THE GYPSIES IN SWIDNIK - THE REALISATION OF STATE POLICIES IN LOCAL CONDITIONS
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The Gypsies were the only national minority in the People's Republic of Poland which disturbed the image of a nationally and ethnically homogeneous state. For this reason, the authorities relatively rapidly, i.e. already in 1945, conceived the first plans for settling the itinerant Gypsies. Their implementation was to be facilitated by a statute enacted by the Presidium of the Government on 24 May 1952; apart from the question of settlement, it foresaw productivisation and assimilation. Since the effects of the ensuing undertakings proved to be highly unsatisfactory; the authorities decided to apply more restrictive methods. On 23 March 1964 they inaugurated a campaign intent on halting the roaming Gypsies; from that time on, this form of travelling was treated as a violation of public order and suitably penalised. The first Gypsies appeared in Swidnik in the summer of 1964 and originally lived in a local woodland, where they were even officially registered. The pressure exerted by the county authorities led to granting accommodation in a housing estate known as Franciszków. Gypsies from the whole county arrived in Swidnik, where they were probably sent by the voivodeship authorities despite directives prohibiting the disintegration of Gypsy communities. At the end of the 1960s, there were about forty Gypsies in Swidnik, living in dilapidated wooden or brick barracks intended for demolition. Out of a total of 19 persons of productive age, only four were employed. The other justified their refusal to work by referring to bad health, the absence of suitable offers, or low wages. The majority subsisted thanks to the assistance guaranteed by social services or by resorting to fortune telling, begging or outright theft. True, a majority of the Gypsy children attended local schools (where they too received help in the form of subsidies, free-of-charge meals, textbooks and learning aids), but effectiveness was unsatisfactory - about 60% of the school children repeated classes. The co-existence of the Gypsies and the local town residents remained unsuccessful - the latter complained of being accosted (offers of fortune telling, begging) and hooligan acts performed by the Gypsy settlers.
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