I have been writing extensively about Josef, Timea and Lulu Pusuma, a Roma Jewish family taking refuge in a Toronto church. I have done so because I feel it is our responsibility to help save them from being deported to Budapest, where they were brutally attacked by neo-Nazis, a place described in the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University as full of “hate crimes, racist propaganda, discrimination and exclusionary ideologies. The centre’s report calls Hungary “pre-genocidal.”
The report adds there is a need for “vigorous early assessment of the risk of violence and for measures to ensure the physical and psychological safety of the Roma and other minority groups.”
What is happening in Hungary is not something that can be ignored, yet much of the Toronto mainstream Jewish community is doing exactly that. Where are the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Jewish federations and B’nai Brith on this issue? Why are March of the Living and Birthright participants not forming committees for change with members of Holocaust-related organizations and every shul, synagogue and temple in Canada as Hungary disintegrates into hate and our country deports hundreds of Roma to villages targeted by neo-Nazi styled paramilitary groups?
I challenge you to establish those committees immediately, and if you do not, explain to your donors and members why you feel so safe.
Not a single Jew should be unaware that a statue was recently erected in the centre of Budapest honouring Miklós Horthy, Hitler’s boy in Hungary responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews and Roma. Every Jew needs to know that in 2013, a Hungarian political party encouraged its paramilitary wing to take control of the village Gyöngyöspata, and has called for “public order protection camps” from which the Roma will need permission to leave.
Attend an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hearing of a Roma family about to be deported back. Hear their stories and decide how democratic and safe Hungary is for its minorities and whether it is acceptable that the Harper government is sending Roma back, en masse. Where are you?
I asked Josef and Timea Pusuma to address you. Here is what they said:
Josef: “My father was a Jew. He played in a Roma and klezmer band. We lived in a Jewish area. I am worried about the Roma and Jewish people in Hungary. They are both alien people.
“Hungarian people say, ‘This country is our country. It is a white country.’ I have seen many examples of anti-Semitism. It is everywhere. Hungary is not a real democracy.
“If I had the opportunity to speak to the Jewish community of Canada, I would say, ‘Do not forget the Hungarian Jewish group or Hungarian Roma. If you lived in Budapest today, even one month, and you go into a store, you’ll hear such things as f…ing Jews. I kill you. Go back on the trains. Adolph Hitler started one program… but not enough.’”
Timea: “I was connected with the work of noted defenders of human rights. I met older people who had returned from the barracks of Birkenau. Their stories changed my life, and I wanted to help them. I took part in organizing Holocaust memorial days. I dreamt I could help establish a more just society in my own country with decent employment and wages and free education.
“It is so important Canadian Jewish group helps the Hungarian group. It is so important that Canada makes ‘open door,’ not just for Roma, but for Jews, too. I want to have Canadian life. Canadian people are so beautiful. I want my daughter, Lulu, to play here and play with children of so many cultures. In Hungary, my teachers said I was stupid. I was not in a normal class. Canada is my home. It is my country.
“It is very hard. We have not gone outside in 27 months. I told my daughter when we are free, we will give to you everything. It is so important that we are free already.”
Please go to freelulu.ca and consider signing the petition to gain the Pusumas temporary residency and have them receive a fair hearing. We said we would!