Denisa Havrľová

* 1971  

  • "Of course, I am a citizen of the Slovak Republic, but I am glad that I belong to this ethnic group. I'm not ashamed of it at all. I may be ashamed that I do not know the Roma language. Many of my friends told me why I did not learn in eastern Slovakia. Of course, I understand something already, because I caught it. But I have such respect for that language. I've said something several times, but they laughed at me. So I got a block, although they didn't mean it in a wrong way. They laughed that I said something wrong. The Romani language sounds different to me now, for example, when I hear him in a Romani song or poem because Romas are also great poets. I'm glad I found my identity. It wasn't like I was born and knew where I belonged. I had to go through this to start respecting myself. The Romas from eastern Slovakia taught me a lot. They are extremely proud of who they are. Although they experience much more racism than I ever did. Day-to-day confrontations. They are refused service in some restaurants, or when they go to a local pub, and everyone receives beer in a glass, only Roma gets a plastic cup."

  • "I did a report. It was in Jarovnice. Police were chasing a Roma boy from a Roma settlement who probably picked up some wood in the forest. So for the sake of objectivity, I didn't just want to talk about the family and how they lived, but I wanted to know how the cop reacted to it and what was the punishment this boy potentially faces for taking illegal wood from the forest. It wasn't the whole tractor, it was much less. I came there, it was in Jarovnice, where there is the largest Roma settlement, to the police department. Hello, Denisa Havrľová, Romano newspaper Romano nevo l'il. The policeman said he would not shake my hand. I asked why. That I can give him a press card, which I still had from the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists, and also our editorial card. He replied:" I don't need that, do you have a hygiene card? Of course, I didn't understand. And I told him, why a hygiene card because I'm not going somewhere in the kitchen or looking for a job. This stunned me so much, and when I realized it, I told him if he didn't feel it was racist. I left from there and said to myself that this is not how things should work. That I don't want to experience this anymore. And not just me, but anyone who comes there. If he treats me like this, then how does he treat those Roma from the settlement? ”

  • "My first report, where I was sent by Danka, was from a Roma settlement in Hermanovce. I came there, they waited for me to talk to them in Roma language, which I didn't speak, so they started inquiring how is that possible and why I'm ashamed of who I am, that I am theirs. So when they said that, I had a very big problem with it. I remember calling my parents, my mom picked it up, I wanted an explanation of what it meant, how the Roma could tell me that I was one of them. It broke there. My mother explained to me that yes, I belong to this ethnic group. But I grew up differently, I lived a different life. I must admit that as a Roma woman myself, I had extremely high prejudices towards my own people. Because I suddenly saw that they were growing up in a completely different environment that I had never known, I didn't know what it was. So I had a lot of personal questions for myself about how they could live like this. "

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    Bratislava, 14.05.2020

    (audio)
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    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of the 20th century
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I am proud of my Roma identity

Denisa played the violin since early childhood
Denisa played the violin since early childhood
zdroj: archív D. H.

Denisa Havrľová was born on November 30, 1971 in Očová. She comes from a Roma family, both parents were workers. From an early age, she studied violin in the Folk Art School. At the primary school, she excelled in the recitation of poetry and prose and repeatedly won the Hviezdoslav Kubín regional competition. When she was 23, she was approached by writer and journalist Daniela Hivešová-Šilanová to start writing for the Roma newspaper Romano nevo ľil. A year later, she moved from Očová to Prešov, where she began to discover her Roma identity. She graduated from the Secondary Art School in Košice and continued her studies at the Academy of Arts in Banská Bystrica. She studied documentary film and photography. As a journalist, she visited Roma settlements in eastern Slovakia, devoted herself to charity and various projects to support the Roma community. In 2002, the whole of Slovakia learned about her, when a policeman from the District Department of the Police in Jarovnice asked her for a hygiene card. She filed a criminal complaint against him for racism. She also continued her journalistic career in Bratislava, where she moved in 2009. She worked as an adviser to the Government Plenipotentiary for the Roma community. She currently teaches journalistic photography at the Secondary School of Design in Bratislava.