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Roma in Poland After 1989 - старонка 4

but I remained quiet, and then they kicked me again in the stomach, back and groin. The bus driver saw that they were beating me but he did nothing. He did not call the police.”133 

The beating allegedly lasted for around ten minutes, and people on the bus reportedly began rooting for the attackers. Ms Aneta Kadelska told ERRC: “I tried again to ask the people on the bus to call the police, again and again. Suddenly, the people started shouting, ‘Good job!’ ‘Give her more!’

I could not do anything. I just watched Kornela being attacked.”134  Then the skinheads stopped and left the scene of the crime.

Ms Koperska reported the incident later the same evening to the police. She later reported to the ERRC: “When we arrived at the police station, I wasn’t able to speak. Ms Kadelska told them everything, how they beat me. The police took a statement,”135 Ms Koperska told the ERRC. She additionally stated that she had been unable to identify positively any of her attackers in several police line-ups, but one of her friends who witnessed the attack recognised one of the men involved.

Ms Koperska and her partner, Mr Andrej Bejmert, told the ERRC that, after the suspect was interrogated by police, skinheads started to threaten their family, as well as Ms Kadelska’s family, throughout the one-month investigation. Ms Koperska stated that police released one alleged perpetrator, who had been detained by the police and identified by Ms Kadelska. In a May 2002 letter addressed to the ERRC, the Ministry of Justice justifies the authorities’ decision to stop the investigation by saying that eyewitnesses were able to identify the perpetrators, but “not describe any particulars about them.”136 

Ms Koperska was in her third month of pregnancy at the time of the attack. Her daughter, Andrea Bejmert, was subsequently born with serious birth defects. Ms Koperska told the ERRC: “Doctors told us that it is the result of the beating. The child was born without an instinct to suckle, as well as with coordination problems. Her eyes are connected to the lids. One of her ears does not have an ear canal. She does not have a developed chin, and she develops blood tumours that the doctors say could later turn into cancer.”137 

Another violent beating of Roma reportedly took place in June 2000, near

the railway station in the centre of Zabrze, after a private party that had taken place at a pub near Freedom Square. The party had ended around 9 PM. Ms Anna Mirga told the ERRC that, while leaving the party, they saw a large group approaching them, her husband “realised that they were all skinheads.”138  The Roma quickly decided to flee, dividing themselves into two groups, one men and one women with children: “When we saw the skinheads everyone went in different directions. My husband started running with the other men. Women with children hid behind the kiosk. I hid my younger son under my skirt between my legs.”139  When interviewed again by the ERRC in April 2002, Ms Mirga told the ERRC that she stayed behind the kiosk for about 20 minutes. Then, out of concern for her husband, she left her hiding place and went back to the pub and asked the manager to call the police. According to Ms Mirga, the manager refused her request. According to Ms Mirga, the pub also had private security men who were employed to keep order at the private party. Ms Mirga told the ERRC that instead of protecting the Roma, or informing the police, who have a station about 1,000 meters away, the security guards hid themselves in their hut. She told the ERRC that she then decided to go home, where she hoped to find her older son, who had escaped with the group of men.140 

About 15 skinheads reportedly chased Mr Augustyn Mirga, Anna’s husband, and the other Romani men. According to Mr Paweł Ondycz,

Augustyn Mirga’s cousin, as the Romani men were chased by the group of skinheads, several of the skinheads shouted racist epithets: “Dirt” (Brudasy), “Gypsy whores”, and “Go back to your own countries”. According to Mr Ondycz, he and the other Romani men ran off in other directions from Augustyn and escaped. After a while, Mr Augustyn Mirga was still being chased by about 10 skinheads. He ran into a yard through which he thought he could flee from those chasing him, but it was a dead-end. Mr Mirga told the ERRC he has difficulty reconstructing the events that followed, but his cousin, Mr Ondycz, said that Mr Mirga was assaulted with chains and baseball bats. Mr Mirga told the ERRC that when he realised that he was trapped, he awaited a beating that he believed he would not survive. He told the ERRC, “I can’t tell you anything else. Because I lost memory, I don’t remember anything from the attack.”141  Mr Ondycz told the ERRC that he observed Mr Mirga running into the yard as Mr Ondycz himself was running in another direction, trying to escape the skinheads. Aware that there was no outlet from the yard, Mr Ondycz was concerned for Mr Mirga’s safety, as he realised that the skinheads would probably catch him and beat him. When he succeeded in escaping the skinheads himself, Mr Ondycz returned to try to help his cousin. When Mr Ondycz came close and saw how severely Mr Mirga was being beaten, however, he became afraid to get involved. He told the ERRC, “They were hitting him, kicking him in the ribs, beating him with chains and baseball bats in the head and face until he lay unconscious. I felt helpless, too afraid to do anything, witnessing all the violence.”142 

