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Reporters on the Job

STRANGER IN A GHETTO: Reporter Arie Farnam has done several stories on Europe's Roma, so she wasn't too concerned when local journalists in Slovakia, even Romany journalists, warned her it was too dangerous to go to Lunik IX, the largest Romany ghetto in Slovakia (this page). She boarded a bus in downtown Kosice, which ended its route near the ghetto. "At the stop just before the ghetto all the white (or non-Roma) people on the bus got off, except me. It was as if we had crossed some taboo line. I was sitting at the back of the bus and, as the doors closed, every head turned slowly to stare at me," says Arie.

"The bus pulled up at the last stop and the nervous-looking Slovak driver asked if I was lost and suggested I go back into town with him. I shook my head and got off with some schoolchildren. They crossed the street to walk on the other side. Soon a few of the older and braver kids came over to stand in front of me and block my path. 'You are in our place,' they said. 'Do you know someone here?'

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"I pulled out the name of Imrich David, a man I had read about in the documents of human rights organizations. Two of the older children nodded and took hold of my arms to lead me toward one of the buildings. I hoped they were leading me to Mr. David's apartment, but after a few flights of stairs they pushed me, gently but firmly, into a sooty kitchen where a large Romany woman stood clutching a rolling pin.

"The kids shoved me into a chair and stood back while the woman interrogated me. Who was I? Why had I come? What did I know about Mr. David? Who had sent me? she wanted to know. Her tone was aggressive, propped up by fear, and I knew that I was on shaky ground but I could do nothing except answer truthfully and calmly. After we had been through the questions about five times in my slightly wobbly Slovak, she finally sent one of the children down to the floor below us, where he produced Mr. David."

David Clark Scott
World editor