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"A Wall Runs Through It"

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The village of Ostrovany, located about 50 km from Kosice in the Sabinov district, shows the difficulties experienced by the minority and majority population living together in one village. A wall was erected in 2009 to divide private properties from the neighbouring Roma settlement.

The village was mentioned for the first time in 1248.
The first Roma families settled here in the early 1950s.

Teenager Dusan is playing with his dog Bielku beside the wall.

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The village of Ostrovany has 592 inhabitants,
the Roma settlement has 1339 (2014). 

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Compared to 1988, the number of residents
in the Roma settlement has increased by more
than double (in 1988 the village had 574 - the
Roma settlement had 577 inhabitants).


Darinka (14) with her
grandmother Iveta.



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With the exception of a local cooperative farm, there are no other production plants or organizations which provide job opportunities in the municipality.

Therefore the working population commutes to their work- place outside the municipality. As Ostrovany is a village with a majority Roma population, the overall unemployment rate is around 75%. Changes coming after 1989 significantly affected the village’s social and economic life. 

Those with work try to improve their housing themselves, others with the help of NGOs - the rest of the population
has no chance to make any improvements to their living conditions.




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The wall in Ostrovany, with a view of the villager’s 
private property, as seen from the Roma settlement
side.



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Ivan (26) and Klara (22) - both are residents at the Roma settlement and have two young children together.






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In the settlement are living
304 children aged between
0-6 years, compared to the
village, with 37 inhabitants
in this age group. (2013)

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There are legal and illegal
housing facilities, some
are built on land owned,
others not.

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Petr (29) lighting a fire for cooking in the living room of their home in Ostrovany.

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The Kaleja family in their home.
The family is living in a house
built out of soil, straw and wood.

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Mr. Ing. Cyril Revák, Mayor of Ostrovany since 1991 about the construction of "The Wall" which he calls a "Fence" :

"It was not a decision made from
one day to the next, it took about
5 to 6 years and then we got to a
stage where we did not see any
other solution." 

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Ostrovany add002 combo
The wall seen from the Roma settlement (above) and the garden of Mrs. V.'s family (below).
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The village of Ostrovany, located about 50 km from Kosice, shows the difficulties experienced by the minority and majority population living together in the one community. A wall was erected in 2009 to divide private properties from the neighbouring Roma settlement. The village of Ostrovany received international media attention and several media outlets compared the appearance of Ostrovany’s 150-metre long and 2.10 m high wall with other walls such as the Berlin Wall or Israel’s separation wall.

The municipality has several social workers which try to help Roma residents with different aspects of their lives.

Mayor Cyril Revak who decided, as representative of the town hall, to build the wall - which he calls a fence - explains:

“The villagers had different kinds of fences around their gardens and anyway fruit and vegetables were stolen and the gardens destroyed. I advised the citizens to ask for official permission to build a concrete fence on their own property and when they got the permit, we financed it. It was not a decision made from one day to the next, it took about 5 to 6 years and then we got to a stage where we did not see any other solution. The fence is just there to protect private properties - nothing more and nothing less - and it does not prevent anybody from the settlement from using the pathways (roads) to the village as they did before. I am asking those who talk of separation or segregation – in what way did we separate or segregate the Roma?”

Mrs. V. - owner of one of the gardens (does not wish to be named) explains:

“Since the fence was built we have not had any Roma in our garden. We are harvesting again for ourselves, finally have our privacy back and the fence has 100% fulfilled what it was built for.” In reaction to the huge and negative international media response to the issue she says: “That is a matter of opinion, everybody has a different point of view. We are living with them (the Roma) here and we know best how to solve that problem. About discrimination - “We were discriminated against by not being able to use our gardens on our own property anymore. I would suggest to everybody who has a “heavy heart” - because we built the fence - to come here for at least a week and find out about how they live and how life is here together.”

  

Ostrovany add002 combo
The wall seen from the Roma settlement (above) and the garden of Mrs. V.'s family (below).
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As many other residents in the settlement,
Ivan is long-term unemployed, his family 
is living on social welfare and from
occasional jobs. 


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Ivan and Klara coming home
to the settlement after a walk
outside in the village.

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Ivan bringing wood home into his house.

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Family portrait in their home. Klara
with her son Kristian, her partner
Ivan and grandmother Klara.

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Klara holding her little son Kristian, who was ill
at the time, in their hut.

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Mother Klara (37) with her son in front of their hut.
She lives with her family beside her daughter Klara and
her partner Ivan.


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Traditional food.

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A mother with her children walking
through the settlement.

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Emelia's one-month-old daughter Aneta.
Her mother is 26 and she has three more
children aged 4, 7 and 10 years.

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Iveta (29) in her living room at home.

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Children in front of one of the older
buildings at the settlement.

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Grandfather Lubomir (42) with
his son at the family house.

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Marian is living with his family in a
little house at the settlement. He
works occasionally in another city
digging electricity cables and gas
pipes.

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Marian with his family inside their house.

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Two teenagers who are residents at the settlement.

In 2013 the settlement had 337 inhabitants aged
between 7-16 year, compared to the village, which
had 78 inhabitants in this age group.



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Children bathing in a river close to the settlement.

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This story is part of a longterm project 
and was made in-between August 2013
and January 2016. 


The next chapter is about the Lunik IX
housing estate which is the largest
Roma community in Slovakia.

Music by Mario Bihari
Photography // Video // Audio by Björn Steinz

More here: http://a-wall-runs-through-it.oka2.com


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