According to Mr Ondycz, an old woman shouted from a window of a nearby building that the police were coming and the skinheads fled. Meanwhile, Mr Mirga lay unconscious in a pool of blood. Mr Ondycz told the ERRC: “I ran to him. He was lying there in blood, his head was bloody, his ribs were broken and his clothes were covered in blood.”143  The police arrived and received an account of what had happened, but they reportedly stated that they could not do anything about it “because there is a war between Gypsies and skinheads and the police are not involved in it.” Mr Ondycz told the ERRC that the police officers appeared afraid and said there was no point in investigating the case and finding the attackers.144  An ambulance took Mr Augustyn Mirga to the hospital, where he was placed in the emergency unit.

The police apparently made no effort to report to Ms Mirga that her husband was at the emergency unit in the hospital: “I went to the police station on 1 Maja Street, because I did not know for several hours where my husband and son were. When I came to the police station, officers told me that my husband was in the emergency unit and I went to the hospital.”145 

Mr Mirga was treated and released from the hospital three weeks later. As of April 2002, when the ERRC again interviewed Mr Mirga, he stated that he continued to suffer from severe back pain and intense headaches, for which he was taking strong medication. He told the ERRC that he thought the police made no efforts to investigate the case, and that no officials had ever questioned him or examined his medical records.

ERRC field research in Zabrze in 2001 and 2002 revealed that the Roma in Zabrze are often not provided with adequate police protection. Police frequently arrived late when called during attacks and failed to pursue effective investigation into the incidents. Some Roma, living in a climate of violence in which they did not see their attackers punished, feared retribution from the skinheads and therefore did not report incidents to the police. Others said that they called the police every time a violent attack occurred, but it never seemed to make a difference, because authorities either did not respond at all, came too late or came and observed the attack, but stood by and did nothing. Roma on Sienkiewicza Street told the ERRC that the attacks on their homes usually lasted for about 20 minutes, and that they always called the police when an incident occurred. Although the police station was quite close, the police usually took about 40-45 minutes to arrive.146 

Regular violence in Zabrze affects all aspects of life for the Romani community. During ERRC trips to Poland in 1997, 2001 and 2002, Roma in Zabrze, as well as in a number of other towns in Poland, reported that repeated attacks on their families and their houses had caused them to close themselves off from the outside world. Terrorised by violent attacks on their families, homes and property – and by continued harassment in the streets and the racist slogans constantly spraypainted in their neighbourhoods and shouted at them in the street – many Roma told the ERRC that they were afraid to leave their homes at night. “We cannot walk on the street after 5PM, because it is too dangerous. We cannot even travel on trams or go to cafes, because skinheads would attack us,”147  one Romani resident told the ERRC. During an ERRC visit to Zabrze in June 2001, Ms Mirga’s family had bed sheets hung over their broken windows. She told the ERRC that they believed that simply being seen in the windows by the skinheads provoked attacks.

According to several Romani women from Zabrze, Roma are frequently told to leave public places; several cafes were, at the time of an ERRC visit, reportedly “patrolled” by skinheads to prevent any Roma from entering or staying: “Once I went to the cafe in the centre and some of the skinheads came over. They were wearing boots and had shaved heads and suspenders and jackets and they told me that I should go to my own country,” recalled one local Romani woman.148 

Indeed, neo-Nazi sympathisers in Zabrze reportedly make it their mission to make Roma unwelcome, not only in the streets of the town, but in Poland as a whole. For instance, in autumn 2000, according to Ms A.O., while five Romani women were on their way home to Zabrze from the city of Katowice, “We arrived by train to the Zabrze train station and slowly walked to the stairs to get out. At the stairs of the train station, right after the hall, there was a group of skinheads standing there. They stopped us and surrounded us and told us that we were Romanian, not Polish. We said that we were not Romanian, but Polish. We said that we are Gypsies, born in Poland. They asked my sister for her ID. She was afraid to show it to them. Then they started to spit on us. They said, ‘If you are Polish, show us your papers.’ Then my sister told them, ‘Look, I am pregnant.’ They did not want to let us go home until we showed them our identity papers. Then they also asked my sister to show them her belly, to prove that she was really pregnant. Then they let us go, but honestly, I thought that one of them would kick my sister in the stomach.”149  Neither A.O. nor her sister reported the incident to the police.

