Mgr. Eduard Čonka

* 1966

  • My father worked as a professional digger. I was going on vacation at the time. I wanted to work, so he took me to the work. He wanted to show me what he was doing. He measured me a ten-meter route, gave me a pickaxe and a shovel, and I had to dig like all the other gypsies. In half an hour I had a callus on my hands, and he told me, 'This is our life. You decide, either you will work at a desk and you will have a pen in your hand, and you will be a clerk or something else, or you will dig like me for the rest of your life. ' This probably affected you a lot in later life, didn't it? The most in life. Because the education was not a priority in our family. I was the first in the whole family who have a high school diploma. Only later did other generations in our family begin to study. My nieces studied high school and college. Now it is a complete commonplace in our family. Now when I am talking to my son Sebastian, he will be fourteen. He finishes the last stage of primary school in Austria. And we are talking about where he is going to study. We do not even talk about high school, but about college.

  • I only found out it after graduation. I had an exceptionally good form teacher. And by the fact that I started the school like, at least at that time I had the information that I was the first Roma in that Secondary technical school of constructions. I do not know how long the Secondary technical school of constructions worked next to Engineering school, but I was the first who started there as a Roma. It was only after graduation that I found out that right after the first parents' association, my father gave the professor permission to be strict with me. This is what my father told him: Mr. teacher, if you need to slap him, slap him. I want him to finish school, so he does not go wrong. So, I always had the feeling that the class teacher did not like me, that he was stepping on me and I did not know what. And then at the end he told me, he explained to me why it was so. It was also in his interest the first Roma boy join the school and to finish the school.

  • When Czechoslovakia was divided, the first problems arose there. That time brought the first layoffs. Whether when companies were privatized or there were other reasons. It is indeed true that the first who lose their jobs, or those who were among the first who lose their jobs, were Roma. On the one hand, those people did not achieve the necessary qualifications and did not have the appropriate education, but the other thing was that other people began to reach for those job offers. I remember that in those eighties, especially between the eighties and nineties, I saw how many people work in Metrostav in Prague. They built the subway. Almost all utilities ... formerly you would once see only a Roma people on the street with a shovel, with a pickaxe. All these low-qualified professions, Rome people began to lose and suddenly found themselves in employment offices. I remember that during one such presentation in the nineties, there was a visit from abroad. When they talked about the Roma community, the mayor said that in a few years, about two to three, from almost 99.9% of the employment of Roma men, this has changed to 90% of the unemployment of Roma men.

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Ateliér Holubník -Bratislava, 23.10.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:52:27
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

He entered the Secondary technical school of constructions as the first Roma

Eduard Čonka was born in Levoča in 1966 as the youngest of five children. His mother is Gizela and his father is Aladár. He has been raised by his eldest sister since about six years of age. He graduated from primary school in Levoča. From 1981 to 1985 he studied at the Secondary technical school of constructions in Poprad. After graduation in May 1985, he started working in a state-owned company in Levoča. In October of that year, he entered compulsory military service in the barracks in the town of Slaný. In 1987, he returned to work for a state-owned company. He married in June 1988. He and his wife first lived in Poprad. They had a daughter, later a son. They moved to Olomouc and Eduard started working in associated production for a local meat processing plant. After 1990, he began working as an activist in the field of Roma civil society and social counselling. He has worked in several non-profit organizations, the Dutch organization Matre, the Open Society Foundation, Empelle and others. In 2003 he started an external study in the field of social work. In 2016, he ran in the parliamentary elections for the OĽaNO party (ORDINARY PEOPLE and independent personalities, translator’s note). At that time, he worked as a project manager for the Roma communities in Levoča. Since 2021, he has been the director of the Department of Regional Coordination at the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Roma Communities.