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Romani activist Čeněk Růžička receives prestigious Artis Bohemiae Amicis award, Czech Culture Minister promises current Govt will buy pig farm

30.9.2017 10:25
The Artis Bohemiae Amicis award was given to Romani activist Čeněk Růžička by Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman on 29 September 2017. (PHOTO:  Richard Samko)
The Artis Bohemiae Amicis award was given to Romani activist Čeněk Růžička by Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman on 29 September 2017. (PHOTO: Richard Samko)

The Artis Bohemiae Amicis award was given yesterday to Romani activist Čeněk Růžička. Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman honored Mr Růžička's tireless efforts to achieve satisfaction for victims of the Romani Holocaust through his cultural activities, primarily his exhibitions on the topic.

"A very important component of the entire cultural scene is what is called the culture of remembrance. This is about commemorating the very grievous events and moments in our history," Herman said.

"You represent a group of people who were hit very harshly by racial hatred. I want to thank you, as a member of the Czech Government, for what you have done to date and what you are still doing," the minister told the activist.

"You are the person thanks to whom I personally learned about the horrible history of the Lety camp. I have always wished that this subject would not just be known by society, but that it would also be dealt with," said Herman.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that a pig farm is located on a place where our fellow citizens suffered," the minister emphasized, adding that after 20 years the entire matter is now heading in the direction that Mr Růžička has long fought for. "You will always be credited with helping a certain segment of our historical memory to come clean."

The minister assured Mr Růžička that the purchase of the farm at Lety u Písku will be completed by the current Government. "The negotiations about the budget have taken longer than we anticipated," he explained.

"Those negotiations were completed this week. Now it is all prepared," Herman said.

"This will be done by our Government, and it will done be during the time of this administration, i.e., before the elections. I can assure you that is how it will be," the Czech Culture Minister told the awardee during the ceremony.

Mr Růžička is the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu - VPORH). Since the mid-1990s he has actively dedicated himself to advocating for the justified claims made by the Romani former prisoners of concentration camps.

He has constantly commemorated the suffering of the Czech Roma who were interned at the Lety concentration camp. Thanks to his extraordinary efforts, the subject of the Lety camp and the necessity of addressing the circumstances of its commemoration has managed to enter public discussion and general awareness.

When receiving the award, Mr Růžička said that while his own mother passed through the camp at Lety, he himself did not learn of its existence until later in his life. He also learned that on the site of the former concentration camp at Lety, where during the Second World War Romani people from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia were imprisoned, there has been a pig farm since the 1970s.

The need for the state to buy the farm and demolish it has been discussed for more than 20 years, and the European Parliament has called on the Czech Republic to remove the farm. In 2015 Mr Růžička and his colleagues created a unique exhibition project called "Lety - Story of a Forgotten Genocide".

The exhibition was presented at the building of the European Parliament in Brussels, at the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, and then in the Senate of the Czech Republic. There is no doubt that the exhibition had an impact, raising the awareness of legislators and the general public about the sensitive question of Czech society coming to terms with this historical trauma.


ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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