Mr Piotr Ondycz was especially concerned about his children. He told the ERRC: “I am not sleeping very well at night, I have three children, ages 13, 10, and 7, and there are also children of my sister living in this flat. There is no way I can protect them against this sort of violence.”150  Some Roma from Zabrze reported that they do not let their children go to school because they are afraid that they will be beaten by classmates who are members of the skinhead movement. Some said that they feared for their children’s lives. Forty-year-old Ms Helena Ondycz, a Romani woman from Zabrze, told the ERRC: “My children have nightmares, they wake in the middle of night and have dreams that skinheads are chasing them.”151 

In April 2002, when the ERRC returned to Zabrze, local Roma indicated that the racist violence against them had continued unchecked.

Far from being limited to Zabrze, attacks targeting Roma by right-wing neo-Nazis, racists, and members or sympathisers of nationalist organisations have been reported in many areas of Poland. Roma have been targeted in their homes, as well as on the street and in public places. The following is a brief overview of such cases since 1994:

A spate of skinhead attacks reportedly took place against Roma from Romania in 1994 and 1995 in Kraków.152  For instance, in January 1994, skinheads torched a shanty settlement, inhabited by Roma from Romania, on the outskirts of Kraków. Approximately 100 Roma resided in the shack houses there. Mr Nicolae Moldovan, one of the Romanian Roma affected by the attack, told the ERRC: “Skinheads came during the night, chased people out and beat them with steel chains and baseball bats. Most of us managed to run away, but some of us were beaten.”153  The police reportedly arrived and conducted questioning, but decided not to investigate further. A similar attack allegedly took place in 1995, but none of the Roma were in the settlement during the attack. The settlement and all the inhabitants’ possessions were destroyed by fire.154 

On July 19, 1994, a group of Roma from Romania was reportedly attacked in front of a post office near the train station in downtown Kraków. Mr Paweł Lechowski, a non-Romani man who witnessed the event, told the ERRC: “In the afternoon I was standing by the post office at the train station. Suddenly, there was a group of Romanian Roma running towards me chased by skinheads who were trying to beat them. It was a group of eight or 10 skinheads. They were armed with steel chains and baseball bats. The Romani men attempted to fend off their attackers and prevent them from harming the women and children in their group. A short period of time later, the skinheads fled after spotting three policemen on patrol.”155  According to several witnesses, police did not respond adequately to the violence. Mr Ciurare, a Romani man from Romania who witnessed the incident, told the ERRC that instead of looking for the skinheads, the police accused several Romani men of provoking the attack and took them to the police station.156 

The ERRC spoke with several Romanian Roma living in the Kraków area who corroborated these descriptions of the atmosphere of violence in Kraków in 1994-1995. Mr Ciurare and Mr Moldovan told the ERRC that skinheads had frequently followed them in 1994 and 1995. According to the testimonies of several Roma from Romania, many of the skinhead attacks took place late at night, around 2 AM.157 

According to Mr Lechowski, who has assisted Romanian Roma in Kraków in pursuing justice in a number of cases of abuse and acted as translator for Roma when they have gone to the police, police in Kraków took a relaxed attitude towards investigating these incidents: “I started writing letters to the chief of the police and to the governor of the region [Wojewoda] and to the mayor of Kraków. I also was invited to meet with the chief of police and we did meet. During our conversation they tried to persuade me that I was exaggerating.”158  Mr Lechowski told the ERRC that his efforts in lobbying the police did lead them to “take some action” in a few concrete cases of skinhead violence against Romanian Roma, but he suggested that these were only token efforts: “The problem with the police action to stop the attacks on Roma from Romania was that they only arrested one or two skinheads. The rest of the skinheads ran away, and those arrested were in any case never brought to justice.”159 

