Govanhill's Roma residents aim to be part of the solution

THAT Govanhill has gone downhill in recent years is the consensus from everyone in the group.

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Roma residents say they want to help the problems of Govanhill
Roma residents say they want to help the problems of Govanhill

They all speak about the much-publicised problems in the South Side community - fly tipping, overcrowding, crime.

It's the kind of talk you hear repeatedly from residents who are sick of Govanhill's problems... and its reputation.

The only difference is that this group is Roma, the community regularly accused of sparking the issues.

"The problems were here long before we were," said Marcela Adamova, Oxfam Scotland development worker for the Roma.

"But we get a lot of blame for issues that are not caused by us. It is just a small number of people giving everyone a bad name."

One of the main problems, Marcela believes, is the lack of communication between established Govanhill residents and the Roma.

In response, she and Eva Kourova, a community worker, have set up a new community drop-in centre on Albert Road - for Roma and local people.

Eva said: "We want Roma people to have the same facilities that are available to everyone else in Govanhill; a place to gather and chat to one another.

"But we also hope that local people will drop in too so that a dialogue can be had between the two groups.

"Lack of communication and cultural understanding are a big part of the problem here."

Roma groups from Slovakia and Romania began arriving in Glasgow in 2005 with the majority settling in Govanhill.

The most recent report, Mapping the Roma Community in Scotland, estimates there are around 3000 and 4000 Roma living in the city.

For a small community, the influx has been overwhelming and local people have found it difficult to welcome their new neighbours.

Roma have been blamed for fly tipping, anti-social behaviour and housing problems such as overcrowding. Marcela, from Slovakia, said: "We come to Glasgow for the same reasons as any other groups - an opportunity for a better life.

"But the rumours and misconceptions can make that very difficult.

"We are an outdoor culture but people find that uncomfortable. We like to be outdoors, talking and socialising - it's how we share news and find out what's happening.

"But local people assume we are doing something criminal.

"Also, it is not unusual for us to have our grandparents living with us or to support other relatives but local people complain of overcrowding.

"It is always the flats where there are 20 people living there that make the news - in reality, that is incredibly rare.

"I have never been in a flat with that many people."

Madalin Caladras, a young man in his early 20s, has been living in Govanhill for the past five years.

Eva and Marcela believe he could work with them --his English is excellent - but Madalin has other plans.

Madalin believes the area is not what it was when he arrived and now hopes to move to France - he speaks both English and French.

He said: "I feel settled here now; I came because my uncle was here and he spoke well of the area.

"But it's not like it was when I arrived. People here will fight in the street, it's quite intimidating.

"I have family in Paris and so I plan to move there soon."

Lenka Milkova has lived in Govanhill for four years and has made the area her home.

She added: "I feel good here. I am happy to be here. It is much better than back home and I feel for the sake of my children that living here is my future and I call this home now.

"The opportunities for us could be better and I worry about my children being exposed to discrimination from other young groups but we want to work and fit in."

Marcela says the aim now is to work towards improving the lives of the next generation of Roma people.

Schools in the area have been active in helping young pupils settle in to class and remain in education.

Marcela, 33, also set up the group Romano Lav - Roma Voice in Romanes -two years ago to give support to Roma people in the area.

Eva said: "There's lots of money and effort is being spent on investigations and report writing and paying management, rather than on front line services and staff. But the main problem is communication so we really hope local people will come and visit us in Albert Road.

"When we talk to each other - that's the only way to solve the problems."

catriona.stewart@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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