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Roma News August 2021

LIVE BROADCAST TODAY AT NOON: Commemorative ceremony at Lety u Písku

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 1st August that on that day, Sunday, 1 August, at 12:00 CET the traditional commemorative ceremony honoring the Romani victims of Nazism would be held at the site of the unmarked burial ground for the victims of the WWII-era concentration camp at Lety u Písku, Czech Republic. ROMEA TV said that it would be broadcasting live.

"Esteemed friends, the members of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust would like to invite you to our traditional commemorative ceremony dedicated to the Romani victims of Nazism. For a second year, thanks to the former administration of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, we are able to organize this ceremony, with the support of the Czech Ministry of Culture, in a more dignified setting at the burial site for the members of our families who were prisoners of the concentration camp near near the village of Lety u Písku," read the invitation that had been sent to news server Romea.cz by the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, Čeněk Růžička. 

 

At remembrance event, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust says Okamura is one of the Czech politicians agitating against Romani people

On 2nd August Romea.cz/en reported that on that day, at the site of the unmarked burial ground for some of the prisoners of the WWII-era concentration camp at Lety u Písku, the traditional commemorative ceremony dedicated to the Romani victims of Nazism had been held. It was said that the event was usually held on 13 May, but this year, according to organizer Čeněk Růžička, it had been held on the later date in August because the COVID-19 pandemic had made it too difficult to hold in May, the second year in a row it has had to be postponed. 

ROMEA TV reported that it was broadcasting the ceremony live online and that Růžička, who chairs the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic (VPORH), had warned against populist parties in his opening remarks.

It was noted that in his view, several politicians were resorting to casting aspersions against Romani people in the runup to the autumn elections to the Chamber of Deputies because they believed it will bring them success. He specifically criticized the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement and its chair, Tomio Okamura, but was also said to have commented that candidates from other parties were resorting to the tactic as well.

 

 

LIVE: "Leperiben: We Do Not Forget" - Prague ceremony honoring Romani victims of the Holocaust will include reading of their names

On 2nd August Romea.cz/en reported that on that day the third annual ceremony honouring the Holocaust of the Roma (Porajmos) would be held in Prague. It was noted that during the evening programme, organisers would be recalling the tragic events of 2 and 3 August 1944 when the fate of some of those imprisoned in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp had been decided. 

It was noted that the Nazis murdered the final prisoners of what was called the "Gypsy Family Camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau on those dates and that more than 4 000 Romani and Sinti people from 14 countries were murdered in the gas chambers.

 

Czech Bishops Conference distances itself from candidates running with extremists

On 3rd August Romea.cz/en reported that Jan Graubner, the Archbishop of Olomouc who chairs the Czech Bishops Conference (ČBK), had announced on 27 July through the ČBK website that the political positions of candidates associated with the Catholic Church who were running with extremist parties for the Chamber of Deputies this autumn did not represent the church's position. Jiří Prinz, spokesperson for the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka, was reported as telling the Czech News Agency that Duka identifies with the ČBK chair's statement.  

It was noted thsat Hana Lipovská, an economist who had previously been nominated by the ČBK for a seat on the board of public broadcaster Czech Television, had since announced her candidacy for the Volný blok ("Volný/Free Bloc") party, while Josef Nerušil, an employee of the Archbishopric of Prague, is running for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement. "In recent days, as part of campaigns for elections to the Chamber of Deputies, candidates who are associated with the Roman Catholic Church have announced and are running for political groups that have to be considered extremist. This is not something we can stay silent about," Graubner was reported as saying.   

 

Czech President signs law to compensate the victims of illegal sterilizations

On 3rd August Romea.cz/en reported that Czech President Miloš Zeman had that day signed into law the bill passed by the Czech Senate on 22 July 2021 regarding the provision of a one-time payment to persons who had been sterilized unlawfully on Czech territory. It was said that the news had been published on the website of the Office of the President.