The Warsaw-based anti-racist organisation “Never Again” Association, which monitors the activities of neo-Nazi and other racist groups in Poland, reported a number of incidents to the ERRC. According to “Never Again” Association, during the first two weeks of January 1998, groups of neo-Nazis attacked flats owned by Roma in Brzeg, Małopolska province. They broke windows, tried to burn one house, and caused injuries.160 

In early March 1998 in the Polish town of Kęty, Małopolska province, according to “Never Again” Association, local racist skinheads attacked and threatened local Roma. They broke windows of Romani houses, physically attacked a number of Roma and broke the leg of one Romani boy. Fearing further attacks, the local Roma barricaded themselves into one house on April 3, 1998. Police reportedly did not react adequately.161 

Additionally, “Never Again” Association reported that, in the Polish town of Sporycz, on April 14, 1998, a group of local neo-Nazis attacked local Roma and burned a cottage belonging to one Romani family.162 

In the Polish town of Radom, Mazovia province, on the night of May 20, 1998, according to “Never Again” Association,

approximately 20 neo-Nazis attacked a Romani family with baseball bats, severely injuring them. The attack was motivated by the fact that the family had previously reported racially motivated crimes against them.163 

On December 15, 1998, according to “Never Again” Association,

skinheads stormed a Romani house in the Polish town of Chorzów, Silesia province, causing major damage. Their actions included breaking windows and burning a wheelchair. Inhabitants stated that they were afraid to testify because their attackers had threatened to kill them if they did so.164 

Never Again” Association reported that on July 21-22, 1999, a group of skinheads vandalised the flat of S.G., a Romani individual living

in the Osiedle Stalowe neighbourhood in Kraków. The windows of the apartment were broken and the door was spray painted with swastikas. The police reportedly initiated an investigation into the case.165 

According to “Never Again” Association, in Łomża, Podlasie province, on October 30, 1999, a group of young men burned the car of a Romani boy while shouting racial epithets. The next day, unknown assailants beat up his brother, apparently to prevent him from pursuing investigation of the case.166 

In the town of Krośnica, Małopolska province, on November 14, 1999, according to “Never Again” Association as well as documentation by the Open Society Institute, locals reportedly burned three Romani houses in a Romani settlement, rendering 30 Roma homeless. Three skinheads who took part in the incident reportedly told journalists shortly thereafter that they would burn other Romani houses, as well. One allegedly stated, “We will kill them all. The only good Gypsy is a dead Gypsy.”167  In a May 2002 letter addressed to the ERRC, the Ministry of Justice states that the investigation was dismissed on December 30, 1999, on grounds that the fire was caused by an improperly insulated oven and chimney.168  The families who had been the victims of the attack reportedly moved in with relatives who were also living in the settlement, and during several ERRC visits, were living in extremely miserable conditions.

In one of a number of attacks against Roma that the ERRC documented in Białystok, Podlasie province, according to Polish media and ERRC field investigation, on May 3, 2000, Rodica Căldărar, a 5-year-old Romani girl from Romania, was standing with her grandfather near a kiosk in Białystok, because they wanted to buy a hotdog. The local daily newspaper Kurier Poranny reported that a group of skinheads who were standing around and drinking beer began shouting “Poland for Poles” and “Romanian swine go home”169  and provoking her grandfather. They reportedly pushed him around and called the 5-year-old girl “you little Gypsy whore”. Rrom-po Drom reported that one of the skinheads hit her in the eye, badly damaging her cornea. Then they started to run away. The police arrested four suspects between the ages of 17 and 20. The grandfather said that he recognised one, though he told the ERRC that the police had released them due to insufficient evidence.170  Mr Stanisław Stankiewicz, editor-in-chief of Rrom-po Drom and a Romani community leader, took Rodica to the hospital and alerted other media of the incident.171  In a letter to the ERRC, the Ministry of Justice states that the investigation in the case was dismissed on June 30, 2000, because the perpetrators could not be found.172 

In another case reported in Białystok, approximately 50 skinheads reportedly attacked the house of the Słowikowska family at around 9 or 10 PM on the evening of June 27, 1999. The attack reportedly lasted at least half an hour. Forty-year-old Ms Gabriela Słowikowska told the ERRC: “We were preparing an outdoor family dinner when skinheads attacked us from the side of the petrol station. I was behind the house with my grandson and we ran immediately inside. I was inside our house with my grandchildren, children, and husband. Ten of us were hiding in one ground-floor room.”173  According to Ms Słowikowska, the attackers, who were unknown to the family, were wearing athletic suits, baseball caps and sneakers, and they had closely shaved heads with no hair or short hair. She told the ERRC that the attackers were armed with guns, which they were firing. According to her testimony, she found out later that, after she ran into the house and hid inside with other members of her family, the attackers started to chase and shoot at her son Remigiusz.

