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Golden Band Prize 2015

I have two golden bands on my forehead: one is for my Gypsy self, the other is for my Hungarian self.’ The citation come from Kovács József Hontalan, a Roma poet who wear proudly both of his bands. The Roma Press Center identifies with these words which inspired the establishment of the Golden Band Prize.

The prize goes to an everyday Roma hero, who is active, beloved and widely recognized in his community, while is also successful in his job – may he be a butcher, a bus driver, a postman, a doctor or a hairdresser. While reaching out to the nominees  we found exceptional Roma people from all around Hungary – everyday heroes whom we all can be proud of.

Miklósné Arató

Arato Miklosne 1

’I have always loved reading, and I always wanted more. I learnt from books that an ostrich exists, that there is a building called the Eiffel tower, and a continent called America. I decided that even though I have children, I will start my studies.”

She was working on a lumber yard, clinching boxes. Today she works in the Sántha Kálmán Hospital in Nyíregyháza as the matron of the geriatric psychiatry ward, taking care of 85 patients, coordinating the work of 35 people. She has been working in health care for fifteen years.

’What is success? For me it is when a patient can sit or walk again.’

Erzsébet Bacsiné Balogh
factory worker


’I studied on my knees, at the light of an oil lamp, my grandchildren will do it on a desk at lamplight. I was living at the edge of the forest, my children are living in comfortable flats in the city.’

She is working az a semi-skilled factory worker. In her free time she seeks justice as a volunteer side judge and translates poems and stories to boyash. As the masterpieces of her life, she mentions her four children.

Ibolya Balogh
kindergarden teacher


’My father was bright as the sun! And my illiterate mother had this strict maternal instinct which came with warm, peaceful wisdom which equaled my father’s lexical knowledge.’

She works with poor, mostly Roma children. The kindergarten has a warm, familial atmosphere where as around a hen  gather the chilren around Ibolya. ’This is the island of peace’ – she says and creates a better world for the children with fairytales made up by herself.

Károly Ganyi
IT specialist


’For me it doesn’t matter who is Roma and who is not, I help all of the sick children. I emphasize it because I have had bad experiences in health care because of my origin. But I’d rather forget that and I don’t want to waste more time talking about it.’

The 31-years-old IT specialist was born with a rare disease: his bones are so fragile that a simple handshake can break his hand. Computer and the Internet brought a huge change and new possibilities in his life. Thanks to an online fundraising campaign, now he is able to move freely  in his wheelchair. In return for all the love and help he received, he started a charity website where he raises money for severely ill children.

Barnabás István Katona
social worker

Katona Istvan

’I keep my eyes open to seek  possibilities to help more and more. I studied so that I can help others.’

Empowering children is not only a part of his job, but also his avocation: he spends his free time with educating them. His students coming from unprivileged families perform well on national sports competitions. His hobby is hairdressing and – besides all the work with the children –  it is his remaining dream to once pursue it as a profession.

Júlia Lakatos
baker, confectioner

Pogacsas Julcsi

’I taught my children – and this is what motivates me too – that if people long ago could build the life we are living out of nothing, than we can do it as well. We can not disgrace them.’

Júlia would be the ideal model for an illustrator who draws the cheerful baker lady for a story-book. Each day she wakes up early in the morning but she is always full of energy and has a smile for everyone. She is famous for her home-made biscuits but according to her customers, she is equally great in community building.

Kálmán Lakatos
caretaker, repairman

Lakatos Kalman

’This is what my mother taught me: we should be accepted for our work and integrity. We are never late from an appointment and we always keep our word. Acknowledgement We do not consider money as acknowledgement, but when they call us back, to work for them again.’

Kálmán is a handyman: he amends everything that breaks down. Sometimes also human relationships, among Roma and non-Roma children, when he takes Roma youngsters from the 8th district to practice squash in Buda. He has been living in Budapest only for two years with his wife, but he already knows almost everyone by name in his district.

József Orsós
bus driver trainer

Orsos Jozsef

’I am lucky for sitting here in a suit, but I would be the same person if I would be wearing a boilersuit. A lot of people doesn’t get the chance they would deserve even though they are destined for more then what fate offers them.’

He started to work in a mine, continued in an operating room, he used to drive buses, and now he teaches 1200 people in the central office of regional transportation. Even preconceived passengers can’t get a rise out of him, though during his 13 years as a bus driver he had some harsh experiences. A long way lead to peacefulness.

Béla Rácz
locksmith, construction worker


’When I was an apprentice, my classmates were fond of the bodag (’Gipsy bread’) I frequently had with me, and were happy to exchange it for their sandwiches. The village was a solidary community until ’90. It as then when distinction started.’

With his construction brigade he won recognition on numerous constructions of great volume after the change of regime in 1990. The facade of Víg Theater commemorates Béla’s and his group’s highly qualified, diligent work.

József Horváth
molecular geneticist

Horvath Jozsef2

’My childhood friends from the settlement became drug addicts. But I am not ashamed of where I come from, I am proud of it, I am proud of them.  This is why I did my first research about drugs.’
He grew up in a Roma settlement. He has been working since the age of 10, at the beginning on constructions. A dragon tatto decorates his roboust, hidden by a white coat during the day. The 26-years-old PhD student is working on a unique diagnostical procedure which aims to support  the early detection of oral cancer.

originally published on 444.hu


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