Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waiting, Departing (3/4)

Anna, Eva & Jozef's family came to Hamilton from Lunik IX, Europe's largest segregated Roma ghetto, fleeing their Slovakian life plagued by systemic discrimination. They were a logical choice for my Photo Stories final assignment using the qualifier of a story that we believed needed to be shared. I first met Eva taking her relative's family to the airport, who were deported a year and some earlier.

You can read more about their story in Cory Ruf's article: A taste of tolerance published in The United Church Observor.

"Under family photos and paintings of beach scenes peering down from the white walls, Eva, Jozef, Anna and two of Eva’s siblings combine what English they know to spout off the indignities they suffered in their native Slovakia.

Jozef lifts the sleeve of his sweater, presenting a five-inch ridge on the underside of his arm. In 2008, out-of-uniform police officers burst into his family’s apartment. “They start yelling,” says the father of two, “and we didn’t know what for.” The scar below his armpit is a reminder of the roughing up that followed. Eva gives an account of an attack she suffered the following January while shopping. Skinheads verbally harassed then beat her while her young children looked on. The ambush, she says, caused her to need surgery on her ear.

One month later, she, Jozef and their two sons, Jozef Jr. and Sebastian, now 7 and 4, along with her parents and three siblings, arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, claiming refugee status at customs. The clan settled in Hamilton’s Beasley neighbourhood — one of Canada’s poorest — to stay with family that had made the same journey months earlier."

Last week, their family returned to Slovakia. After visiting Lunik IX this year, the understanding of the devastation increases: these children remember nothing of their life there, and will be returning to something beyond their worst imagination.

The first photos in this series reflect on the waiting period before the deportation; uncertainty taints their days as they begin to face the reality that their first experience of home is slipping from beneath them. The family goes about life as normal, but with a dark narrative underlying their routines. Time catches up, and the departure is inevitable.


Below: Looking at photos of Lunik IX

2 comments:

hannah love said...

amazing michelle.
really powerful!

BethanyLauren said...

Michelle,

Kind of random, but the United Church Observer contacted me to use my comment under this article in their print copy of their magazine.

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