Open letter from the children of Čhavorenge

OPEN LETTER FROM THE CHILDREN OF ČHAVORENGE TO VARNSDORF POLICE, PRESIDENT OF THE POLICE, MINISTRY OF INTERIOR, PUBLIC DEFENDER OF RIGHTS, CZECH GOVERNMENTAL REPRESENTATIVES, AND CHILDREN EVERYWHERE

To whom it may concern,

We are children from the Čhavorenge children’s choir and are writing this letter because we are unable to forget what happened to us last summer. We were put into harm’s way and those who we trusted to protect us, to help us, failed to do so.

In August of 2016 we were at the summer art school called “Romano drom.“ When we were on our way back from a scavenger hunt, one man flew out of his house and started to yell rasist slurs at us. He then fired off a gun very close to us. All of us were shaken up. We were afraid that someone was going to attack us, and not to mention that there were even really little children in our group. Then again two days later, the same man shot a gun during our morning excercises. He fired three times and then went into his kitchen from where he tried to provoke our teacher Deža into a fight. We were all afraid so teacher Ida called 158. Most of all we were shocked by the fact that the police did not arrive. Those who were supposed to protect us did not come to our aid. Later we got our hands on the police recording from Varnsdorf where the police officer stated about the shooting at our camp that, “We are not going to play cowboys here.“

That’s not how the police should act. They are here to protect us, regardless of if we are Roma or not. They need not take into consider the color of our skin and should rather see us simply as people. We would like to ask these policemen if they would have reacted in the same way had their own children been involved? Wouldn’t you have been afraid for their safety just as our parents were afraid for ours? Had we been in your place, we would have had the heart to come, even if the same incident involved Czechs. Everyone should help each other out when something bad happens.

We also suspect that the police thought that we would let this go. We, however, are reaching out because we think that this is important. We do not want to simply sweep this under the rug. We have rights just like everyone else. That’s why we ask: When we called the police and were in danger, why didn’t they come. Can we actually depend on them? For a year now we are living with the fear that when we call 158 again, no one will be there to protect us. And perhaps something a lot worse might happen. Until this day the police have yet to apologize, and this leaves us feeling in jeopardy. We no longer trust them even though we must.

We are calling on the police to explain everything and to apologize. Although not just because it’s their duty. They shouldn’t feel humiliated because some Roma are asking for an apology from them. We don’t want to humiliate anyone – we simply would like a genuine apology. We truly hope that the police will promise to us that such behavior will not happen again and especially when children are involved.

We want to send a message to all children. That even children have rights. We know, however, that a lot of children are not aware of this. Quite possibly some adults don’t even realize this. Just because children are children doesn’t mean that someone is allowed to threaten them or not take them seriously. When you will be in trouble, don’t be afraid to ring someone up. Don’t succumb to fear. Be strong in the face of adversity. And when you are afraid, overcome it. But mainly, don’t give up. Know that things will work out. Don’t be afraid to share you feelings with those closest to you. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. You can make your dreams come true!