Roma Café discussion kicks off on Romani Resistance Day
May 16 is a symbolic date for now in the contemporary Roma movement throughout Europe – a day that intends to shift into a positive narrative by highlighting Roma heroes during the holocaust. ERGO Network together with the Diverse Youth Network organized a renewed concept of Roma Café on May 17 to engage in discussions with Roma and non-Roma on what it means to us to have a Roma Resistance Day.
During the Roma Café guests came together from all over Brussels and Europe. Ms Evelin Verhas joined us from the Budapest based Tom Lantos Institute to present the approach of a human rights organization as well as to provide insights into the Roma Resistance research that has been conducted in 5 European countries. It was important to set the scene with a video interview, where a French Roma World War II survivor, Raymond Gureme explains his every days during the 40s in a very informative testimony. Mr. Atanas Stoyanov kicked off the discussion sharing his own motivation and experience being part of the Dik I Na Bistar movement as a young Roma who has been involved since the very beginning as a participant, later as a trainer and group leader. The DIK I NA BISTAR movement is organized by the Ternype Roma International Youth Network bringing together young people from all over Europe to Krakow and Auschwitz to commemorate the Roma genocide on August 2. Besides the remembrance initiative, a training component is also empowering young Roma and non-Roma.
The research – Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska: `Resistance and Survival of the Roma and Sinti in Auschwitz-Birkenau` – presented by Evelin Verhas pointed out a number of focal points to consider in the current discourse. The minority rights perspective requires the equal recognition of the genocides that have been committed against minorities, and inter and multicultural education must serve as a basis for that. May 16 is researched using the resources that are at disposal such as Roma and Sinti survivor testimonies, memoirs, official records etc., most of them found in the archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. It should be noted that Joachimowski submitted his testimony three times, each time giving a different date for the events at the Zigeunerlager. Whilst recalling a date from the past may be a challenge for a person submitting a testimony, one needs to be cautious assuming that testimonies necessarily describe historical facts. It should be noted that, until now, no existing research could verify or or disprove Joachimowski’s story. Therefore, this research was meant as a first step towards reconstructing events connected to Roma and Sinti resistance in the Zigeunerlager.
The intention was to stimulate new thoughts and to engage in discussions. The meaning of resistance and how it is present in our everyday lives was very important, but the questions of identity also raised a number of valid points.