It was noted that the battle to achieve compensation for the victims of illegal sterilizations was finally over after many years. It was further noted that suspicions that primarily Romani women had still being subjected to forced sterilization in the Czech Republic were raised in 2004 by the European Roma Rights Centre. 

It was reported that dozens of Romani women had then applied to the Public Defender of Rights for relief, while others had turned to the courts.

"This is an historic and joyful day. The women who became the victims of these illegal sterilizations have been meeting for 18 years, and now they have finally seen justice and satisfaction. During this fight the women have had to overcome a great deal of stigmatization and trauma. We also remember those who did not live to see this moment," Kumar Vishwanathan, director of the Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) organization, was reported as telling news server Romea.cz.

 

Czech mobile team has vaccinated about 100 people against COVID-19 at the Mojžíř housing estate and will visit other excluded localities

On 4th August Romea.cz/en reported that at the Mojžíř housing estate in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, local residents had been vaccinated the previous day against COVID-19 with the Johnson & Johnson one-time vaccine provided by a mobile vaccination team from the Regional Health association based at Masaryk Hospital. It was further reported that according to Miroslav Brož of the Konexe organization, which had aided paramedics on the scene, about 100 people had availed themselves of the vaccine.   

"If a sudden thunderstorm hadn't caused the outdoor immunizations to end ahead of time, the number would have been even higher," Brož was reported as telling news server Romea.cz. "Among those interested were people who wanted the vaccine but had been unable to register for it online, older people for whom the travel to the vaccination center was too far, people who needed to travel outside the country, or those who are bothered by having to constantly be tested for the virus. However, there were also people interested who had already survived a serious case of COVID-19 or who knew somebody who had died of it." 

 

Czech court upholds conviction for making dangerous threats after neighbor threatens to kill three Romani women and their children with an axe

On 5th August, Romea.cz/en reported that on Tuesday, 27 July 2021, the Municipal Court in Prague had rejected appeals from both the defendant and the plaintiffs against a first-instance verdict that had been handed down in the case of three Romani women who had been verbally assaulted with racist insults by a neighbor, an altercation that escalated when the neighbour decided to return to her own apartment for an ax, which she had then brandished as she threatened to cut the Romani women and two of their children to pieces, threats that she fortunately had not carried out. It was said that the appeals court had now upheld the verdict of the District Court for Prague 5 finding the defendant guilty of making credibly dangerous threats and sentencing her to a five-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

It was noted that the injured parties had asked to be awarded damages during the criminal proceedings but had been instructed to pursue them as a separate civil claim. Barbora Davidová, a lawyer for the In IUSTITIA organization, which had helped the injured parties with the case, was reported as saying that "The police first categorized it as a misdemeanor, so we then asked the immediate supervising prosecutor to review it, and after he approved of the police approach, we filed a motion for supervision with the next level of prosecutorial supervision, which then ordered that the case be investigated further.”

 

Czech court upholds conviction for making dangerous threats after neighbor threatens to kill three Romani women and their children with an axe

On 5th August, Romea.cz/en reported that on Tuesday, 27 July 2021, the Municipal Court in Prague had rejected appeals from both the defendant and the plaintiffs against a first-instance verdict that had been handed down in the case of three Romani women who had been verbally assaulted with racist insults by a neighbor, an altercation that had escalated when the neighbour had decided to return to her own apartment for an axe, which she had then brandished as she had threatened to cut the Romani women and two of their children to pieces, threats that she had fortunately not carred out. It was noted that the appeals court had now upheld the verdict of the District Court for Prague 5 finding the defendant guilty of making credibly dangerous threats and sentencing her to a five-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

It was also noted that the injured parties had asked to be awarded damages during the criminal proceedings but had been instructed to pursue them as a separate civil claim. Barbora Davidová, a lawyer for the In JUSTTITA organization, which helped the injured parties with the case, was reported to have said that "The police first categorized it as a misdemeanor, so we then asked the immediate supervising prosecutor to review it, and after he approved of the police approach, we filed a motion for supervision with the next level of prosecutorial supervision, which then ordered that the case be investigated further.”

