12 Jan 2013 22:00
Lunik IX is an apartment complex in the southwestern suburbs of Košice, Slovakia. Originally build as home for middle-class families with a capacity of 2,500 people, the Slovakian government started to resettled thousands of Slovakian people affiliated to the Roma minority in the 1990s. Today Lunik IX is home to an estimated number of between 6,000 and 8,000 Roma making it the largest Roma community within Slovakia.
Over the years Lunik IX evolved into an urban slum. The unemployment rate is nearly 100%, inhabitants aren’t able to pay their water, gas or electricity bills. The waste disposal isn’t working, inhabitants constantly throw their trash right out of the window. Everything that isn’t nailed down has been stolen and resold. Several buildings are in an unacceptable condition. Between summer 2012 and winter 2012/2013 one complex was at the risk to collaps and had to be dismantled. The toxic standard of the waste disposal has reached a dangerous high level even starting to harm the town’s ground water. Only during certain hours a day people are supplied with freshwater.
The children from Lunik IX are the first who suffer from these horrible conditions. Lunik IX is overcrowded, more and more flats become uninhabitable, winters are long and cold. Open fires inside the flats, rat plagues, diseases, malnutrition and worse hygiene standards are among the fatal threats threatening the children in Lunik IX.
A public run kindergarten is trying to take care of at least some of the kids for several hours a day. Kids at the age of 5 and 6 as well as their siblings, regardless their age, are allowed to visit the kindergarten. Some of the Roma women even have the possibility to work in the kindergarten.
2013 Košice is Europe's culture capital. After I travelled to Košice I learned that the majority of people living in the city have never been to Lunik IX themselves. The area is a taboo-subject, something people don’t want to talk about. Officials feel helpless and left alone with the situation by the government in Bratislava and the European Union.