Chair of the East Notts Travellers Association, Vicky Botton, describes her experience of discrimination and violence against gypsies in the UK.
Vicky refers to the ‘gadje’ in her film. This is a Romani term meaning ‘non-gypsy.’
[Vicky is sitting in her home, talking direct to camera]
I married into this walk of life. So my ways was more non-traveller, if you know what I mean. And then I met my husband. I had unfortunate occurrence of my son taking drugs, and I didn’t know where to turn. And that was the start of my campaigning – was not being able to go to a door, not being able to get help, but it’s getting rid of the discrimination firstly. It’s blatant.
You can’t get a taxi; you know, one disabled woman, gypsy woman the other day even – ‘Yes I’ll take you but I want paying first.’ And she said, ‘I beg your pardon?’ She says, ‘You think I’m going to run away without paying you?’ She says, ‘Keep your taxi. I’ll walk.’
I’ve been in a shop and there’s been a young group of travelling girls come in, looking at the make-up, giggling like you do, and when they’ve left the shop without purchasing, the man who owned the shop said to his customer at that given time, he says, ‘See them, those bloody gypsies,’ he says, ‘I have to watch them like a hawk when they come in here,’ he says, ‘because they thieve my stock.’ I was incensed. I said ‘Excuse me,’ I says, ‘I’m a gypsy.’ I says, ‘I pay for what I get in life.’
Short years ago we came under attack. And we had a mob of about eighty to a hundred strong come and attack us. They had a task and that was to find two particular people and one was a travelling man who ended up being run over, having his head gashed open and having a blood clot on the brain. He had a spade buried in his brain and side. His wife and children were all ripped up and then they came down here.
[Vicky is now outside, pointing out where the mob had been]
There was men spilling over the embankment, and they was shouting what they were going to do to the women and the young girls. And the women and children were running; a shot went off, or two. Now if we just look beyond here, down here at the bottom, that entrance down there is the only way in and the only way off. So you can imagine being cornered like that, that’s how we were when the invasion took place.
And it was terrifying. And my husband’s mouth saved us. And he said to them, ‘What have I done to yous? I’ve played golf with you. I’ve taken you out to work with me’ – to different individuals, who had to drop their head in shame. But they were fuelled with drink and some with drugs, and there was one guy – and I don’t care saying it on camera – one guy that I recognised as a service provider and he was the one with the starting pistol. And it was he who was letting it off. But if he’d pointed that at any of us, he’d have blown a hole right through our faces. And I complained for the very first time in my life. And I stood up to that, and that was the first time ever. Meaningful.
You know, we lost a lot of Roma, Gypsy people, with Hitler. And you’d think that because of that kind of treatment that things would have changed before now. And I think the only thing now is that there’s still that rot, that underlying hatred of Gypsy people. Not everybody thinks like that; I’ve met nice people, but what have they learned?
And it’s like I say, you know, and said many times, why do people think that we’re aliens and we’ve dropped from the sky? We’re not, we’re human. And, you know, we eat the same as you, we breath the same the same as you and we bleed the same as you.
The sad thing is, no matter what I’ve done in life, and how I’ve tried my utmost to make changes and get those bridges crossed and what have you, to make things better – for us, and for a better understanding of the Gadje community, you still, and we still get discrimination on a daily basis. We still suffer it. So….