 

LIVE BROADCAST TODAY: Discussion of the case of the death of Stanislav Tomáš, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic

On 6th August Romea.cz/en reported that the House of Arts (Dům umění) at the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, in collaboration with the Konexe association, was holding a thematic afternoon called SO DIKHEA | Džanas te avel jekhetane — Umíme být spolu [We Know How To Be Together]. It was said that the organizers would be presenting examples of Romani culture, music and traditional Romani cuisine.

It was also re[ported that part of the event would be a panel discussion on the Stanislav Tomáš case, which ROMEA TV would broadcast live online with different activities and workshops for children running in parallel during the afternoon. 

LGBT+ members of Romani communities were part of Prague Pride this year, activists introduced program to aid people experiencing multiple discrimination

On 7th August Romea.cz/en reported that the Prague Pride festival had opened on 2 August at the New Town Hall in Prague, Czech Republic with the flying of the rainbow flag and that it ended that day. It was said that the festival aimed to familiarize the public with the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people (LGBT+).

It was also noted that this 11th year of the festival had offered 135 cultural, educational and entertainment events on the subject of coming out, but the traditional parade through Prague had not been held because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ARA ART association was said to have prepared a programme focused on LGBT+ members of the Romani community. The programme was said to have featured an information stand about ARA ART in the Pride Village on Střelecký ostrov, several musical performances, a panel discussion about discrimination against Romani people in the larger LGBT+ community, and a theatrical production.

"We are responding to a critical situation among the LGBT+ members of Romani communities, who constitute a minority that is targeted by different forms of disadvantage and multiple discrimination that exclude them from measures and policies on inclusion and integration. The peripheral position of these community members intensifies their vulnerability and increases the risk of their being subjected to hate speech, stigmatization, homophobia and total social non-acceptance," David Tišer, director of the ARA ART organization and author of its project to make LGBT+ members of the Romani community more visible, was reported as saying in a press release sent to news server Romea.cz.  

 

Grandson of famous Czechoslovak partisan from the Romani community says his grandfather was a hero

On 8th August Romea.cz/en reported that Josef Serinek (1900-1974) had been imprisoned together with his family in the concentration camp for Romani people at Lety during the Second World War, and that ROMEA TV had about that history. Josef Serinek had managed to escape and he had then become a member of the anti-Nazi resistance and commander of their Čapajev division. 

It was noted that this year Josef Serinek had been given a posthumous award in Plzeň for his contribution to democracy and freedom and that Zdeněk Serinek had accepted the award on his behalf. 

It was reported that Jarmila Balážová of ROMEA TV had interviewed the grandson about his now famous partisan ancestor. "I was surprised when they contacted me from Plzeň to ask whether I would receive the award on behalf of my granddad. Naturally I promised to attend because I believe it is both my civic duty to do so and a family obligation, given what I have been gradually learning about granddad's activity during the Second World War, how he experienced what he had to live through and how hard his life was," Zdeněk Serinek was reported as telling ROMEA TV.    

 

Czech lower house elections see 22 groups in the running, no Romani-profiled parties among them

On 9th August Romea.cz/en reported that in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies in the Czech Republic this year, voters would choose from candidates running for 22 different groups, roughly one-third fewer than during the same elections four years ago. Last time 31 movements and parties submitted candidate lists. 

The Czech News Agency was said to have surveyed regional authorities and Prague City Hall to compile the total number for this year and that the deadline for nominations ended on 3 August at 16:00. 

It was noted that as in previous years, not all groups were fielding candidates in all regionsand that the Roma Democratic Party (Romská demokratická strana - RDS), the only Romani-profiled party that is officially registered, would not field candidates this year. 

 

Woman says intercity bus driver in northern Czech town racially abused her and called for the death of all Roma before physically throwing her onto a road

On 10th August Romea.cz/en reported that in Most, Czwech Republic, police were investigating an incident that had happened on Thursday, 4 August on bus no. 30 of the Litvínov and Most Public Transit Company. It was said that Růžena Horvátová alleged she had been both verbally and physically assaulted by a driver on that line. 

It was noted that the driver was said to have first attacked her verbally before the entire incident had culminated in his using force to throw her out of the bus. It was also noted that she alleged that he had shouted racist insults at her the entire time.

"When I got on the bus I bought a ticket from the driver for CZK 17 [EUR 0.67]. When I asked for my three crowns in change, he said he didn't have it. Moreover, he began to verbally abuse me, saying that I am rude, that I hadn't greeted him and that we are all rude, that we should be sent to the gas chambers and that a Hitler was needed to deal with us," Horváthová was noted as describing the experience in an interview on the Facebook social network for the SOS Investigative Counseling Center (SOS Investigativní poradnu).

"When I attempted to photograph him he slammed on the brakes, stood up, walked over and grabbed the phone out of my hand. I grabbed it back. Then he grabbed me by the arm and threw me out of the bus. I hit the railing there in the road. The driver then closed the bus door and drove away.” 

 

Czech Pirates sharply criticize bill to toughen welfare eligibility, delaying a vote

On 11th August Romea.cz/en reported that the previous week in the Czech Chamber of Deputies the vote on a bill submitted by the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement to toughen eligibility criteria for the welfare benefit of aid to those in material distress had once again been accompanied by disputes during the floor debate between MPs for the Pirates and those for the SPD, which is chaired by Czech MP Tomio Okamura, with critics of the proposed amendments alleging they could harm tens of thousands of people, including people living with disabilities and senior citizens. It was also noted that during the 6 August session, as during the previous week, no vote on the form of the proposed amendment had been taken. 

It was noted that Okamura had announced that the SPD would attempt to hold another extraordinary session on the legislation and that he had also alleged that the Pirates were blocking his bill because they support "inadaptables". 

It was reported that that term, or rather its German original "unanpassungsfähig", had been used by the Nazis to label the groups of people whom they had then sent to extermination camps. Pirate MP Ondřej Profant was reported to have said during the floor debate that adoption of the amendment could harm pensioners or people suffering from schizophrenia.

 

Slovak President and Plenipotentiary for Roma object to wave of hate and racism following announcement of Pope's visit to Romani neighbourhood

On 11th August Romea.cz/en reported that Andrea Bučková, the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities, had expressed her regret and her great disappointment at the statements made by both politicians and regular citizens about the planned visit of Pope Francis to Košice's Luník IX housing estate, according to a press release issued by Michal Šlechta of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities on 5 August. It was said that the Plenipotentiary had been responding to a wave of commentaries on social media featuring hateful or racist remarks about the Romani communities at the housing estate. 

"Only somebody who knows nothing about the life and work of Pope Francis could react like that. The Holy Father has always been close to people who live on the periphery and Luník IX is exactly such a periphery of Košice," the Plenipotentiary said in her press release.  

It was said that Bučková had also expressed her appreciation for the decision by the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia and the Vatican to have the Pope visit people living in challenging conditions and had said that she was convinced the Pope's visit will move the community forward. "This papal visit will have a positive impact on people's spiritual lives and I believe Romani people in Slovakia will not allow it to be debased by these hateful, racist comments," the Plenipotentiary was reported to have added.

 

 Romani college and high school students motivate Romani pupils in excluded localities of the Czech Republic to continue their studies

On 14th August Romea.cz/en reported that in the year 2019, the scholarship recipients in ROMEA's program for Romani college and high school students had had an idea that brilliantly matched the programme's philosophy. It was noted that they had wanted to motivate Romani pupils living in excluded localities to continue their educations, because they themselves knew how complicated it could be to exit the vicious circle of undereducation and underemployment.

