Poland

Poland
   Estimated Gypsy population: 35,000; according to the last national census (2003), there are 12,900 Roma in Poland. Romanies first arrived on the territory of present-day Poland during the 15th century. By the end of that century, several places were named after the Gypsies (such as Cyhanowa Luka), where they had presumably settled. Following harassment in Germany and other countries, more Gypsies followed. In 1501 a Gypsy named Vasil was appointed by Earl Alexander of Lithuania to govern the Romani clans in Poland, as well as in Lithuania and Belarus. However, in 1557 the Polish Parliament ordered the expulsion of Gypsies from the country. This was not carried out, as is shown by the passing of similar laws five times between 1565 and 1618. From around 1650, Polish kings began to appoint Gypsies as heads of their own clans. Even when this role was given to non-Gypsies, the Romanies continued to have their own recognized leaders. The Polish Lowland Gypsies still acknowledge the Shero Rom (Gypsy chief) as their leader.
   In the 18th century, Gypsy families emigrated from Slovakia and settled in the Carpathians. These Gypsies settled in permanent communities and formed the group now known as Bergitka Roma (Mountain Gypsies) as opposed to the longer established Lowland or Polish Romanies. In 1791 the Settlement Law was passed, abolishing the previous decrees on expulsion but-again unsuccessfully-banning nomadism. By 1793 Poland ceased to exist as a separate nation, being partitioned between Russia and Prussia (Germany).
   The first writings on the Gypsies in Polish were by Tadeusz Cza-cki at the end of the 18th century and in 1824 by Ignacy Danilowicz. In the 19th century, Kalderash and Lovari Gypsies from Romania arrived on Polish territory. Poland regained its independence in 1918 after the end of World War I. The Kalderash then elected their own kings, forming the Kwiek dynasty. These kings were recognized by the Polish government.
   In 1939 Germany occupied part of Poland and as early as 1940 began to deport Gypsies and Jews there from Germany. These Gypsies were put in ghettoes and work camps. In 1941 Germany occupied the rest of Poland, and the following year massacres began. At Karczew, 200 Gypsies were killed, 115 in Lohaczy, 104 at Zahroczyma, and smaller numbers throughout the country. Hundreds were deported to the extermination camps at Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor, and Treblinka. These camps, as well as Auschwitz (Os-wiecim), also witnessed the death of Romanies brought from outside Poland. Probably some 13,000 Polish Romanies were killed during the Nazi occupation.
   In the first years after 1945, the Polish authorities did not regard the Romanies as a problem, in contrast to the attitude of other countries of eastern Europe. Romanies made up only 1 percent of the population, and many had been sedentary for generations. There was also little fear that the Polish Catholics would be outstripped in births by the Romanies, and any racist feelings were directed toward the Jews. After the election of a Communist government in 1947, Romanies were required to take up employment in factories and farms alongside the rest of the population, and private trading was restricted. Many Lovari and Kalderash were allowed to leave for Sweden or West Germany and were provided with exit visas.
   A government resolution of 1952, the "Resolution on Assistance to the Gypsy Population in Moving toward a Settled Style of Life," aimed at integrating the Gypsy population, but this had little effect at the local level. Then in 1964 nomadism was completely stopped by strict interpretation of the laws on schooling, camping, and so on. Many young Gypsies subsequently moved into towns to work in factories. Until 1989 national minorities were supervised by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Romanies were de facto classed as an ethnic minority.
   In 1963 the first Romany cultural organization in Poland was founded in Andrychów. However, all cultural associations were in those years controlled by the government. The only publishing in Romani in that period were the poems of Bronislawa Wajs (Papusza). There was also a small number of books in Polish about the Romanies, by Jerzy Ficowski, Lech Mróz, and others. Some musical ensembles were formed, including the Roma Ensemble in Kraków, founded in 1948, which toured in Poland and abroad. A cultural club was established and a Gypsy exhibition put on permanent display in Tarnów.
   In the late Communist period, there were pogroms in Konin and Oswiecim in 1981. Houses were broken into, plundered, and set on fire. As Poland moved toward democratic government, an annual Gypsy music festival was started in Gorzow Wielkopolski, and the bilingual newspaper Rrom p-o Drom (Romanies on the Road) began to appear in 1990 under the editorship of Stanislaw Stankiewicz. Since 1998 the Roma have been considered a national minority.
   After the end of the Communist regime, surplus unskilled laborers -mainly Gypsies - were sacked from their jobs. On the other hand, many Gypsies have established small businesses and attracted the envy of their poorer Polish neighbors. Since the breakup of the Communist state, there has been one big pogrom, in Mlawa in 1991 where the houses of Gypsies were set on fire, following an incident in which a car driven by a Gypsy hit three pedestrians. Also in 1991, three Gypsies were killed in a second incident elsewhere. In 1992 there was an attack on the house belonging to one of the only seven remaining Gypsies in Oswiecim, the majority having left after the 1981 pogrom. Windows were smashed, and anti-Gypsy slogans were painted on nearby walls. The political party Narodowy Front Polski (Polish National Front) circulated leaflets during 1993 complaining about an exaggerated figure of 90,000 Gypsies and campaigning for them all to be expelled from the country. In March 1995 a Romany couple was killed in Pabianice, and in October of the same year a mob attacked a house in the Warsaw suburb of Marki. In July 1997, the police opened an inquiry into an incident in which a grenade was left by the door of a Romany family's flat.
   The locally-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights report in September 1997 said that after 1989 the treatment of Roma by the authorities in Poland changed markedly and that the situation was better than in other countries in central and eastern Europe. The problem of harassment is, however, widespread. Incidents of skinheads clashing with Roma and racially motivated violence directed at Roma continue to be reported. In April 1998 there were five separate attacks in Zabrze, including the beating of a five-year-old boy. In November 1999 a group of Poles from Pil-sudski Street, Limanowa, demanded that councillors evict their Romany neighbors. They also insisted that no flats be allocated to Roma in the future and that they be accommodated in separate, walled-off quarters. In the event of local authorities refusing to meet their demands, protesting residents threatened to take matters into their own hands.
   In September 1998 a skinhead attacked a Romany home in Bytom, throwing a gasoline bomb into a room in which two girls were sleeping. The swift action of the girls' parents prevented lives being lost, but as a result of the attack, 12-year-old Pamela received second- and third-degree burns to 20 percent of her body and was in a critical condition. In June 1999 the skinhead responsible for the attack was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. During the trial, the girl's family was repeatedly threatened by the defendant's associates, who stoned their home and, shortly before the sentence was passed, attacked the girl's 14-year-old brother.
   At the end of September 1999, British prime minister Tony Blair sent the Polish prime minister a letter demanding better treatment of Roma in Poland, threatening to introduce entry visas for Polish citizens if this was not done. The request was a response to some 400 Polish Roma seeking political asylum in England, citing the racist persecution they continually suffered in Poland.
   In April 2000 anti-Semitic and anti-Roma graffiti were painted on the wall of the Jewish cemetery at Oswiecim. In August 2000, a Romany woman was attacked in her home with an axe by two men wearing masks whom she believed to be skinheads. She suffered serious injuries and had to be admitted to a hospital. Police detained two suspects but were reportedly unable to proceed with the case for lack of evidence.
   Violent attacks against Roma have also been perpetrated by the police, including an incident in July 1998 in which three Roma were beaten up in a spa park following a festival of Romany culture and song.
   The law provides for the educational rights of ethnic minorities, including the right to be taught in their own language, but there is currently a shortage of qualified teachers with a knowledge of Romani dialects. Most Roma children do not complete primary schooling; education for these children ends at age 12, and many are illiterate. In the majority of cases, Roma are integrated into mainstream classes, and some schools, recognizing economic disadvantage, language barriers, and parental illiteracy, have introduced special preparatory classes for Romany children. In July 2001 the ombudsman called for the implementation of institutional and long-term solutions in Roma education that took account of the history, specific culture, and traditions of the community. He expressed the opinion that the low level of education among Roma was not only the result of attitudes and lifestyle but also caused by a lack of initiative in this area on the part of the Polish authorities.
   The central government made several moves to improve the situation of the Roma prior to entry into the European Union. The school enrollment rate among Roma children increased from 30 percent to 80 percent, and a number of new homes are being built specifically for Roma.
   In 2000 the Interdepartmental Group for National Minorities discussed the issues of Bergitka Roma, who have been recognized as the poorest Roma group in Poland. As a result, the Pilot Government Program for the Roma Community in the Malopolska Province for the years 2001-2003 was prepared and launched in March 2001. The aim was to end the disparities between the Malopolska Roma and the rest of society. The program covers education, employment, health, and accommodation conditions. In addition, two plenipotentiaries for Roma issues were appointed in 2000 in two Malopolska counties in which there are significant Roma populations.
   Several hundred Romanian Gypsies have immigrated to Poland. At the same time, large numbers of Polish Romanies have sought to settle in western Europe - some as asylum seekers on the grounds of racial persecution.
   The Gypsy population consists of a number of different groups speaking different dialects. Apart from those already mentioned (Lowland Gypsies, Bergitka, Kalderash, and Lovari), there are also Russian Gypsies who have immigrated since (and even in some cases before) 1945 and Sinti Gypsies.
   Organizations currently operating include the Central Council of Polish Roma (chairman: Stanislaw Stankiewicz), which has representatives of the five largest associations: the Fundacia Mniejszosci Roma w Polsce (Association of the Roma Minority in Poland), the Romanies Social and Cultural Association in Tarnów, the Friends of Romany Culture in Gorzow Wielkopolski, the Kraków/Nowa Huta Romany Association, and the Solidarity Association for the Romany Minority in Kielce. There is also the independent Romany Association in Poland (chairman: Andrzej Mirga), with headquarters in Os-wiecim; it has published a number of books under the title of the Polish Library of Gypsy Studies (Biblioteczka Cyganologii Polskiej). In addition, there is a monthly television program aimed at the Romany population. Fr. Edward Wesolek, a Jesuit, has been appointed the national Catholic minister to the Romany community.

Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . .

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