Although there are many slums across Europe, few think to ask how they came to be and how their inhabitants live out their daily lives there. One particularly poignant example of a slum is the area of huts and shacks underneath the Gazela motorway bridge in the heart of the Serbian capital Belgrade. This tour guide is dedicated to the depiction of a place that casts light on the recent history of the Romani people in South Eastern Europe with particular vividness. The book provides important basic information on the social and economic structures within the settlement and uncovers the many and various ways in which its inhabitants are marginalised and discriminated against.
“I often used to travel past places like this on the bus, and I used to ask myself how anybody could live there. After a while, however, you get used to it.” (A resident of Gazela) In Belgrade there are around 150 settlements which could be referred to as slums. It is not possible to estimate their exact number, yet they are an all too obvious part of everyday life in Belgrade. One particularly poignant example of these Belgrade slums is the settlement under the Gazela motorway bridge. Every day tens of thousands of people drive past this shanty town of huts and shacks in the heart of the city, yet very few have taken the time to visit the settlement, get to know its inhabitants and think about how they live their lives. Very little information is available on the development of and conditions in these slums. There are several publications about the history of the Roma people in Serbia, but these should be handled cautiously as most contain very little in the way of specific data and evidence. The authors of this book took a more thorough approach, interviewing politicians, sociologists and representatives of aid organisations and Romani organisations, visiting the settlement and speaking to the inhabitants. The book starts with a focus on the practical aspects and daily life in Gazela and in the second part goes on to attempt an assessment of the social problems of the inhabitants and of their integration, or lack of it, into Serbian society.