Pavel Michal, Falconer
Banska Shiavnica, Slovakia
Part 2 of 3
Later in the afternoon Rastislav and I met with Josef, a Roma or gypsy. He agreed to take us to flats where the group lives on one of the hills surrounding the city. Josef is a businessman who escaped the living life in the poor conditions that make up the flats. The four story apartments are clustered together and sequestered from other non-Roma residences in the area. The outside of the building was devoid of any character. Most of the window were broken or cracked. Weathered clothes and blankets hung out of nearly all of the windows. There were no cars around the building whatsoever. Cigarette buts and other small pieces of rubbish were scattered about. A few young children occupied themselves with a salvaged wheel and a bicycle with no chain or wheels to make it go, a pitiful sight.
I was introduced to a short chain smoking woman who allowed us inside of her flat to photograph. She did not tell me her name. Once inside the building the stair wells and hallways were free of debris.
She opened her flat, everything inside was neat orderly almost welcoming. The furnishings were a hodge podge of scavenged furniture. The few of the plates, cups and bowls on display matched. They were all clean and all things had a place. She clearly took pride in her space.
She was jovial and joking with Josef she seemingly no complaints about the presence of outsiders. I asked how they managed in the winter and I was told that the flats are heated with wood only in a small stove that acts as a heater and a stove. Josef insinuated that many of his people do not understand or care for the fact that energy cost money so they choose to collect wood and other items to burn inside their flats for heat. To subsist many Roma pick blueberries, mushroom and other wild produce to sell along the roads during the summer and clear the same roads of snow in the winter time.