"These children have no such role models. It's too bad, because some of them have talent and a longing to show what they can do. They just don't have anybody to look up to or to discuss their dreams with," one scholarship recipient was reported as saying after participating in the first such motivational meeting in the Předlice neighborhood of Ústí nad Labem. 

 

Austria's Die Presse: Covert racism is why Europe's Roma are worse off after COVID-19 pandemic

On 15th August Romea.cz/en reported that the crisis around the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting Europe's Romani people. It was noted that their pre-existing problems with access to education, employment or health care services had been distinctly intensified over the last year and a half.

It was further reported that Austira's daily newspaper Die Presse had reported that deeply-rooted antipathy among majority populations toward Romani people was the reason. It wassaid that Czech Radio Plus had now reported on the Die Presse findings. 

In February, Noah Leidinger was said to have been performing his civil service abroad in Bulgaria and had told Die Presse he could not believe his eyes when he first entered a ghetto inhabited by Romani people in Sofia. "I may have known about the conditions in such ghettos from narratives and photos, but to see it in reality is actually an absolutely different experience," he described.

 

LIVE BROADCAST TODAY: Commemorative ceremony at the memorial to the Holocaust and its Romani victims in Hodonín u Kunštátu, Czech Republic

It was reported by Romea.cz/en on Wednesday, 18 August 2021, that a commemorative gathering would be held to honour the memories of the Romani victims of the Holocaust at the Hodonín u Kunštátu Memoral to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Moravia. It was said that the commemoration would begin in the Atrium of the Memorial at 11:00, with mustic performed by Zdeněk Lázok and singing by Pavlína Matiová. 

 

Romani NGOs in Czech Republic's Liberec Region issue statement on events in the runup to the October elections, warn against ultra-right violence

 

On 18th August Romea.cz/en reported that several Romani NGOs had issued a statement on 12 August assessing the developments in the Liberec Region of the Czech Republic ahead of the October elections, the discussion within the Romani community there, and had taken a stand regarding other NGOs and state institutions. News server Romea.cz published the statement in full translation as follows:

 

Statement by Romani organizations working in the Liberec Region

The runup to the elections is creating a great deal of room for raising different subjects for discussion in society. The political parties are reaching out to their (potential) voters in different ways - rallies, meetings, and recently, making ever more frequent use of social media. During these pre-election battles, the opinions of their adherents and opponents clash. Friction over economic and social themes is generated. In short, this is a component of the runup to the vote. Eventually, the winner will decide how to run this country for the next four years. 

The fact of the elections naturally also concerns the lives of Romani people, including how the governing set will approach the process of integrating us into society. For that reason, different small groups of Romani people organize themselves to discuss which candidates and parties to vote for, and they do so ever more frequently through social media, the new public space. We should all remember this and uphold the basic ethical and social rules for such discussions in a public space. 

In recent weeks, our colleagues have noticed different political discussions among Romani people related to the vision of how the integration of Romani people into society should transpire in the years to come and who should play a key role in that process. Our colleagues have nothing against such debates; however, we do stand for the need to follow ethics rules during these discussions. 

We condemn all incitement to violence and the exploitation of political rallies to violently advocate for political opinions, ethnic intolerance, or racism - including reverse racism. It is necessary to warn against those who support such behavior and who are convening and organizing "Romani" resistance groups. 

We therefore absolutely categorically condemn the behavior of one of the members of the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region and others affiliated with that person. More than once, some members of that organization have radically strived to promote themselves at others' expense by lying, by absolutely undermining any collaboration among the Romani organizations in the Liberec Region, and by exploiting socially sensitive subjects for their own self-promotion. 

It is up to that association's board and its founders to decide whether it is appropriate to distance themselves from such members and to no longer collaborate with them, mainly because that association concentrates on community work and recreational activities, which means the children and youth with whom they work could be influenced by such behavior.   

