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Colorful But Colorblind: Roma Identities Across Eastern Europe

Igor Radic, a Slovak Rom, works at his forge in the village of Klenovec.

Igor Radic, a Slovak Rom, works at his forge in the village of Klenovec.

Some 10 million to 12 million Roma live in Central and Eastern Europe, where many of them face conditions of social deprivation and often outright discrimination. In a major media initiative, the Prague-based nonprofit Transitions Online and several international partners sought to counter prejudice and stereotypes by providing personal insights into the daily lives of Roma across the region. The project, "Colorful But Colorblind," uses multimedia storytelling to promote social integration of Roma in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

The stories explore Roma life in some of the newest EU member states, focusing on contemporary Roma identities and culture and the obstacles that Roma communities face in achieving equality. The stories were produced by teams of Roma and majority-community journalists from these countries in collaboration with graduate students from the School of Communication at the University of Miami.

RFE/RL hosted the training of the journalists who produced videos in the Czech Republic.

Here is a selection of video stories from across Central and Eastern Europe. For more videos, visit the "Colorful But Colorblind" site.

Czech Republic: "Coming Out"

For Michael Miko, coming out as a gay man has been a decade-long process. Though he has a group of supportive friends in Prague, his main concern is that he will bring disgrace upon his family in his small hometown in the Czech Republic, where the Roma population predominantly views homosexuality as a disease. But at this point in his life, being honest with his family is his only choice. Transitions Online

Bulgaria: "No Jobs Because We Are Roma"

Every day, 35-year-old Daniel Metodiev faces the reality of being an unemployed father of four. He has unpaid electric bills, a pantry with little food, and no money to pay for his son’s medicine. It has been this way since the metallurgic factory where Metodiev worked closed its doors. He and his wife have tried to find new jobs. They say it has been a challenge, not because of a lack of skills or experience but because they are Roma. While Daniel continues to look for work, he dreams of a brighter future for his children; one in which they are not hindered by the same prejudice he faces. Transitions Online and the Media Development Center

Bulgaria: "We Love Each Other"

The findings of a recent study by AMALIPE, an NGO that serves the Roma community, show that many of the myths surrounding the Roma lifestyle are outdated. These include marriage age, family size, and the practices of arranged marriages and dowries. Seventeen-year-old Yanka and 20-year-old Vassil share their views on these issues as they prepare for and celebrate their wedding in Zlataritsa, Bulgaria. Transitions Online and the Media Development Center in Bulgaria

Romania: "Sold Into Marriage At Age 12"

Although forced marriages are declining in some countries, the practice is still alive in some Roma communities. Traditionally, the young girl moves in with her husband's family and begins taking on household duties, guided by her mother-in-law. In the Roma community of Babadag, Romania, these arranged marriages are a common practice. When she was 12, Bairam Geta's family sold her to into marriage. Community and family pressures are so great on these children to marry that it is a difficult practice to change. Transitions Online and the Center For Independent Journalism

Hungary: "A Society Free Of Prejudice"

Benedek Csík, a world-renowned dulcimer player, has played the world's biggest concert halls, including Carnegie Hall. He is proud of his Roma heritage and fulfills his calling to serve other Roma by leading a small congregation. He strives to teach and keep the original Roma belief of the acceptance of all people free of prejudice. Transitions Online and the Center For Independent Journalism

Slovakia: "Forging A Legacy"

The art of Roma smithery is dying in Slovakia. Igor Radic is the last blacksmith living in the district of Rimavska Sobota. Igor is a simple man and lives with his wife, daughter, and son in a small village called Klenovec. Smithery is a traditional Roma trade, an art that has been passed down from father to son through the generations. This is the reason why Igor wants to teach his sons smithery. His youngest son is unsure if he wants to follow in his father's footsteps because he also likes to work with computers. Igor is hopeful that his son will decide to carry on this ancient tradition. Transitions Online and MEMO 98

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