Art and culture have always been powerful tools for empowering young people.
In Moldava nad Bodvou in eastern Slovakia, a group of Roma youngsters from the settlements have been working hard to prepare a theatre show.
They are busy rehearsing for an upcoming concert organised by the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation and the European Commission.
Lukáš Hudák told us about the upcoming project: “I am looking forward to going to Brussels. We’ll show people our singing and dancing, everything we’ve learned from our teacher Ida.“
There are 10 to 12 million Roma in Europe. In some eastern and central European countries, they represent between seven and 10 percent of the population. In Moldava nad Bodvou, most Roma people speak Hungarian rather than Slovak.
Ida Kelarova describes the children’s attitude to the performing arts: “I work a lot with the Roma kids and they have talent. They are not ashamed, they have no complex because they grew up in this freedom. They don’t put pressure on themselves and they don’t feel this kind of stress. You have to achieve, you have to learn, so they are open. So if we support this talent the results comes very fast.”
Although he does not sing, Karol Horváth is another youngster who wants to learn. He dreams of becoming a filmmaker and has already directed several movies about Roma life.
Karol Horváth told euronews about his ambitions: “Now I am studying in an mechanic secondary school. I am doing the second year but I don’t like it. My dream is to get into film school.”
Karol is supported by his mother Irma, who is looked upon as the leader of Moldava nad Bodvou’s Roma community. She went to school, moved out of the settlement and now has a job as a social worker.
However her son Karol has his sights firmly set on film: “In the coming three years I imagine myself going to film school. After this I would have a good position in the film industry and I would be respected by people.”
Not only does Irma look after her own children, she has acquired the nickname ‘mother Irma’ for keeping an eye on all the local Roma youngsters.
Irma Horváthová has even created a community centre with the backing of various associations.
She said: “These activities are very enriching for them because otherwise they wouldn’t have anything to do. They would just sit at home or take the wrong path in life. The activities in the community centre are a great advantage for them.”
She leads a drama club called ‘Slumdog Theatre’. Lukas plays the role of a boy who takes drugs, it was his own life story.
Like many young Roma, he is already a father but is keen to continue learning: “In 2007, I left school. Then I heard about the community centre and I met with mother Irma. She helped me and convinced me not to leave school, to keep going and learn. So now, I attend school every day”.
Karol Horváth sums up: “I’m proud of being a gypsy and I have the feeling I’m Hungarian too. When I hear something about Europe or European issues on TV I get excited, because I live in Europe!”