The Liberec Region has long endeavored to enforce clear measures to integrate Romani people both socially and societally so that this process will continually be perfected and involve more Romani people. In the city of Liberec and throughout the Liberec Region, Romani people live relatively well. This is an industrial part of the country where Romani people have opportunities for a good quality of life in terms of employment, housing, and education. That situation also applies in other towns throughout the region.  

The Association of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region welcomes this collaboration with crucial partners in the integration process for Romani people and is not interested in supporting those who are doing their best to disrupt that process. These individuals are shattering the groups of Romani people living in the Liberec Region, undermining the position of the authorities, and such individuals, who are attempting to get publicity through their live broadcats on social media, who are endeavoring to attract radically-inclined Romani people to their side, who do not honor the principles of ROMIPEN and who humiliate the Romani nation - such individuals will not be tolerated. They do not fully realize what they are doing - they are placing Romani people in a situation of the imminent danger that could arise through the influence of extremist groups who are nationalists or neo-Nazis.  

The Association of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region also will not support those who are trying to advocate for their own self-interest, unjustifiably, to the detriment of the Romani people living here. We are also calling on Romani people themselves who live in the Liberec Region, on political representatives, and on public institutions of both non-Romani and Romani life to distance themselves from such individuals and to sharply condemn their behavior.   

All of the representatives of the Association of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region and the other representatives of the undersigned groups are for rational dialogue between those involved with associations, with politically active groups, and with the public. We unequivocally condemn all violence, hatred, and irrational dialogue. For that reason, we use the slogan of our friends and supporters:  "HATRED IS NO SOLUTION, RATIONAL DIALOGUE IS".

Asociace romských představitelů Libereckého kraje z.s. [Association of the Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region]
Roma Tanvald z.s.
Romany art workshop z.s.
Comunités z.s.

Translated by Gwendolyn Albert

 

First Czech translation of Holocaust survivor Philomena Franz's memoirs being released

On 23rd August, Romea.cz/en reported that “neglected, overlooked, unrecognized... These are all terms used to characterize the Holocaust's Romani and Sinti victims, whose suffering during the Second World War is now commemorated during the month of August.”

It was noted that about 15 000 books on every possible subject are published annually in the Czech Republic, but just a handful are especially about the Holocaust and its Romani or Sinti victims. It was said that these now include the first Czech translation of the autobiography of a Sinti survivor, Philomena Franz, entitled "To Live without Bitterness:  Story of a German Sinti Woman Who Survived the Holocaust" (Žít bez hořkosti. Příběh německé Sintky, která přežila holokaust), which has now been published by the KHER press, specializing in Romani authors, 36 years after it was originally released in German. 

 

Romania: "Gipsycoin" cryptocurrency launched by Romani community leader

On 24th August Romea.cz/en reported that news server Balkan Insight had covered a story last week making the rounds in the media in Romania about that country's self-proclaimed "King of the Roma" launching a cryptocurrency, "gipsycoin". It was said that the cryptocurrency claimed to facilitate financial transactions between Romani people worldwide. 

It was noted that Daniel Cioabă, an evangelical pastor and head of the Romanian section of the International Romani Union (IRU), had launched the cryptocurrency at the beginning of August. He told the ProTV television station in Romania that he had invested EUR 50 000 into the project and that roughly 1 600 people had bought in at the opening price of 0.00001 USD per gipsycoin. 

 

 

Čhavorenge Romani children's choir and the Czech Philharmonic perform in the Romani settlements of Slovakia

On 25th August Romea.cz/en reported that as part of their Romano drom (Romani Way) project, which has been running for several years, the Čhavorenge Romani children's choir, led by Ida Kelarová, and the Czech Philharmonic had visited Romani settlements in Slovakia to bring hope, joy and music to those living there. Romano drom was said to be a two-week summer school for the performing arts that has long supported musically talented Romani children and youth. 