According to Ms Słowikowska: “The attackers also threw Molotov cocktails and stones through the windows and shouted racial insults such as ‘Burn, blacks’. They threw three bottles with petrol inside and burning rags stuffed into the top. These set the curtains on fire. They were standing one or two metres from the windows and throwing stones inside. I was lying on the floor and covering my granddaughter with my body. I put some of the other children in the wardrobe, and others were hiding in this little room with no windows.”174  Although the Słowikowska family extinguished the fire promptly, according to Ms Słowikowska, all property such as tables, chairs, and food on the tables in the house was destroyed. She told the ERRC: “[The attackers] were also armed with baseball bats and were breaking everything around: windows, cars, chairs.”175  When the attackers tried to enter the house, the Romani men inside stopped them.

Staff working at the next-door petrol station reportedly called the police. During the investigation, the police found three suspects, who were reportedly taken into custody. In a letter addressed to the ERRC, the Ministry of Justice states that the three suspects were charged in connection with the incident and were sentenced to two years and six months in prison on September 13, 2001. An appeal in the case was pending as of May 2002.176  Ms Słowikowska told the ERRC that after she testified in court and identified two of the arrested men as the attackers, the families of the suspects started to threaten them: “They said that they would kill our children and my husband if I did not change my testimony.”177  Because of ongoing threats to her and her family, Ms Słowikowska requested during the trial not to have to be present during the hearings in the courtroom. She told the ERRC that she was afraid to face the families of the suspects.

In another case, Mr Marian Gil, a 57-year-old Romani activist from Kraków, was reportedly attacked on December 31, 2000. Mr Gil told the ERRC: “I picked up the house intercom and answered the ringing. Some voice that I did not recognise said that there were several men downstairs damaging my car.”178  He told the ERRC that he then put his clothes on and went downstairs: “I opened the main door and suddenly five men jumped on me. They started to beat me all over my body, my head, face and stomach. They kicked me six times and they swore at me and told me, ‘You won’t be doing anything anymore.’”179  The attackers’ comment might have been a reference to Mr Gil’s activist work, which often places him in the media, publicly speaking out on Romani issues. He did not recognise the men and had no particular speculation about the meaning of the comment. In a letter sent to the ERRC, the Ministry of Justice contends that the Prosecutor’s Office had not received any information on the investigation in this case.180 

Abuse of Roma in Poland is not limited to attacks by groups of skinheads. Roma have reported to the ERRC instances in which their non-Romani neighbours have ganged up on them and subjected them to harassment in the form of persistent verbal abuse and regular complaints to local authorities, apparently with the intent of driving them out of their places of residence.

At the time of the ERRC visit in July 2001, for example, Ms Tamara Andrejas had been living with her children in a two-and-a-half-room flat in the Ochota district of Warsaw since 1995. She told the ERRC: “I lived with everyone in peace. None of the other families living in the building could say anything against me.”181  Some time in July 1999, while coming home with her children from the market, her neighbour, Mr Andrzej Popiel, allegedly fired a shot with a firearm at her. According to Ms Andrejas: “I was coming back from the market and at the moment when we were entering the corridor, I saw my neighbour standing there. The corridor has no windows and is quite dark, but I realised that he was holding a gun. He pointed it at us and said, ‘I will kill you Gypsies, so you will not live here anymore.’”182  He then fired a shot, which luckily missed Ms Andrejas and her family members. Ms Andrejas ran out of the building with her children, fleeing toward the shops across the street. While Ms Andrejas hid behind a supermarket, her children hid behind a kiosk. She told the ERRC: “I heard him [the neighbour] shouting, also at people on the street, who called the police on their mobile phones. He was running around the park between the house and the shops and I heard him shouting again, ‘I will kill you all, Gypsies.’”183 

