We started day one with an intense visit to Pata Rat, which is a street on the outskirts of Cluj. What makes it different from how you normally would imagine a small village is the fact that it's surrounded by trash, literally it's located on the edge of the city's waste dump. Pata Rat is populated only with Roma families.
Amongst the shacks, made mostly out of thin wooden planks, we met Cristina. With the help of other volunteers she has set up a school situated in several conjoined mobile units. There they work with the kids of the most marginalised Roma families that have no real chance of education. These are children that have never held pens, paper or notebooks. We experienced their work hands on and could only admire their immense dedication and patience to work in this extremely complex situation.
To better illustrate their struggle, the teachers cannot even work with classes with children of the same age, as different families have conflicts with each other and therefore their offspring cannot attend school together.
Afterwards, we climbed up the nearby hill, where 76 Roma families were forcefully evicted from the center of Cluj in the middle of the winter. Our hosts there, Greta and Eniko showed us around the community. Their story is a prime example of how short sighted some local authorities can be. Before their eviction, these families were integrated in society, they had jobs, education, were paying rent and taxes. But the local government had other plans for this area, so they decided to evict them to a remote, polluted place far away from their schools and work places. Furthermore, they did all this during an exceptionally cold winter, there weren't houses for all the people and some even had to erect their own houses. The result is that you have up to 10 people living in a single room and about 40 people sharing one toilet. Greta is one of the "lucky" ones as her family of five has a whole room to themselves. If we are to look for one positive thing in this whole situation is that it brought this community even closer together. In the early days of the eviction, people that didn't even know each other had to share a home. Now they have built a small community center, where they work with children after school, a football pitch, houses for the ones that did not receive state built social homes. They are also suing the local government and have already won the first trail.
The bottom line is that instead of encouraging the successful integration of this community and using it as an example for others, they decided to forcefully segregate it and push the people further away from education. And this is what all the people we met agree is the solution - to live freely and have access to education.
The day ended again at Fabrica de Pensule, where we did a short presentation on our project and enjoyed a nice party with the lovely people of Cluj.
Pata Rat is not a small village outside Cluj, it is an actual street situated within city boundaries.
Hello Ilinca, Thank you for the correction, I was left with the wrong impression