It was noted that the project had ended this year with three big concerts in eastern Slovakia's Hermanovce, Rakúsy and Spišské Tomášovce Romani settlements. It was also noted that over more than a decade of collaboration, Čhavorenge and the Czech Philharmonic had played and sung in Belfast, Bratislava, London, at the "Pohoda" ("Contentment") Festival in Slovakia, at the Smetana Festival in Litomyšl, Czech Republic, and more than once in the Dvořák Hall of Prague's Rudolfinum concert venue.     

 

Most Czech publishers say literature by Romani authors is not "mature" enough - but the KHER press says it's ready

On 26th August Romea.cz/en reported that yet another in the regular series of interviews that ROMEA TV is broadcasting with interesting figures was on the subject of literature by Romani authors. It was said tha Ptatrik Banga's interview was with Karolína Ryvolová, editor of the KHER press in the Czech Republic. 

It was noted that mainstream publishers in the Czech Republic were said to not take very much interest in literature by Romani authors. "People from the literary scene believe they are approaching literature by Romani authors in an egalitarian way. However, they do also say that it is not mature enough yet and that Romani authors do not know how to write as well [as majority-society authors]," Ryvolová says in the ROMEA TV interview.  

Romea.cz/en went on to report that, “in her view, it is not possible to use the same yardstick to measure literature by Romani authors, for which the written tradition only began at the close of the 1960s and start of the 1970s in the former Czechoslovakia, as one would use to measure majority-society literatures in this part of the world that have centuries of history behind them. The beauty of literature by Romani authors, the editor says, is that it continues to be based in a living storytelling tradition.“

 

Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, Czech Republic responds to critique of one of their members' live broadcasts on social media

On 29th August Romea.cz/en reported that news server Romea.cz had recently published a statement by the Association of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, z.s., critiquing the behavior on social media of a member of the organization called the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, z.s. (Koalice romských reprezentantů Libereckého kraje, z.s.). It was noted that the Coalition, along with other individuals and organizations, had issued their response, which news server Romea.cz/en published in full translation: 

Statement by the Coalition of Romani Representatives of Liberec Region, z.s., (KRRLK, z.s.), and others

The runup to the elections creates room for the discussion of subjects about society as a whole throughout the republic. Political parties are reaching out to their potential voters in every way possible. Recently, they have done this through social media above all. Romani people are also affected by the elections. Different activists have organized themselves into small groups that are discussing whom to vote for and why, using live social media broadcasts, and they are also discussing topics that are of importance to all of society, such as social work, the rising incidence of racism, discrimination, etc. - subjects that create room for discussion. At the same time, however, such discussions are nothing new. 

Those of us who are undersigned here never interfere with such debates - we do not do so as individuals, and we do not do so as the organizations with which we are affiliated. Nobody should ever forget that live broadcasts on social media happen in the public space, where it is necessary to uphold the principles of decency and democracy. We condemn any violence or vulgar behavior that casts a bad light on Romani people in any public space.

One of our employees, who is also a longterm member of the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, z.s., has also recently begun broadcasting live on social media. He did so without informing any other members of our organization or our leadership of his decision. This means we, as an organization, were unaware of his broadcasts.

When the information came to us that our colleague was live broadcasting on social media, and that viewers might consider the content of his broadcasts to be hateful, we immediately warned him to remedy the situation at once, as we condemn such behavior - it is not in keeping with the mission of our organization or the people involved in it. We told him this irrespective of the fact that he was broadcasting in his free time, not during the performance of his job or of his function as a member of our organization. 

KRRLK, z.s. has long honored the values of mutual deference, respect for others, reaching consensus and dialogue, and we do believe these values can move things in the right direction. Every indication of hatred, discrimination, racism or reverse racism is something we condemn and we consider such behaviour intolerable.

