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September 22, 2021



Čeněk Růžička: Is it so hard to grasp that we Roma want to witness the opening of our people's burial sites?

17.11.2018 8:33
At the beginning of November 2018 an archaeological survey was conducted near the alleged location of the mass graves containing some of the victims of what was called the
At the beginning of November 2018 an archaeological survey was conducted near the alleged location of the mass graves containing some of the victims of what was called the "Gypsy Camp" at Lety, as well as a geophysical survey near the grounds of the former camp. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

In my opinion, one of the important features of the culture of 98% of the indigenous Czech Roma and Sinti is that they bury the deceased members of their families in magnificent tombs and follow the rule that human remains are not to be manipulated. If, for especially serious reasons, such manipulation must happen, for sacred reasons the manipulation of the remains is always supervised by a family member.

A few days ago, at the burial site supposedly used by the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku, which is supposedly located near the current memorial, at the wish of my extended family and of others, the uneven landscaping that gives the impression that the victims of the camp are buried there was opened up. Even though for years we have been convinced that our family members have been buried exactly there, near the current memorial to the concentration camp victims, we have also had reasonable doubts.

Those doubts were prompted by several essential matters, including testimonies by surviving prisoners, a drawing of the location of the burial site in relation to the site of the camp, dated from the time it was running, and a small map showing each grave with a number and the name of the victim. I have repeatedly informed both the Czech Culture Ministry and the director of the Museum of Romani Culture, about whom there is no doubt that she knows this aspect of our culture and should be guided by it, that the burial sites should not be opened without a relative of those buried there in attendance.

On the morning of 9 November I happened to contact the Museum to ask how the work was progressing on removing the buildings of the defunct pig farm from the former concentration camp site and when the survey of the burial ground would be happening - I had not heard anything from the manager of the archaeological survey about any "graves" being already opened. The answer I received was: "Mr Strašák will answer your questions," - and after that, no other response. 

I did not encounter Mr Strašák again until I saw him at the burial site on Monday, i.e., at the memorial site where the archaeologists were already completing their work. I ask all the esteemed interested parties: What are we to believe is going on here?

In the video interview recently published, Mr Strašák says: “... if we find human remains, a forensic anthropologist is prepared ...". That means you all assumed you would discover remains, and despite that, you did not inform the relatives of those who might be buried there that the survey was happening.

The fact that you did not find any remains yet has surprised you. What are we Roma to believe about all of this?

How many times do I have to explain to you all what respect for the dead involves for the Czech Roma and Sinti? Is it so hard to grasp?


Čeněk Růžička is a relative of the victims of the Lety concentration camp


Čeněk Růžička, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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