We founded this site to complain about Barbarism in a sort of a macro sense, Bento, but what happens when we see a special sort of barbarism closer to home? I think we have to blog that, as well. So I got this email, which I copy below, and it made me very cross indeed. A more hateful, ignorant, maliciously scaremongering piece of third-hand, clumsily manipulative, busybody, illiberal, racist, crypto-fascist claptrap I never yet read.
It tells of a trio of “scruffily dressed”, cackling, swarthy, child-stealing gypsies, who, had it not been for a mysterious “witness” who subsequently disappears, would have got away with a Dastardly Deed, amid more cackling. The story, hilariously, comes to us “second-hand by the mother’s neighbour”. It would be merely amusing were there not a special political context to it; the anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party have gained ground in the latest elections, and more and more I notice a harder edge to the previously generous Swiss treatment of foreigners. Gypsies are particularly out of favour, for some reason.
It comes to me from a friend (who should know better) who was sent it by one of her friends at the American Women’s Club of Geneva. The idea of this organisation has always filled me with a special sort of horror. In my less charitable moments I think of them as a bunch of menopausal harpies from the Stepford Wives (the terrible one starring Glenn Close, not the cool original starring Ali McGraw).
Then I think, no Baruch, keep an open mind; it is hard enough being an expat as it is, no doubt these monoglottal matrons find harmless comfort in a strange land in each others’ company, just as vultures huddle together on cold cliffside ledges in the Atlas Mountains (or wherever). Then I get stuff like this and my sympathy disappears. No matter, enough of the introduction, I leave it for you to judge. Read on.
Dear Mr Gyr & Ms Wright,
I am writing to let you know of an incident which happened last weekend
right outside our apartment complex in Vessy/Veyrier.We live in an apartment complex which comprises of a square made up of
four blocks each looking into the square’s communal gardens. Last Sunday,
at approximately 5.30 p.m. a girl aged 8 who lives in the apartment block
was in the communal garden area playing (other children where there –
parents have, until now, left children to cycle, scooter, play in the area
as they can look out of their windows and see them). She was at one corner
of the gardens (which backs onto a small side road which leads to Ch. la
Tour de Pinchat) waiting for her mother who had just gone 350 metres to pick
up another of her children from a party.Three scruffily dressed gypsy type women, apparently told her that she
looked like a child that needed some food and threw a blanket around her,
and hustled her out onto the busier Ch de la Tour de Pinchat. They then
pushed her down the road and back towards the entrance to our apartment
complex where we have a small shop/patisserie and the parking. It was
there, and presumably because the girl was struggling/complaining that a
gentleman intervened and asked what was going on. The gypsy women fled,
presumably into a car, because the mother of the child was returning (with
no idea of what had just happened) and remembers seeing 3 swarthy looking
women driving erratically and talking animatedly as she was walking back to
the apartments. Unfortunately the gentleman who intervened did not stay to
find the mother/report anything, and left.
The police were called and seemed very “casual” about the whole thing.
They commented that they have problems with the “gypsies from the Annemasse”
area and warned the mother to be careful. I don’t know what else they are
doing, as this has been told to me second-hand by the mother’s neighbour.
They mentioned that the gypsies are responsible for a lot of the burglaries
in the Geneva area and I have heard stories, via other mothers of attempts
to snatch in Rive and in Etrembieres. Our “safe” Geneva is becoming less
so, and I think parents should be warned to be vigilant.
We are all reeling from the shock, needless to say, all the kids now have
to go out accompanied by an adult where as for the last 11 years that I have
been here, they have played freely (and safely) in the garden square.
The LGB campus (and indeed any school campus) could be a target in future
and it would be so simple to hustle a child straight out onto a tram to
Moillesulaz. There are so many “casual workers” of different nationalities
working on building sites (perhaps LGB’s included) that one can never be too
careful. I urge you to look at providing more supervision for the campus in
general and especially at play times for both the primary and middle
schools. I have often driven into campus at a time which coincides with
play time and seen the playground supervisors in primary school grouped
together talking. Shouldn’t they be “stationed” at various points? The
whole object is to supervise the children, not to have a staff “chit chat.”
Additionally, as winter draws in, the mass exodus down the ramp at middle
school, in the dark, worries me as I know some children have told their
parents they are going to attend homework club and are in fact hopping on
the tram down town to Starbucks……….aged 11/12.
I am sending a copy of this e mail to the parents of 7A as I am co-class
mother. I will also send it to 3B’s class mothers and any other parents I
have on my e mail but I would urge you to get this circulated to all parents
and anyone else on the school campus staff that you think appropriate. I
feel that the general police attitude is not to create panic, but I think
that this is an issue where people have a right to know that this is going
on especially in light of the high profile Madeleine McCann case. It’s no
use closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, and I personally
would not be able to live with my conscience if I knew that a child had been
snatched recently and I had not alerted people to the incident last weekend.
Before sending this, I discussed the issue with a couple of other parents
who agreed and supported my idea to send out an e mail so I am not alone in
I look forward to your comments,