Story and photo by David Kandrac
“Many people left Slovakia and came to the UK not because they wanted to, but because they didn’t have a job or a future. Not just us, Roma people, but many ethnic Slovakians, from the ‘majority’, had to leave their family and property to toil abroad.”
Peter Pollak visited Sheffield during a period of crisis for the Slovak government. The murder of journalist Ján Kuciak, and his fiancée led to the resignation of prime minister Robert Fico and his deputy, Robert Kaliňák.
Pollak lives in Levoce and was, from 2012 until 2016, the first Roma representative in the Slovakian parliament. He works with Roma communities across Slovakia to fight for their rights and seek solutions for their needs. On 8th March he came to the Firvale Community Hub to meet with local Roma community members. The message he and the community wanted to communicate was clear:
“We are in Britain to show the government, but also to all that still doubt that Roma can work, that if we give our children education and work, they will be successful and will return to Slovakia.“
The talk was well received by an audience of around a hundred, with leading members of the community voicing their agreement with his arguments.
“If we return to Slovakia after a year, our children will end up in special schools”
“People are saying that Gypsies don’t want to work, and they are not educated. This is because they have excluded our children from schools and put them into special schools. We did not have the opportunities in Slovakia and now my son is at the University and wanting to study a PhD”.
Peter Pollack is an influential figure amongst the community, setting an example of hard work and belief in education that is respected and emulated by many people as the busy, emotional, meeting demonstrated.