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Unwelcome at Home

As an impressionable five-year-old, Tomáš Kačo recalls with shining clarity the moment when his father sat him down at the piano and taught him the three songs he knew, tapping the keys with three fingers.

24 years later, Kačo, receives a full scholarship from the Bakala Foundation to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Tomáš Kačo is a jazz pianist. 

He is also Roma.

Roma people, also known as gypsies, face immense prejudice in Europe, especially in the Czech Republic. Roma are described as thieves, mooches, deadbeats. 

One of 12 siblings, Kačo is very close with his family, but only sees them for less than a few weeks each year. Kačo has a decision to make after he completes his studies in Boston. Does he stay in the United States or return home? Being with his family in the Czech Republic also means returning to a country which views him with hostility.  

This story is a collaboration with Iva Roze.

Kačo and his sister perform traditional Roma songs at a local coffee shop in his home town, Nový Jičín. 

"I don't know how they can actually recognize that you are a gypsy, but they know it, so the confrontation is everyday." 

 –Tomáš Kačo

Kačo is a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. When he graduates next year, he will be one of the first Czechs to receive a diploma from the highly competitive program.

Nový Jičín is a town of 26,000 in the Czech Republic. It is over 300km East of Prague, near the Polish and Slovak border.

Kačo (far left) and his family during a birthday celebration.

Kačo sits with his family in their kitchen during his short visit from school. 

While Kačo's parents are supportive of his musical dreams in the United States, it is bittersweet. He is so far from home. 

Music is a large priority in the home. Here, Kačo's brother plays piano in the hallway.

"In the US they don't judge you. If I say that I am gypsy, they like it. At first they don't know what it is. They want to learn about it, because it's so mysterious."  

Tomáš Kačo

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