And what is in it [doing community building among the Roma in Tiszavasvári] for me? What makes me tick? The fact that you can reach high. You can set a good example for people to see. You could raise gipsies out of this vile downward spiral they got into in the last thirty years. They will be degraded into animals, if things go on like this. This community labour status that they pass on to their children... One out of one hundred can only rise above this status and even they lose their identity and will come to nothing. Well, this is how we regard them, anyway, regardless of whether they have become professors or what not, as long as they feel ashamed of their background. And many of them look back in shame to where they’ve come from. That milieu is not their milieu any more. However, if the clever, savvy and wealthy ones won’t help the ones left behind, the latter will never catch up. They will always be a flock of sheep that way. A flock of sheep with no backbone, which can be exploited.
What I am doing is an uphill struggle as long as I have to do it on my own. The community building squad that I am a member of, are much more clever than I am. I can learn some very useful things from them. Having been a despot who has always said autocracy was the thing, I am learning democracy now. This is a good learning curve for me. It keeps me fit mentally, I also make some money out of it and I am serving a good cause, too. My personal courage is safeguarded by a bulwark of sound alertness, being aware that where I’m going there will be enemies. I have always gone to places where there were enemies, so there is nothing new about that. […]
I always maintain that all the gipsy intelligentsia should do something for the community that they have come from. It’s not nice when gipsy entrepreneurs are unwilling to give any support. I believe that it was worth studying and the endeavours did pay off! Even at the age of fifty I maintain that one has to struggle! It’s too early to give up on myself or being given up on. Once you have learnt something, keep trying your best! And remember your roots.
It was an excellent school! People often think highly of schools in the city, but believe me, in the country, once you have a good teaching staff, there is much more potential for achieving great things than here in Budapest, in a cold, alienated city. My education had such firm foundations that I was offered a secondary school place both in Tokaj and Szerencs. As I couldn’t make up my mind, my dad came to see the Head, Mr Kovács and asked him which secondary school is better? ‘The one in Szerencs is better but it is a longer commute’, he answered. ‘Then he’ll go to Szerencs.’ My Dad decided it for me. Therefore, I did have to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning in order to get to the station by six and then take the 30 kilometre long journey to István Bocskai Secondary School in Szerencs.
There it was already a diverse environment. My schoolmates were not only working class children but those of vets, solisitors and lawyers. That was when I had my first experience of class differences, when I realised we had different backgrounds. They had an easier life. For their parentsit wasn’t a problem to pay for signing them up for anything. Eventually, it wasn’t a problem for me either, as my father always managed to scrape it together. However, you can tell when someone’s background is bourgeoisie and not a small gipsy community, where studying is not a virtue. While for them it was easier, because an engineer or a lawyer could explain things in the curriculum for them, I, having no one to ask, was most of the time left to my own devices.
I completed the Seargant Major Training School. I was quite an achiever in Kőbánya. Having gained two or three years of experience a a policeman, they thought I was suitable for being enrolled in the Warrant Officer Training School. May I just say that unlike today, when anyone can become a warrant officer in five minutes, back in those days warrant officers weren’t all over the place. In those days warrant officer was a prestigeous rank. […]In 1988 they enrolled me in the Warrant Officer Training School. I became a high-flyer. I graduated with flying colours, with perhaps only one grade 4. But that’s not the point. The point is that by that time I could become the leader of pickets, and while in that position, my white colleagues had the impression that I was good at sorting out cases involving gipsies and they often delegated these cases to me. ’Feri, take it if you like!’ When I was around, they didn’t even try to discriminate those people racially, not even the ones whom it might have served right. Instead, they always said hello to them and followed the protocol when I was with them. Later, they realised that I have a sharp sense of fairness and I’m good at my trade, so they empowered me to take action while they cover and support me.
He was born on 15 October 1966 in Sárospatak to a Hungarian father and a romungro gipsy mother. Ferenc has three siblings. He lived in Tarcal, a small town of five thousand inhabitants. He graduated from Istvan Bocskai Secondary School, Szerencs in 1985. He continued his studies at the Sergeant Training School in Budapest. He worked at the Police Station of the 10th district between 1986-1996. He was the leader of pickets at the Budapest Police Headquarters from 1996 to 2004. In 2002 he earned a law degree and completed a sergeant training course at the Police Sergeant Training School. Between 2004-2006 he worked at the Budapest Police Headquarters and then became the commander of pickets. He has been a retired police major. Since 2005 he has been the founding president of the National Association of Roma Policemen. He ran a club for the disadantaged youth from 2007 to 2012. He is on the board of the Hungarian Gipsy Party. Since 2016 he has been doing community building among the Roma in Tiszavasvári. In 2002 he was nominated for the Policeman of the Year Award, in 2008 he was given the award of The Youth for Human Rights Foundation.