Štefan Tišer

* 1950  

  • “My name is Štefan Tišer, and currently live in Pilsen. And I very much like remembering lovely holidays at my grandparents, where I had a beautiful childhood and free time, where I learnt about village life as a small baby. My granny loved me a lot. My mummy was glad and of course put me in their custody often enough, I was her first son so of course she worried. But when she found out how my granny loved me, she had absolutely no fear at all. My granny had an oven, where she baked bread and used to wake up with a smell of a freshly baked bread and cow mild and a lump of butter. Until today I feel such nostalgia in my heart and always when I remember granny and granddad, I feel bad. My granddad used to teach me, horses, sheep, pigs, he had them all. And I always felt that I don’t know if I didn’t get it from them, that I had so much feeling, as they helped those, who had nothing a lot. Whatever it was the pig butchery or anything, the always gave food to villagers, who didn’t have much. Granny was a herbalist healing people, right above the oven she had little perches and even at night she used to collect herbs to dry them and use for healing. Influenza, anything. And my granddad was a hard working man. Those were Betlanovce in the heart of the Slovak paradise. There was a castle called Bethlenfalvy, owned by a nobleman, where grandad used to work as a hunter. And he gave his a piece of land for saving his life. He was attacked by a wild boar during hunt and my grandad stabbed him through with a javelin. And we got land and there was a certain fields and he farmed there and later passed it on to the eldest son, who was my granddad.”

  • “Still in the v meantime we used to meet up; Emil, deceased Andrej Giňa, Vláďa Rusenko, Margita Reiznerová, Pepík Čonka and Ivan Veselý... We used to meet in that period, but it was a crime, so we always found out, when there were cultural events, entertainment, so we debated in the back discussing what we would do. Of course we were afraid that they find out as the spies were everywhere, that we´d get locked up. But we got lucky and nothing ever happened. And I got an idea to establish this kind of organisation: ‚And it will be a perfect meeting point providing cultural events, where I can invite bands, even children...‘ So I went to the National front here in Pilsen and founded the Roma Cultural Unity. I had to go even to the ministry of interior that was the procedure, so I went to personally hand my application in and I got it stamped. And we had a house in Černická street, later a hotel, so there were our offices. And back then I used to organise these events and always got a grant from the town, a small one, as it came from the communists, who only gave you a contribution so we didn’t have to pay a hall rent and similar.”

  • “So we gathered during communism and felt a real sense, which draw us and it was the issue of Roma rights here. Not to be called gypsies, when in 1974 the OSN declared we belong to Roma nation. Everywhere you could hear just ‚gypsy, gypsy, gypsy‘. I get terribly offended by that expression. Of course it depends, who you say it, right? But when you simply consider the meaning of the word – ‚gypsy‘– that is a liar, dirt and vermin. And today anywhere, at a demonstration you can hear ‚gypsies go to gas chambers...‘ Dirt and vermin. That all contains the word ‚gypsy‘ within. But Roma? When we meet up in the Street and don’t know each other, we don’t say: ‚Hello, gypsy!‘, but ‚Sar džives, Roma?‘ [How are you, Roma?] The elderly used to say that expression, whoever, my great granddad and I carry it within myself. Wherever I went during campaigns I only spoke Roma language. I got most upset that the young ones didn’t understand me. And that is when I swear as we inherited that after our parents. It is our motherly tongue. I am at home here, I feel Czech. But there are many national minorities here. That means Russians speaking Czech too, at official authorities, and so on, it is an official language, but at home they speak Russian and Croats of course speak Croatian. Likewise Germans speak German. No one can take it from them. So why don’t they blame them and they blame us?”

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    Plzeň, 21.10.2016

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My granddad urged me to be honest, fair and always help the weaker

Štefan Tišer in Pilsen in 2016
Štefan Tišer in Pilsen in 2016
photo: foto Helena Sadílková

Štefan Tišer was born in 1950 in Stráž near Tachov and spent his childhood in Slovakia at his grandparents in a Rumanian village of Betlanovce. In Liptovský Hrádek near his grandparents he attended secondary school of economics. After finishing military service he remained in Pilsner, where he worked in the Škoda factory: at his own request he was transferred from company accounting department to direct operations and further made his living as a manual worker. Since the start of 1980s he worked as a miner in Karviná region and after returning to Pilsner region he managed an associated company oriented at construction and digging works. He did business in the field of constructions even after 1989. Since 1970s he got engaged in Roma social and political life in Pilsner region. He took part in organising concerts or tournaments of Roma football teams, during which there was much meeting and negotiating of Roma people, who sought social emancipation of the Roma minority in the former Czechoslovakia. Following 1989 he joined activities supporting the Civic Forum and Roma political movement. He was a member of the Roma civic initiative and in 1991 co-founded the Movement of engaged Roma and participated in the activities of Roma National Congress. In 2011 founded the Party of Equal Opportunities, and together with the Green party he participated in elections to the House of Commons and the European parliament in 2014. After failing in both elections he resigned to lead and his membership in the party. Currently lives in Pilsen and is still a member of commissions and working groups dealing with issues relating to the Czech republic Roma situation on regional and governmental level.