Of course, we consider the statement published by the Association of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, z.s., which news server Romea.cz has published, to be alarming and to discredit the many years of work done by many Romani people from the Liberec Region, work to which we have dedicated a great deal of effort, often at the expense of ourselves and our families - because the Association's statement says that our members, more than once, have attempted radical self-promotion to the detriment of Romani people, that our members have been lying, and that they have undermined the work of other organizations. 

We cannot identify with that statement. Neither our members nor our organization has ever supported any radicalism, we have never participated in anything similar and we never will. We consider that statement to be defamation, as its allegations are misleading and unfounded, they are not based on anything that is true, and they were not prompted by any prior events.

The Association presents itself in the public arena as if it represents all of the Romani inviduals and organizations from the Liberec Region. Unfortunately, the opposite is true - neither the community itself, across the region, nor many of its organizations know anything about the existence of the Association and they do not collaborate with it. The Coalition found this to be the case during our application of the community networking method in the region between 2019-2020.

An organization like the Association can only just speak for its own members, not on behalf of all Romani people or organizations living/working in the Liberec Region - due to the nature of its activity, the Association cannot know the conditions and situations in the socially excluded localities of the region, and therefore it cannot establish the systematic communication of the needs and requirements of the Roma through that organization to representatives of the state administration and local authorities. For that reason, we are concerned that the Association might be an effort to promote individual interests, not those of the community as a whole. This is something to think about.

It is up to the leadership of the Association to consider whether they should correct their public presentation of themselves to reflect their actual potential and scope.

These debates and statements have also raised other, broader questions for reflection and discussion, both within our region and nationwide. Where do the boundaries of our responsibility towards Romani society and towards our own opinions and activities lie? Who among us even has the right to assess other people, to condemn them, or to moralize about them in the first place? We can also ask why Romani organizations are publicly commenting on another Romani organization, one that helps the Roma, instead of publicly commenting on the people who abuse the Roma for their personal benefit at this time - such as Okamura, or Křeček the ombudsman and those like them?  

The entire team of the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, z.s.
Amaro dzives, z.s. and all of its members,
RHRV and all of its members,
The "Romani activists of the Liberec Region" Working Group, comprisin activists from the districts of Liberec, Semily, Česká Lipa, Jablonec nad Nisou
Ján Lányi,
Eugen Kondáš,
Marie Pilátová,
Olina Fliťarová,
Marta Miková,
Tereza Lányiová,
Růžena Balogová,
Zdeněk Musil,
Nataša Čoňková,
Ivan Balog and others

 

Slovakia: Those planning to attend public events with Pope Francis have to register online

On 30th August, Romea.cz/en reported that those interested in attended public events with Pope Francis during his September visit to Slovakia had to register in advance online. It was noted that as part of preparatoins for the arrival of the head of the Catholic Church, the country was also repairing roads and pavements. 

It was said thsat the Government had allocated more than EUR 5.4 million to arrange for the Pope's visit, according to information released by the cabinet and by organizers of the events on his itinerary. It was noted that believers living in the Czech Republic would have the closest opportunity to attend an event featuring the Pope in Šaštín, where he would officiate mass on 15 September, which in Slovakia is the feast day of the Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows, the country's patron saint.   

It was noted that Šaštín, a significant pilgrimage site in Slovakia, is just 15 kilometers from the Czech border and that as many as 300 000 people were anticipated to arrive there for mass.

The Pope's visit to Slovakia will end with the Šaštín service. On 14 September there will also be public events with the Pope in eastern Slovakia. 

It was reported that in Prešov, the reading of the liturgy was planned, while in Košice the head of the Catholic Church would visit members of the Romani minority at the Luník IX housing estate and at the local multipurpose stadium in that city, Slovakia's second-largest, where he would meet with youth. It was noted that the Slovak authorities had informed the puhlbic that only those vaccinated against COVID-19 would be allowed to attend events with the Pope.  

 

Collated by Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC August 2021

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