly 300 small communities in Kosovo and he published his finds in The Gypsies of Kosovo: A survey of Their Communities After the War. Later, (in the summer of 2001) he got information on Romani problems, gave humanitarian aid and help, and made gypsies become more self-working/helping (with programs). Beforehand, (in 1999) he surveyed gypsies in all 29 districts of Kosovo. He also found all but three villages (in Eastern Europe), had major decreases in prewar and after war populations (for gypsies). In 1999, he led 467 Roma (gypsy) refugees out of Krushevac to Macedonia (which contained “a more humane refugee camp”) (Buehner, 1). Not all journeys were the greatest for Polansky. “Another obstacle to Polansky’s data gathering was that travel to certain areas was too dangerous to undertake. Personally investigating each of the almost 300 Romani communities identified was, in some circumstances, impossible due to: treacherous conditions and sometimes even a total absence of roads; dangers passed by Albanian extremists on certain throughways, including vehicles being forced off road where land mines are abundant; hostile activity by Albanians and/or Serbs living in the same communities as the Roma. Unlike most representatives of foreign or international NGOs working in the region, Polansky was never offered UN or KFOR protection for travel or assistance of any kind.” (Voice of Roma, 32)
With all the ups and downs in his career, many people and groups have recognized and supported his work. The only reward (out of all his work) that he received was in December of 2004 in Weimar, Germany, where Paul Polansky won the City Council’s Prestigious Human Rights Award (from the receiver of the Literature Nobel Prize in 1999). There are a few other people that have recognized and thought highly of his work. “I think he is making heard a silent voice. It seems to me the Roma deal with their conflicts in a very passive way. He gives them another way of dealing with their problems… In a sense he’s been a good soldier for justice ever since he left here (Mason City, Iowa). He has saved Gypsy lives in Kosovo. He is both forceful and polite and feels as an American, he can help get in aid.” (Toman, 4) “I personally think that (Polansky) is doing important work and has come back to make people aware of what the plight of Gypsies is. They are the poorest of the poor and at the bottom of the ladder everywhere.” (Latham, 3) “Mr. Polansky is an interesting fellow… interesting because we are told he has dedicated his life to writing and speaking about the “Gypsies”, that is Roma people, as they prefer to be called. The Roma are objects of rare hatred throughout Europe. The exception has been Yugoslavia, and especially Serbia, including Kosovo, where the Roma enjoyed normal human rights, for many years. But since NATO took over, Kosovo has changed. Mr. Polansky spent some time with the Roma in Kosovo and witnessed the attempt to destroy them by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and its criminal/secessionist supporters among Albanians.” (Israel, 1)
Paul Polansky is one of the greatest humanitarians for all his work and devotion towards helping these gypsies that are extremely bad off. Even when there was impossible terrain, he still found a way to get to the Roma (gypsy) village that he was going to (he did it 300 times). Not only that, but he has learned of stories and past history that no one knew about and proved it with all of his learning. He is so interested in writing and recording the gypsy history and present time that he lived with the Roma (and some from 1991 ‘til now). During this time he still finds a way to meet with and help in what ever way possible with the extremely poor and sick Roma of Kosovo (every week). “How many years did you live with them and what did you learn? What I learned is in my books, but basically I could find little differences in their lives and mine (How I was raised). Mothers are the same world over. It’s the fathers that have to change.” (Zemel and Polansky, 3)
One of the kids Mr. Polansky helped in Kosovo in a displacement camp.
(With the help of Paul Polansky and Global Response, the three displaced camps of Kosovo have been evacuated and permanent shelter and poison aid is being given to the Roma that lived there.) (Since August and September 2006)
In July= there will be a video on all of this that will be on my website and youtube.