Ostravice - Hundreds of people from Ostravice in the Beskydy mountains are signing a petition against a plan to move Romani families from Ostrava to the premises of a former hospital for the mentally ill.
"We, the residents of the Ostravice municipality and its surroundings, express, by means of this petition, our deep discontent with one of the intentions of the owner of the buildings of the former social care institution in the Mazák area to move allegedly very problematic 50 Romani families from their dilapidated houses in Ostrava into the buildings," reads the petition's introduction.
The petition committee, consisting of village residents, has placed petition sheets in local restaurants, shops, in a pharmacy and at a petrol station. The municipal authority has also published the petition on its website.
"The petition immediately aroused great interest among people from Ostravice. People from the surrounding municipalities are also signing it, as well as people from Ostrava who have their weekend houses in the area. We have to print out more petition sheets," said Jana Woznicová from Ostravice, a member of the petition committee. She added some 450 people have already signed the petition at the petrol station.
A facility in Beskydy for CZK 7 million
Fears that a Romani ghetto could spring up in Ostravice were aroused by Petr Nevlud, an entrepreneur from Ostrava, who bought the facility in an auction in 2006 for almost CZK 7 million. Since then he has been talking about his plans to rebuild the former hospital into luxurious flats.
When he got the impression that the municipality and conservationists were against his intention, he threatened he would move some Romani people from Ostrava to the dilapidated buildings in the valley under the Šance dam.
Inhabitants and owners of weekend houses in the village under Lysá hora, where tourism is currently booming, started to panic, although it is not clear whether the threat is at all substantiated.
At the end of September, Petr Nevlud surprised the mayor, and municipal representatives with his statement that he would allegedly bring 50 Romani families into the facility in exchange for their flats in Ostrava.
Nobody has ever seen the Roma who could be moving to the village. Moreover, after the entrepreneur's threat aroused a wave of discontent in the village, the entrepreneur himself fell silent. He does not talk even to journalists.
Village threatened by entrepreneur in debt
František Jaskula, head of the Administration of Beskydy Protected Landscape Area, in which the facility and its premises are located, confirmed that Nevlud has not contacted the Administration office for quite a long time.
In the meantime, it came out that Petr Nevlud, who is involved in about 30 real estate agencies, probably has massive debts.
According to an entry in the land registry, lien has been imposed on the facilities and the lands of the former hospital since 1 October. The right of lien on Nevlud's property has been enforced by the tax office of Ostrava 3 due to his debt.
If Nevlud does not pay the debt, he may even face seizure of property, a last-resort measure. However, he can still pay his debt or sell the indebted facility to someone else.
"Even though Mr Nevlud may be experiencing problems, we cannot rule out that the threat of moving Roma to the village is still unrealistic," says village mayor Jaromír Dobrozemský, who is still afraid of a Romani invasion.
Stanislav Friedel, director of the tax office in Ostrava 3, said he cannot add more to the case than what the land registry says. However, he confirmed the restriction of the property right is not irreversible. He did not disclose the extent of Nevlud's debt, but he said it should correspond to the price of the property on which the creditor applies the lien.
The petition committee from Ostravice has sent the petition to the Moravia-regional governor Evžen Tošenovský, minister for human rights and minorities Džamila Stehlíková, and to the regional school authority, among others. The petition advocates are concerned the school in Ostravice may not be ready for the influx of Romani children.
Adopted and republished by Prague Daily Monitor.