The police reportedly arrived and arrested Mr Popiel. Ms Andrejas was called into the police station the next day. According to her testimony to the ERRC: “The police officer asked me what I wanted to do about the case. I said that I didn’t know because I thought the police should know what to do. I suggested that Mr Popiel apologise. The next day they let him go home.”184  According to Ms Andrejas, Mr Popiel was given a fine at the misdemeanour level through the misdemeanour court (Kolegium).185  About three weeks later, he knocked on her door, again threatening her. “I opened the door and he was standing there and shouted, ‘I will shoot you all, you Gypsies!’ He started to call me names.”186  On this occasion, he was not carrying a firearm. Still, Ms Andrejas told the ERRC, she was too scared to call the police.187 

Later, in November 1999, several neighbours also told Ms Andrejas and social worker, Ms A.B., that Mr Popiel’s wife was plotting a campaign to drive the Andrejas family out of their apartment with other neighbours in the building, blaming Ms Andrejas for her husband’s punishment. Ms Andrejas told the ERRC: “She allied herself with Ms L., who said that ‘it is not right that a Polish man is punished because of Gypsies and added that she would see me kicked out of my flat.”188  According to Ms A.B.’s testimony to the ERRC, Ms L., who also lives in Ms Andrejas’s building, started a hate campaign against her. Ms A.B. told the ERRC: “There were a lot of racist and nationalist comments in the campaign. They called Ms Andrejas a ‘dirty Gypsy’, and destroyed her frontdoor lock and the lawn in front of her balcony.”189  According to Ms Andrejas, the group also reportedly filed with the district authorities a number of complaints against the Andrejas family. These complaints were accusing the members of the Andrejas family in connection with a number of incidents, many of which the neighbours themselves had perpetrated.190  Ms Andrejas consequently received two warnings from the Section of Housing Administration at the Department of Communal and Economic Issues at the municipality of Ochota in Warsaw.191 

On the evening of November 28, 1999, two policemen reportedly came to Ms Andrejas’s flat in response to noise complaints filed by her neighbours. Ms Andrejas told the ERRC: “They were sent here because someone from the building called the police and said that we were making noise, that we were all drunk here, and that there were at least 30 people in my flat, behaving in an inappropriate way. The police came, and they rang the doorbell of the neighbour, who let them in. Then they came to my door and said, ‘Open the door, this is the police.’ We were all sleeping by that time – it must have been about 2 o’clock in the morning. My sister-in-law who was visiting me at that time let them in. They said that the neighbour had complained that we were causing a disturbance and that there was noise coming from our flat. I told him that we were all asleep.”192  Ms Andrejas stated that her sister-in-law took the officer to speak to the neighbour who had reportedly made the complaint, but the neighbour refused to open her door.

Ms Andrejas appealed the warnings from the municipality in a letter dated January 27, 2000, declaring that any accusations sent to the administration office were false and that the only reason some of her neighbours wanted to have her moved was her ethnicity. She wrote: “Simply, their intent is to get me out of this flat, because I am of Gypsy origin.”193  The letter also contained the signatures of some of the building’s residents – people who did not belong to the group of flat owners harassing Ms Andrejas and who supported her contentions.194  Officer Dariusz Kowałski responded to Ms Andrzejas’s letter on February 8, 2000, stating that the case would be investigated.195 

In a March 15, 2000 misdemeanour court ruling regarding the night disturbance from November 28, 1999, Ms Andrejas was levied a fine of 300 Polish złoty (approximately 85 euros). Ms Andrejas appealed the ruling on April 12, 2000.196  On April 26, 2000, Ms Andrejas received an eviction order because of repeated violations of the house rules.197  On April 26, 2000, police from the Ochota district of Warsaw conducted interviews with the parties involved. According to police documentation, the owners of the flats stated that “we are 27 families of private owners and 22 families who live in municipality flats. [. . .] We as a community do not want Gypsies[.]”198 

In a May 9, 2000 letter, Ms Andrejas appealed the eviction order.199  As a result of the police investigation, the order to evict was cancelled on June 14, 2000.200 

