Don’t you call us ”pikeys”

I’m writing about one of our ethinc minorities. The travellers. We don’t speak in any way different from other people, at least not when they can hear us. Very little is written about our language, and it’s only spoken behind closed doors. Most of the time we don’t reveal who we are.

”The travellers, who are they”, some people say to themselves now. ”Mission accomplished”, the Swedish state chuckles heartily, and scratches its belly. It chuckles like a wicked Santa who’s hidden some of the christmas presents. Those that he put together after a bottle of vodka and a case of lager with his little helpers, they go in the bottom of the sack, where no-one are supposed to find them. Things that seemed like really good ideas at the time, but look atrocious now.

”Pikeys. That’s what they called us in the orphanage. We often recieved a beating, and whenever things were stolen, we always got the blame. It was in our blood, they said.”

The man I’m speaking to were abducted by the authorities as a child, and was put in an orphanage, because his parents were travellers. He laughs a lot when we talk of his family, and of memories from the days when he used to work. But when I ask about the things that came to pass his voice gets weaker. ”It was important to me that nobody knew who I was. My children would never have to go through what I did.”

An investigative reporter from a well-known tv program contacted him as part of his research. The reporter showed him a list, a ”pikey inventory”, that the city of Gothenburg had conducted from the 1940’s onwards. The original purpose was to hand it over to the Germans, were they ever to occypy Sweden, to fill the concentration camps. His whole family was listed.

We talk about how his whole childhood he lived devoid of love and care, under conditions similar to those in a prison camp. Pushed around, neglected, despised. He shows me a picture from when he was a little boy. It’s the only picture he’s got. A frightened little boy in clothes that don’t fit. He’s the same age as my son in the picture. Suddenly, I find it hard to breathe.

I see a grown man, wise and experienced, and with a heart of gold. The thought of how such a wonderful human being has been treated fills me with rage.

He is one of those who encourage me to write. Many others ask me to remain silent. We know our history, but we don’t know our future and our confidence in the benevolence of the state is dead and buried since many generations. What Sweden has done to the traveller children meets the criteria of the 1948 UN convention on genocide, but the history books are all but silent. It is totally unacceptable that society now pretends nothing ever happened. The state chuckles on, and pushes us further down the sack in the hope that in time everybody who can remember will have died, so they can send some flowers and their condolances.

Don’t you call us ”pikeys”. It’s me, my family and my friends you are talking about. And we’ve had it with the shit you’ve put us through.

Linda Lundqvist on Twitter (in Swedish):