by Drago HEDL
This quote was taken from the statement given by the current mayor of Daruvar Zvonko Cegledi (HSS [Croatian Peasants' Party]) on the occasion of the commemoration of important dates from the Homeland War. Asked for an interview in which he would explain his view of inter-ethnic relations in Daruvar, on Monday April 10, in his office Cegledi kept repeating to Feral's journalist what he had said in a phone conversation a few days before: there is no need to discuss the status of ethnic minorities, Czechs and Serbs, because that problem does not exist. He was prepared to talk about any other topic, but simply could not talk about something that did not exist.
Although mayor Cegledi claims that ethnic problems do not exist in Daruvar, the letter he sent on March 23, 2006 to "The Croat State Parliament" ["Hrvatski Drzavni Sabor" in the original] (it is interesting that Cegledi does not know the true name of the Croatian Parliament [the name preferred by mayor Cegledi was used during WWII by the pro-Nazi Croat state, the Independent State of Croatia or NDH, and in the nineties during Franjo Tudman's rule]) clearly shows that they are very much present in the town. However, according to Cegledi Croats are the only truly endangered group in Daruvar. Although they are 58.36 percent of population in Daruvar, as compared with Czechs (18.91 percents) or Serbs (14.07 percent), their rights, claims the mayor in his letter, are "significantly lower" than those enjoyed by the minorities, "especially as regarding the employment".
"Czech primary school ‘Jan Amos Komenski' and Czech kindergarten ‘Ferdo Mravenac'," mayor Cegledi continues describing the grave situation of Croats in Daruvar, "demand that their employees are fluent in Czech, while fluency in Croatian language is not required, so that the result is that almost none of its employees are Croat, including the non-teaching staff. Isn't that El Dorado," mayor Cegledi wonders.
However, Croat suffering in Daruvar does not stop there, and how could it, given that it starts in kindergarten. In the letter sent to the Parliament Cegledi also says that the Czech kindergarten in Daruvar is attended by 125 pupils. However, given that Czechs constitute 18.91 percent of population in Daruvar, the city should be obliged to pay for only 65 pupils. "That is a burden on the city budget," Cegledi complains, "much more serious than in other towns. From the overall budget of 15.8 million Kunas, 3.8 million is earmarked for kindergartens, while for example Bjelovar reserves 6.6 million for kindergartens from a four times larger budget".
Mato Peic journalist at Radio Daruvar says that he has no idea where mayor Cegledi got his idea about the endangered status of Croats in Daruvar, especially regarding their employment. No one has conducted a survey of ethnicity of employees at Radio Daruvar, says Peic nor has anyone from the city administration requested data about the ethnicity of employees. "Radio Daruvar has 10 employees," says Peic, "and even we have never made an effort to figure out their ethnic background".
Our collocutors in Daruvar say that they regret that mayor's behavior is turning Daruvar in an uncomfortable environment for the local minorities. "Such a situation is a burden on all of us and it leaves a very ugly impression of Daruvar. This town has always been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-national environment, and we have always been proud of that," says Mato Peic journalist at Radio Daruvar. "This town has a Hungarian name, a large Czech minority, before the war Serbs were one third of population... Consequently, Daruvar has no choice but to be a town of all of its residents and to be proud of that fact. However, instead the current town administration rejects the multi-ethnic character of the town and is trying to suppress minority rights."
"If an ethnic minority demands the implementation of ethnic minority legislation and minority rights guaranteed by the Constitutional Law Regulating Native Language Use and the mayor responds that that ‘threatens to worsen inter-ethnic relations' and is ‘counter-productive' for that minority that can only be described as hate mongering and incitement of intolerance," Zdenka Cehlin, representative in the Parliament from Daruvar says. "The Czech minority has been present in this region for 200 years, has left a significant impact on the culture and economy of the town, in the Homeland War it proved absolute loyalty to Croatia, as in the first days of the defense of the town Czechs were more than 50 percent of the defenders. Today we simply demand to be granted at least the same rights we had before the war," says Zdenka Cuhlin.
She reminds that last autumn the Czech Ethnic Minority Council again requested that the Daruvar Town Statute be aligned with the Constitutional Law Regulating Ethnic Minority Rights and the Law Regulating Official Language use. "The result," she says, "was that various outlying villages were granted bilingual rights. However, since no state of local institutions are located in these settlements, in practice the granted bilingual status is meaningless".
"Czech are not asking for much, only what they had before," says Damir Malina, president of the Czech Ethnic Minority Council in Daruvar. "In our demand for bilingual status we never asked that material for sessions of the town council be translated to the Czech language. But we have a hard time understanding why someone would have a problem if the city hall had a sign with the name of that institution written in the Czech language. We already had that sign before [the war]," Malina says.
"Since we started insisting on the implementation of the Constitutional Law Regulating Minority Rights and demanding that the town statute be aligned with the constitutional law, we have faced lack of understanding," says president of the Czech Alliance in Croatia Lenka Janota. "We are not asking for anything we did not already have before the Homeland War - simply the equal status of the Czech language and culture. We are not even asking that bilingual signs be placed on certain institutions, stores, we are not requesting bilingual street signs. However, we want that the town statute include a sentence about the right to use the Czech language, since in the town we have a Czech kindergarten, Czech school, various associations and we are convinced that we have contributed a lot to education, culture and even economy and therefore deserve that right."
Lenka Janota says that she has the impression that Czechs in Daruvar were surprised by such a response of the town administration. "We never even considered the possibility that we would be treated as second class citizens. However, once these surveys started, counting the number of Czech employees, we have been placed in a situation we consider to be offensive. Every person has the right to feel like a member of an ethnic minority, and ethnicity should not be a factor in employment. The focus should be on professionalism. Therefore, now when I walk around the town I increasingly have a feeling of being a member of the Czech minority, and not of being an ordinary resident of Daruvar. Consequently, I am not sure if the Czech minority belongs here or now," Janota says.
The report about the implementation of the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages published by the Council of Europe after the second follow up in September of 2005 also indicates that rights of Czechs and Serbs in Daruvar are endangered. The report mentions that in Daruvar, "as far as the Czech language and Serb [Cyrillic] alphabet are concerned, they are barely in use". "Also they cannot be used in official communication with state and local authorities."
According to local rumors, mayor Cegledi is responsible for everything. Allegedly he has been heard stating that while he is mayor Serbian language and Serb songs will not be heard on Radio Daruvar. Given his statement quoted at the beginning of this article, that the number of Serbs in Daruvar has been significantly reduced "to the satisfaction of all of us, I am convinced", it is not difficult to believe that the rumors are true.