Wanderers over all the earth,
Their history lost in time,
A simple harmless kindly race,
They’re known in every clime.
Some people call them Roma
And some by another name
But whatever they say of Romany ways,
They’re human just the same.
I was born on the 18th of May 1990 in Kosice, Slovakia’s second largest city, and from about the age of three I was attending the local primary school at Lunik IX. I don’t remember that much of it because it was such a long time ago but I do remember the Roma and the Slovak “White” living together in this socialist ideal of a housing estate. Playing with my friends in the woods nearby is one of my fondest memories.
We left Kosice when I was five years old and headed to the Netherlands, where we lived a year or so. By the time I was seven we had moved again, this time to Belgium for a year. We moved on to Britain when I was eight years old, I had two things with me. The English I had learnt at school in Belgium and my camera, a Pentax K1000, which I carried at all times.
I know I have had a better life being brought up in England, more so than if I had stayed in Slovakia. I can remember my mother one day getting seriously racially abused when we were in town. But not so in Britain, I have had a good education and most importantly did not have problems with discrimination.
From my earliest years I have had to question my identity, where I stand, what my Roma culture means to me and what it means in relation to the larger culture I am living in. This is what took me back to Lunik, to trace my roots through film and photography and to show you the harshness my people are enduring in Europe today.
Support Artur Conka and Julia Johnson in their collaborative project for the children at Lunik IX, Slovakia.