Art helps Roma children dream again in Hungary

Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:00pm EDT
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By Krisztina Than

BERETTYOUJFALU, Hungary (Reuters) - In a classroom in this impoverished corner of eastern Hungary, children draw pictures of an imaginary village filled with colorful houses where Roma and non-Roma families live in harmony and people have enough money to get by.

When the class ends in the town of Berettyoujfalu, some 270 km east of the Hungarian capital, pupils go home to their real-life village, Told, where houses have no running water or sewage and illiteracy is often a problem among the mostly Roma families who live there.

A small art class brings little change to the dire poverty that plagues hundreds of thousands of people in Hungary, but that does not stop a few activists from trying such programs in the most destitute areas of the country.

A lucky few children do end up better off as a result.

Istvan Otvos, 15, started drawing four years ago. Last year he and another pupil had a chance to go to Portugal where they won a prize at an international art contest.

From September he hopes to enroll at one of Hungary's best secondary schools, run by the Catholic church.

"This is a fantasy bird, a kind of fairytale bird," Otvos said, showing off his painting of a huge golden peacock-like bird depicted against a bright blue sky.

"I'd like to make something better with my life through drawing," he said with a timid smile.   Continued...

Istvan Otvos, a Hungarian Roma student taught by the Igazgyongy (Pearl) art education foundation, holds up his painting in his home in Hencida village, eastern Hungary, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh