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August 11, 2022



Romani community in Czech city chooses five figures to honor for their contribution to civil society, including aid to Romani refugees from Ukraine

6.7.2022 7:41
The awards ceremony for figures from the Romani community in Liberec, Czech Republic. (2022) (PHOTO: Iveta Bílková)
The awards ceremony for figures from the Romani community in Liberec, Czech Republic. (2022) (PHOTO: Iveta Bílková)

The Czech city of Liberec recently experienced an event called Týden Romů - Melodia (Romani Week - Melody), a series of concerts and meetings organized by the Comunités association of local Romani residents. The event included a gala evening at the Museum of North Bohemia during which five figures from the Romani community were given awards: Dana Hrušková, Petr Ščuka, Jan Kima, Eva Gáborová and an honorary award for Jan Kanaloš, the founder of Comunités.

"We are doing our best to lift up the Romani people who are contributing to the development of their community, because there can never be enough good examples. Their lifestyles may be ordinary, but their deeds are great," the organizers said in a press release.

The event was preceded by nominations from the public during which Romani community members could submit their suggestions. An independent jury then selected the figures to receive the award.

"I consider it a success that the community themselves managed to select the awardees. This was not an artificial choice, but nominations from people who wanted to express their appreciation to these figures, which I think is quite important," Jan Kanaloš, chair of the Comunités association, told news server

The Romani community figures awarded

Dana Hrušková

"I don't like giving up. The point at which many others stop is where I enjoy starting. People are behind everything, and I love people. I believe that through simple kindness I will change more than can be changed through intelligence and calculation," she says. She is a field social worker for the Prague 14 Municipal Department and, as she herself says, "my heart is in it - it may not be professional, but those clients are like family to me." In recent months she has been busy chiefly with the current crisis of refugees from Ukraine, aiding refugees however she can, and not just Romani ones. She has been involved at the Regional Assistance Center, at the main railway station in Prague, and at the refugee camp in Prague's Troja neighborhood. She is also active in the advisory team of the coordinator for Prague. She collaborates with the National Institute of Public Health and has been a member of the Office of the Czech Government's Committee on Cooperation with Local Authorities, as well as having worked as a local consultant for the Agency for Social Inclusion. In addition, she loves to write and has published original fairy tales and love stories.

Petr Ščuka

The second honoree is a man with a capital M. He has been well-known for several years and despite his own health problems, he aids others wherever he can. Right now in 2022 that means Romani refugees from Ukraine. In Prague he runs the Identity Prague nonprofit organization, closely collaborates with food banks and voluntarily, without pay, makes deliveries in his free time once a week to families in need. In addition, he runs an online shop of Romani-themed apparel called the Ščuka Shop, which I recommend. By the way, he was the first-ever graduate of the Romani Social High School and as he says himself, that's where it all began. "I found my life's purpose there, I found out that my mission is to help others. The main thing I learned at school, though, was that I am a proud Romani man," he says.

Jan Kima

The third honoree is also a man. He is a great athlete and a great person who has been collaborating with Comunités for roughly a year now. As a young boy he played football and decided to share his passion for this sport with children from the Romani community who are also interested in it. He has established a recreational football club. "Football is not just about kicking a ball, but also about mutual support among team members, the determination to achieve something, to spend one's time meaningfully. I am very glad that we are succeeding together and that I can support Romani children in whom nobody else is taking an interest. I believe that together we will do our best and they will achieve the best results... and who knows, maybe one day our children will be on television and will be popular," he says.

Eva Gáborová

The fourth honoree is a woman who worked for years at the Prague 7 Municipal Department where she contributed, among other matters, to the Miss Roma competition. However, years ago she moved from Prague to Tanvald. She has functioned there for 20 years now as a field social worker. "As I say, this is basically my hobby. Helping people has been my entire life's mission. Working with both adults and children is what I enjoy," she says. Her aim was to create a community center for community meetings and to create an environment there for Romani children. She succeeded, the center has been running for several years in Tanvald. "The most important thing to me, though, is my own family, which gives me the energy and the strength not to give up," she says.

Ing. Jan Kanaloš - honorary award

An honorary award was also given to Ing. Jan Kanaloš, who was nominated by Romani community members for supporting children and youth in their development, supporting the functioning of the Romani community, and supporting the development of Romani culture. "When I thought about how to express my gratitude for this honorary award, I told myself that I might compare myself to Frodo, who was accompanied on his journey to destroy the Ring by Samwise. If I am Frodo, then my Romani community is my Samwise. A person can have 100 titles, but if he has no partner with whom it all makes sense, then he will never accomplish anything. For that reason, this award belongs mainly to all of you, I thank you Romale," he says. Jan was nominated by the community above all for his equal treatment of non-Romani and Romani people, his support for non-Romani and Romani children, his understanding, his kindness, and his great contribution to his community. The award was given to him by the Governor of the Liberec Region, Martin Půta.

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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