In February 2001, neighbours reported noise and a bad odour coming from Ms Andrejas’s flat. A letter dated May 8, 2001, indicated that an examination of the flat on February 14, 2001, had confirmed that neither of the accusations were true.201  Ms Andrejas told the ERRC: “The commission came and saw that there is nothing wrong about our life in the flat, that the flat is clean and that we are all quiet.”202  When the ERRC spoke to social worker Ms A.B. in June 2001, she also said that since February 2001, flat inspectors had made frequent visits to Ms Andrejas’s flat to investigate complaints about odour, noise, inappropriate behaviour, and so on, as reported by the neighbours.203  Ms Andrejas told the ERRC: “The last commission came on June 21, 2001, just a week before the ERRC visit. They examined my flat and my children, and actually apologised at the end of their inspection, saying that they would not come again.”204 

Ms Andrejas appealed the March 15, 2000 decision of the misdemeanour court before the Warsaw Regional Court. However, the court upheld it. Ms Andrejas, who did not have an attorney at the hearing, reacted very emotionally to the court’s ruling. The court then penalised her 500 Polish złoty (approximately 142 euros) for her behaviour. “The neighbours were saying lies about me in the court, they were saying that I make noise and that I am a terrible neighbour. I also told the court what the neighbours were saying to me: ‘You dirty Gypsies, we will throw you out of here, you won’t be here’. There was no lawyer for me in the court and no witnesses on my side at all. No one wanted to come. Although I had a paper signed by half of my neighbours that said that I am a good neighbour, there was no one to support me in the court. The court did not believe me. During the appeal, I was upset and the court gave me a fine for disturbances in court in the amount of 500 złoty.”205  Ms Andrejas appealed the decision, asking the court to pardon her for the disturbance and to waive the fine.206 

In April 2001, one neighbour reportedly stopped her in the corridor and called her a “dirty Gypsy” and spat on her. Ms Andrejas reported the incident to the police. 207  In May 2001, one of Ms Andrejas’s neighbours, Ms Popiel, threatened to allege that she had been beaten by Ms Andrejas’s son. Ms Andrejas said that she consequently decided to leave with her children to visit relatives for the next three weeks. She told the ERRC: “I became really scared and I left with my children and was travelling from one relative to another in Poland. Then I came back after three weeks. I thought that if I left, the situation would get a little bit better. I was especially scared because my son had turned 18 and could have been in serious trouble because courts always believe [non-Romani] Polish people.”208 

The Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) wrote a letter to Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (“Ombudsman”) Dr Andrzej Zoll, stating that “Ms T. Andrejas is the subject of bullying and aggression because of her ethnic origin by her neighbours.”209  In the letter, the HFHR requested that all penalties Ms Andrejas had been asked to pay be cancelled.

In response to the request by the HFHR, Ombudsman Zoll reviewed the Regional Court’s decision and suggested that it be reversed.210  In the document addressed to the Highest Court of Poland, the Ombudsman stressed that, in his opinion, the Regional Court did not undertake to investigate the case sufficiently, since it refused to take into account important evidence presented by Tamara Andrejas. Following the Ombudsman’s intervention, the High Court of Poland reversed the Regional Court’s decision on February 4, 2002.211 

Despite Ms Andrejas’s legal victory, the situation with her neighbours did not improve. When the ERRC visited Ms Andrejas in July 2001, she told the ERRC that she was still unable to live in peace in her building: “When I walk down the corridor, several neighbours often open the door and say ‘you dirty Gypsy’.”212  Ms Andrejas named her tormentors, and their names are on file at the ERRC. According to social worker Ms A.B., a suit by Tamara Andrejas against her neighbours would have good chances, but Ms Andrejas does not wish to pursue a lawsuit because she is ill and tired of complicated legal procedures. However, since her neighbours have continued to harass her verbally, Ms Andrejas asked the Municipality to offer her an alternative apartment. The mayor of the Ochota municipality agreed in principle to such a solution, but Ms A.B. told the ERRC on February 21, 2002, that Ms Andrejas would not be re-housed soon, since there was a lack of available housing in town.213  As this report went to press, Ms Andrejas continued to live in the same flat and her relations with her neighbours had not improved.

5. No Protection and No Remedy for Racially Motivated Violence

Authorities frequently downplay the severity of racially motivated violence against Roma. There are widespread allegations that, for the most part, where perpetrators have been prosecuted, such prosecutions have been inadequate. Polish authorities have made no significant efforts to publicise any positive actions in these cases. Additionally, in a number of cases, Polish authorities have failed to recognise attacks as racially motivated, in effect placing an official stamp on a widespread tendency to deny the role of racial animosity in attacks on Roma in Poland.
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