Recent news has been very depressing. There was a march by 500 far-right demonstrators through the predominantly Roma (gypsy) area of Prirov early this month, followed by others in other towns. Then a Roma family had their house firebombed, both mother and father were badly burnt but the worst injuries were incurred by their daughter of 22 months who has 80% wounds.
These incidents reveal a dark side to the country that I love. The racism against the Roma minority (they make up less than 3% of the population) is widespread. It came as a great shock to hear middle-class educated Czechs talk about the Roma in a way that would be unacceptable among similar people in multi-cultural Britain. Indeed the comments and anti-Roma jokes were similar to those that I heard in my youth in the 1970s Britain and even then were considered dodgy. Then there is the presence of the far-right, something I realised when a local proudly showed me a fascist tattoo on his arm. It is the acceptance of racism at all levels of society that allows such attitudes to thrive.
Amnesty International has just released a report on the plight of European Roma and highlighted the educational discrimination against Roma children, who despite it being unconstitutional are sometimes sent to special schools for children with mental difficulties. This really goes to the heart of the problem. While Roma children are segregated and educationally deprived, then there is little hope of improving the situation .