Opre Roma Serbia, a civic organization dedicated to fighting inequality faced by Roma, marked Roma Holocaust Memorial Day this year with a series of events to commemorate and raise awareness of the many Roma who lost their lives during the Second World War.
Held each year on 2 August, Roma Holocaust Memorial Day was established to remember the genocide suffered by Roma under the Nazi regime. Often referred to as the ‘forgotten Holocaust’, the Opre Roma Serbia team, together with Srecko Zivkovic, director of the Roma Cultural Center, marked the occasion by laying a wreath in Leskovac.
Leskovac was one of several local sites of active partisan resistance against the Nazi regime, where an existing monument is dedicated to the approximately 1,000 victims who died during the war. In retribution for the partisans’ activities, over 300 civilians from the Arapova Dolina neighbourhood of Leskovac were rounded up and killed by the Nazis, the majority Roma, making Leskovac especially poignant for the Roma community.
Opre Roma Serbia hosted a screening of the documentary movie A ti Bože preživi (And you God, survived) in the Roma Cultural Centre after the wreath-laying ceremony. The screening was followed by a discussion around the events of the Second World War, with several Roma confirming the existence of Holocaust survivors in their families.
European Roma Institute of Arts and Culture (ERIAC), together with the Opre Roma Serbia and Roma Education Fund (REF), also screened the movie in ERIAC Serbia’s gallery space. This was followed by a panel discussion featuring Ljuan Koka – director of the documentary, Jelena Krivokapić Nikolić – lawyer and Opre Roma Serbia activist and Redjepali Chupi – director of the Roma Education Fund. Questions addressed included ‘How do we increase the visibility of the history of genocide against Roma in public?’ and ‘How can we change the negative discourses about Roma that are predominant among the majority society?’ among others.
In addition to the above, the team also participated in a conference about the Roma Holocaust. Held by the Institute for European Studies of Roma and International Law, the panel addressed Roma Holocaust recognition and called for formal legal and historical recognition of the genocide of Roma in Serbia during World War Two.
Finally, supported by Proud Roma Free Europe and ERIAC, a series of billboards were erected across the city to mark Roma Holocaust Memorial Day and drive broader awareness of the genocide of Roma during the Second World War. The billboards will be visible in Belgrade, Nis and Novi Sad throughout the week.
Wreath-laying ceremony at Leskovac
Local Roma youth in Leskovac
Proud Roma Free Europe merchandise for 2 August
Billboard in Novi Sad
Documentary screening of A ti Bože preživi at ERIAC Serbia
Panel discussion on Roma Holocaust at ERIAC Serbia
Billboard in Nis
All image credits @Opre Roma Serbia