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Romani historian condemns racist insults targeting Romani Ukrainian fighters

28.2.2022 7:28
Michal Mižigár (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)
Michal Mižigár (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)

Historian of Romani history in Central Europe Michal Mižigár has condemned the racist "jokes" and racist coverage of Ukrainian Roma fighting against the Russian aggressor. Such content also began spreading on the Czech-language Internet after the UNIAN agency reported today that Romani fighters had confiscated a tank from invading Russian troops in the Kherson region. 

In an interview with the Czech News Agency, Mižigár commented on the insults. "The tank was not 'stolen', this was a big act of courage risking the lives of their community. Do you think the Russians will not take revenge for this as they advance against local Roma, now that they are taking revenge on the whole state? Even so, they took the risk. It's heroic," Mizigar said, condemning the unconscious and profound racism of some commentators.

"The Ukrainian Roma are affected by the invasion like everybody else. They are fighting, of course. In uniform and out. With machine guns in their hands or Molotov cocktails. They're helping people in need, people who are hungry. They are zachisnici like every Ukrainian man and woman defending not just their homes and children today, but also those of their neighbors," said Mižigár.

The word "zachisnik"("defender") is a reference to the speech made by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy from the first night of the siege of Kiev in which he publicly condemned and refused the USA's offer to evacuate him and instead praised the men and women defending Ukraine. "Anybody who now draws distinctions between the people defending their homeland and Europe is playing into the hands of the aggressor," Mižigár said in his condemnation of the racist commentators. 

According to the historian, it is also necessary to realize that the Roma already did not have an easy life in Ukraine before the invasion, let alone after it. There are no cellars in the Romani settlements in which it would be conceivable that they could hide for the night. 

"Pogroms [against Roma] were common [before the war]. This will not change if every heroic [Romani] sabotage of the Russian aggressor is racistly stereotyped in the media as a 'theft'," Mizigar concluded.

With the exception of the juveniles involved, a Ukrainian court sent eight people to prison in June 2018 for their involvement in a raid on a Romani camp near Lviv. One Romani man was murdered and four others were injured by the attackers. 

Ukrainian Police said the arrested suspects admitted to perpetrating the crimes. The attack, which the media attributed to a little-known neo-Nazi youth organization, raised concerns about the rise of racially-motivated violence in the country.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Discrimination, Hrdina, Media, Racism, Ukraine



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