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Romani Ukrainian activist: Russia is deceptively accusing Ukraine of Nazism, Romani people from Russia should at least stay neutral

9.4.2022 16:16
Natali Tomenko, Romani activist from Ukraine (2022) (PHOTO: Youtube.com)
Natali Tomenko, Romani activist from Ukraine (2022) (PHOTO: Youtube.com)

Russia is deceptively accusing Ukraine of Nazism and exploiting Romani-related subjects to do so. Natali Tomenko, a Romani activist from Ukraine, gave that assessment at a meeting on 30 March held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Coooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"Today, Russian propaganda is actively speculating on the topic of the Roma, trying to justify the bloodshed, their crimes and genocide against the Ukrainian people. They are making outright lies to accuse Ukrainians of Nazism," Tomenko said, expressing disappointment over several remarks made by Romani people from Russia.

"If, for fear of your own life and for some other reason, you are unable to protest against the war, at least maintain neutrality instead of calling for assassinations and supporting the criminal actions of the Russian authorities. Do not condemn Ukrainian Roma for protecting their country, their homes and their families. In this regard, the social media from the Russian Roma in relation to the Ukrainian Roma is a stream of hatred. It is better for you then to maintain neutrality than to kill us with your lack of understanding and any morality," Tomenko said in her speech, which news server Romea.cz is publishing in full transcription below.

VIDEO

Speech by Natali Tomenko, Romani activist from Ukraine

I am a daughter, sister and aunt that fled from Ukraine a few weeks ago. I am a Roma woman and I am Ukrainian.

I am an artist, activist, cultural heritage expert and human rights defender. I consider myself a part of European society and fully share all its values.

I have a dream, that one day my small sister will stop seeing in her dreams episodes of horror and that my 1.5-year-old niece finally will be able to hug her father.

I will not overwhelm you today with statistics that already were covered perfectly by our partners from ERRC, ERGO, and Chiricli yesterday, but unfortunately, the statistic is hiding human suffering and personal experiences. What happened with my friends and relatives are real cases of survival and history that will be told to my future children.

The majority of my team, ARCA, were forced to evacuate from their homes, lost almost everything and has no resources for living. Some still remain in the territories of the active hostilities, while working from underground spaces and shelters.

Every day we are losing more and more friends, relatives and neighbors. We have no assurance of what will give us the next day. but we have a dream, which is Peace!

In the current circumstances of the war in Ukraine, the ARCA team is working in several areas:

- we are providing financial support to Roma and non-Roma families who find themselves in difficult situations due to hostilities in different parts of Ukraine for the purchase of food, medicines and basic hygiene products;

- we are coordinating, financing and organizing the evacuation process for civilians, in particular for women and children and those elderlies who survived the Roma genocide;

- we are collecting, purchasing humanitarian aid for frontline cities and sending packages to hot spots.

All this we are documenting as testimonies in a format of video and photos on our official social media page. This all is happening due to the help of the huge network of our partners and colleagues from different parts of the world.

And now I would like to attract the attention of the European leaders. History is cyclical, now we are witnessing a repetition of the terrible scenarios of World War II. Europe must remember the consequences of indecision then and prevent them today. You are still able to prevent the catastrophe of 1941, when almost all of Europe was occupied by Nazi troops. Today's realities in Ukraine looks more like the most horrific movies about genocide. We have studied the testimonies and history of genocide for decades, and only now do we realize that we still know nothing about those terrible events. Anyone who has not personally experienced the horrors of war will never know what is hidden between the lines.

Today, Russian propaganda is actively speculating on the topic of the Roma, trying to justify the bloodshed, their crimes and genocide against the Ukrainian people. They are making outright lies to accuse Ukrainians of Nazism. On behalf of the Roma Council of Ukraine and the Roma Youth Council of Ukraine - I’m sorry, as a victim I have right to speak for a few more minutes - which includes more than 60 Roma NGOs, individual activists and public figures, I personally want to reproach our Roma brothers and sisters in Russia. We understand that you are also patriots of your country, but we are embarrassed and disappointed by the position and some statements of Russian Roma public figures. If, for fear of your own life and for some other reason, you are unable to protest against the war, at least maintain neutrality instead of calling for assassinations and supporting the criminal actions of the Russian authorities. Do not condemn Ukrainian Roma for protecting their country, their homes and their families. In this regard, the social media from the Russian Roma in relation to the Ukrainian Roma is a stream of hatred. It is better for you then to maintain neutrality than to kill us with your lack of understanding and any morality.

As a Roma representative from Ukraine, I declare that the Roma in Ukraine today are our doctors, our soldiers, our volunteers, lawyers. Roma are Ukrainians that are defending their country. They stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians and fight for their future together.

I have a dream - to rebuild a strong, beautiful Ukraine, where future generations will grow and live without fear. Where all together with friends and colleagues I will be able to build a strong civil society. Where we, the young leaders, can support the youth of all ethnic communities and become a symbol of legal freedoms and humanity for our neighbors that, unfortunately, are blinded today.

Barikane Roma! Khetane ame Zorale! Slava Ukraini!

mar, ryz, ERRC, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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OSCE, Roma, Russia, Speech, Ukraine, war



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