Leninovla-Forgotten Roma Village
Nino Tlashadze, Leninovka
“The Roma Community is the most disadvantaged ethnic minority group in Europe, suffering from a range of human rights violations and being a special target of racism throughout Europe,” read the documented statements from European Commission, Fundamental Rights Agency and Council of Europe.
Nearly 1,500 Roma are living in Georgia, and are settled mostly in Tbilisi. Based on the most recent data 250-300 members of this community live in the capital. However, if we consider the fact that nearly 800 people live in Lotkini Settlement in the suburbs of Tbilisi, who claim as being Moldavians, it can be estimated that they are actually Roma. The official figures do not hold up to closer scrutiny.
Roma live both in eastern and western regions of Georgia. There are also internally displaced Roma from Abkhazia but they were never granted IDP status. The largest Roma community in the regions resides in the village of Leninovka in the Dedoplistskaro District, Kakheti region (east Georgia). The first Roma settled in the village in 1945 and their current life-style is completely different from other Roma people residing in other Georgian regions.
Dedoplistskaro District is located in South-Eastern part of Georgia, which is a rather far from the regional centre. The villages in the district are spread out among barren fields. Consequently, local peasants cannot get much of an agricultural harvest from their land plots. Irrigation is a limiting factor, which is a common characteristic for the Kakheti Region as a whole. However, it is especially acute in the area where the Roma are settled.
Leninovka is a Russian village buried in green. 70 % of its residents are Russian and the rest are Roma. Their houses are one-storied Russian-style in their design. The buildings are so hidden among the trees that you cannot notice them from the road. Only old Roma and Russian women can be seen walking alongside the village road. Or, they are spending their time sitting on the benches in front of their houses and as they speak with great emotion. Topics can vary, they may even be discussing up-coming parliamentary elections in a manner that the older generation discussing big politics.
We cannot notice young people in the village. Villagers explained how the younger generation is involved as traders in the markets in Tbilisi. Some of them even beg in the streets of the capital city. The problems of local people are more or less similar to the problems of Georgian population residing in distant, poor villages. Roma People from Leninovka also complain about poor social conditions they face. Land is limited; they have small plots and cannot get much of a harvest. Very often, because of the lack of water they cannot even irrigate their gardens. Everybody is unemployed. Previously, Roma men worked at lumber yard mil but it was closed down and now the only source of income is to engage in trade activities.
Unlike other Roma residing in Georgia, those from Leninovka have IDs. Consequently, they can take part in all social or other programs implemented in the country. They are able to benefit from medical service and send their children to school.
Nevertheless, the Roma from Leninovka have not registered their houses and gardens because they cannot pay the cost of registration. Thus, they have already been faced with several problems that resulted from unregistered properties.
Roma people from Leninovka cannot enjoy medical service very often either because the nearest policlinic is located in Dedoplistskaro, which is ten kilometers away from their village. There is no public transport running to the town. If somebody gets ill, they should take the ill person to the policlinic by car. However, now they have lost this opportunity too because the only car that belonged to Mikhail Denisenko and before he assisted his neighbors in case of emergency, was badly damaged in a car accident.
One old Roma lady receives a pension in Leninovka. Locals have also received some social assistance. In winter they were distributed vouchers on firewood but most of them could not use the aid because they could not afford to buy fuel to harvest the wood from the forest.
In spring, residents of Leninovka were distributed 20 liters of fuel according to an initiative of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The fuel was just enough to cultivate their small gardens. As for other social programs, such as the government’s poverty reduction program, the local Roma population is clueless.
There are nearly twenty Roma children in the village. However, only one school age child actually attends school, which ten kilometers away in Dedoplistskaro. His parents have to travel to the town everyday and only because of this need their child is able to attend classes. However, other families find it impossible to send their children to a far away school. One would think that there should be at least a bus provided to transport the children to the far away school. Because of the situation the children wander the whole day without any purpose. Some of them can only stay busy by begging all day.
Nobody should think while reading the article that Roma people residing in the capital or other regions of Georgia have the same kinds of problems; just the opposite others have more problems. I cannot claim to whom to give credit because the Roma in Leninovka are more integrated in the neighborhood than compared with other regions. Maybe, the reason is that they arrived here to settle quite a long ago. They have since given up their nomadic and traditional lifestyles.
One thing is obvious, the Roma from Leninovka continue to face many problems. They need serious assistance from the government. At least it would not very difficult to open a primary school in their village. Roma children would be able to learn reading and writing. In this case, nobody will be able to take advantage of their illiteracy. They will no longer have to indicate their signature with a mark at the end of empty sheet of papers. Their illiteracy has been used against them more than one occasion in cheating them … and quite easily!
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