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October 28, 2021



Czech Republic sees 10th BARUVAS meeting of Romani students, study abroad one of the topics

31.8.2019 7:58
The BARUVAS 2019 summer meeting of Romani students. (PHOTO:  Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)
The BARUVAS 2019 summer meeting of Romani students. (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

The 10th BARUVAS program meeting happened during the week of 19 August at the Chata Doubravka recreation facility, bringing together talented young Roma students. The very popular program filled up just one week after it was announced, during which students were able to familiarize themselves with literature by Romani authors, to learn about opportunities to study abroad, and to discuss the subject of personal identity.

Nighttime walk through the forest

The first day was mainly for people to get to know each other. Almost half of the students who applied were attending BARUVAS for the first time, so the question was whether they would engage and fit in with the others who have already been to BARUVAS more than once.

The first day demonstrated that there was not going to be a problem. All of the new participants fit in beautifully and by Monday evening it felt as if everybody had known each other for years.

A nighttime game had been prepared for the students focused on literature by Romani authors. During a "miserable" journey through a dark forest and the adjacent creek, the students had to complete different tasks.

After doing so, the students were given an envelope with clues according to which they were meant to recognize six eminent Romani authors. The game was a preparation for the following day, which was dedicated exactly to that literature.

Story-telling by moonlight

Tuesday morning was dedicated to the basics of the Romanes language. Students were familiarized with the grammar of Romanes, learned several new words, and also learned something about the different dialects spoken by different groups of Roma around the world.

All of this was supported by reading excerpts from books by famous Romani authors. The afternoon was also dedicated to those figures.

Two awesome authors, Dana Ema Hrušková and Iveta Kokyová, accompanied the students through the entire program. Through their charismatic performances, their presence and their enormous knowledge of the language, these ladies quickly became popular among the students.

"Iveta and Dana were brilliant. That was one of the best workshops I have ever experienced at BARUVAS. We were able to try out several things ourselves. It was clear that writing amuses them and their poems and stories were awesome," said Kristýna Dunová, a college preparatory school graduate who is planning to enter university.

During the late afternoon students were able to learn something about studying at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary. Michal Mižigár, a Romani CEU student from the Czech Republic, came to tell students about that opportunity.

He was followed by Petr Torák, a Romani emigré from the Czech Republic to Great Britain who spoke about volunteer opportunities there. The evening program took place outside around the fire pit.

Beneath a starry sky, to the sound of crackling wood, everybody listened with attention to the interesting stories told by Dana and Iveta. Some students joined in afterward, alternating ghost stories with jokes, and this continued until late at night.

You are not alone ...

On Wednesday morning all of the students had the opportunity to hear Petr Banda, one of the scholarship recipients, make a presentation. He had spent a month in the USA thanks to the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship program.

Banda's presentation motivated other students to apply to that program. The rest of the day belonged to the activist David Tišer and his colleague, theater producer Líza Zima Urbanová.

The duo had prepared many interesting activities for the students. The morning part was handled by Tišer, who spoke about identity and about what we Roma have in common.

Tišer told various often very personal stories that he had either experienced himself or had heard from acquaintances. He demonstrated to the students how to cope with the traps they can expect to encounter in the future using those examples.

Urbanová was in charge of the afternoon program. The students lined up in the meadow outdoors and played different games.

The games were about very interesting social and societal subjects. After each game there was a discussion.

For the students, these games were not just very amusing, but also instructive. In the evening the students got the opportunity to perform small skits that had been prepared for them by Tišer and Urbanová.

The skits were about subjects that many of us Roma have to address on a daily basis. "I really liked that we were not just listening and sitting still, but that we were able to actively join the entire program. Both instructors are very experienced and always had an answer ready for our questions. I liked that each game had a hidden message that forced us to reflect not just on society, but also on ourselves," said Robert Olah, who is an economics student at Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem.

"World Café" and words of thanks

Thursday morning was run by Monika Mihaličková together with Tišer. The students played games, the aim of which was for them to work together as a group and also to find somebody to lead the group.

The students were given the opportunity to empathize both with the leadership role and with the role of being led. Through the amusing format, the students did their best to comprehend what it is like to be led by somebody else and how pleasant or unpleasant that can be.

The afternoon program was led by the director of the Albatros Foundation, Jindra Marešová, as well as by Silke Horáková, the co-owner of Albatros Media. Students got the opportunity, through their "World Café" method, to come up with solutions to the problems that probably most of them were grappling with.

Opinions were exchanged at the close of that activity that were very interesting. On the penultimate day, the afternoon section of the program, as is traditional, was for the students themselves to organize.

Each person got the opportunity to express his or her opinion and to say what they liked and disliked about their experiences to date. During this emotional part of the program many students became tearful, but with tears of love and pride, not sadness.

"BARUVAS has shown me new opportunities for study. I was able to get to know new people who have motivated me not to miss out on chances to make my dreams come true," said Vanesa Harvanová, a student of travel and tourism at the START secondary school in Prague.

"The new participants fit in practically immediately. We created a solid group right away and established new friendships. I thank the ROMEA organization for the opportunity to attend. I always leave here full of motivation," said Michal Gábor, a student of physical geography and geo-ecology currently at Ostrava University.

The journey home ...

Friday's journey home was not easy. Bidding each other farewell took a long time and was full of emotions.

On the train the students shared their impressions of the gathering and recalled the brilliant moments spent there. Thanks to the meeting, many new friendships have been established.

We have all come away with brilliant experiences, knowledge and motivation. One has a tendency to take stock after a certain time, so I will say something more here now that the 10th BARUVAS meeting is done.

Over the course of these 10 meetings, more than 100 people have passed through BARUVAS. Some have attended the gathering just once, while others have attended almost all of them.

One thing is certain. Once you come to the gathering, you become a member of the BARUVAS family.

This is a family where the door will always be open, a family who will always come to your aid. I believe we will all be meeting like this for a very long time to come.

I know we will always be here for each other. Amen BARUVAS!!



ROMEA is heading into a fourth year of supporting Romani youth with their studies. The new school year begins in just a couple of days. We must rise to meet the challenge ahead, which is that the financing from our main donor for the scholarships, The Velux Foundations, is contracted to gradually reduce over time, and eventually we will have to get by without any more investment from them.

We have one month until the end of our current campaign, called Together We Can - Společně to dokážeme, the aim of which is to raise CZK 500 000 [EUR 19 000] to support 60 Romani students. More than 170 individual donors have already contributed so far and we are 70 % of the way to our goal.

We believe that together with you, we will achieve this aim and reach our target amount. We thank you in advance for your donation..

Štefan Balog, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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