Largest Roma settlement in Slovenia marking 110th anniversary

Murska Sobota – Pušča, the largest Roma settlement in Slovenia, was hailed as a role model for Roma communities and coexistence with locals as it marked 110 years of its existence on Friday.

Darko Rudaš, a Roma councillor from Murska Sobota, said that Pušča was a model for how to develop a Roma settlement and a solid foundation of co-existence.

The settlement, which gained the status of an independent local community in 2002 and is currently home to some 500 Roma, also sees opportunities in tourism, as the community plans to establish a creative marketplace that will present the rich history, music and cuisine of the Roma.

Officially established in 1991, Pušča today features a community centre, fire brigade, kindergarten, shop, restaurant and football field, and it has paved roads and sewage and water supply system.

Murska Sobota kindergarten director Borut Anželj said that the local kindergarten, opened in 1961 as the first Roma kindergarten in Europe, was one of the landmarks in the development of the settlement.

A public bathroom was built in 1950, a mass employment campaign in the settlement was launched in 1954 and a football club was established in 1955, playing its first official match with Olimpija Ljubljana on 1959.

A monograph entitled Pušča – the Largest Roma Settlement in Slovenia, was also presented as part of the anniversary celebrations on Thursday, whose author Jožek Horvat Muc, who said that the settlement was a hub of good ideas.

He also noted a letter from the national authorities in 1920 praising the Roma in the settlement. “The local authorities protected the Roma, and this is not the case today in many areas,” he said.

Stane Baluh, the head of the Government Office for National Minorities, said that Pušča was a role model for the entire Roma community in Slovenia, labelled it an unique example in Europe in terms of its development and progress.

This was echoed by Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina, who said in a written statement that Pušča was an example of inclusive society, praising it for its cultural and social diversity and good cooperation with the local authorities.