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The first stone of Romasia, the land of a Roma dream, has been laid

Milan, 27.2.2010 12:50, (EveryOne Group)

“A tiny fragment of the dream is now reality. We must act now, before it is too late, to give the project an Italian and European dimension which will permit the Roma families to integrate once and for all. The project will provide them with employment while preserving their unique traditions, their sense of the family, their way of life - a life without wars, living in close contact with nature...”

Costanta (Romania), February 19, 2010. The idea for the Romasia project, which is being promoted by EveryOne Group, came about in June 2007 following a particularly dramatic camp clearance of Romanian Roma families from the Via Triboniano camp in Milan. Romasia is known in Romania as “Fratele Meu: every person is my brother” on the suggestion of the journalist George Scarlat.

There were many representatives of the “authorities” present at the camp clearance: senior police officers, councillors, public officials, social workers and priests. Exhausted parents had been forced to lay their newborn babies on the ground and young children of 6 and 7 had been injured during an operation carried out with too much enthusiasm by the police force. Pregnant women sat around on the floor, and sick and handicapped members of the community were left to fend for themselves. Activitists from EveryOne Group were doing their best to provide humanitarian aid and mediate with the Milanese authorities.


At a certain point, a young Romnì girl, called Jasmine – minute and slim as a young child – turned round and held up her hands. She stood in front of the armed policemen and shouted: “We are human beings and we don't have anywhere else to go! God created the world for everybody, not just for the rich!” The police officers stopped in their tracks before this tiny figure filled with dignity and courage. They looked around at each other: unsure whether to push her along as they had being doing, or whether to get down on their knees and ask for her forgiveness. Our activists went and stood at the girl's side to protect her.

The homeless Roma were then ordered to leave the Triboniano area. We went with them until they stopped in a square while the heads of families decided where to take shelter. In an abandoned factory? A delapidated appartment block? Or an isolated place, away from the centre, where they could put up tents and build yet another makeshift shelter? It was then that Jasmine and her family told us of their dream: to possess a piece of land (either in Romania or Italy) where they could build a farmhouse. When the Roma people migrated from India over a thousand years ago, they brought with them ancient secrets for growing crops and breeding livestock.

Once in Europe, even if they were living in conditions of slavery, they became experts at obtaining the most succulent and genuine fruits from the land, and breeding healthy and thriving livestock. It was Jasmine herself who gave the project its name: “Romasia”, a place where Roma families with similar traditions could live together as a group, bringing up their children and sending them to the local schools while preserving their ancient customs and traditions. Farming and biological cattle breeding were to be the start of their plan to support themselves. Then, some of the young people would choose to get a higher education and go on to other forms of employment. In Romasia, thanks to the hard work of the “pioneers”, many young Roma people would gradually study to become teachers, lawyers, doctors, journalists and politicians.


After this we drew up plans for the project, all the time working alongside Romanì experts in agriculture and zootechnology. We worked out the details: the logistics, the costs, the requirements, and foresaw the creation of farms on a small, medium and large scale.

Once the project was defined, we took it to several local authorities in Italy. The idea was to purchase farmland, or to renovate derelict and abandoned farmhouses where we could create working communities (many have compared these Romasia farms to the Israeli kibbutz). The working communities would consist of Roma families with a certain kinship, people with skills in construction, agriculture, cattle-breeding – skills that exist in practically every Roma nucleus, and are often carried out to a high level of specialization and expertise. We also laid out the guidelines for the institutions of the European Union, explaining that only if we start with concrete projects capable of cancelling out the effects of discrimination and social exclusion, can we hope to encourage European society to welcome millions of Roma and Sinti citizens. So far, the Italian local authorities have replied that it is a valid project, easy to set up, and one that offers promising and immediate results.


But after all the praise and verbal approval, nothing has come of it. We have seen no ”biological factories”, instead huge resources have been invested in camp clearances, expulsions, and the creation of “zigeunerlagers” like the four new camps in Rome. Unfortunately, in Italy the “Roma question” has become one of the favourite topics of today's politicians, and for the last few years the Italian people have been led to believe - through the use of powerful media coverage - that the Roma people and immigrants are the worst “plague” in the country. This has distracted people's attention from the real problems: Mafia activity, corruption, the squandering of taxpayers' money, favouritism, and private interests that prevail over the common good.

The European Union, however, is not yet ready to offer aid and follow these projects at every stage. Until now it has limited its protests to producing documents (directives, resolutions and reports) and allocating funds to various associations.

In the meantime, the dream of building Romasia has gone ahead - but with the help of private funds. The project is underway in Arad (Romania) while the first plot of land has already been purchased in Costanta (again in Romania) thanks to the joining of forces of a Roma family (the Ciurarus), EveryOne Group and two friends of human rights, Dario and Carol. The first corner of Romasia was officially founded on January 27th, 2010, on Holocaust Remembrance Day. We hope it will become the symbol of a new world, the sign of a society that is no longer destructive and intolerant, but constructive and supportive.

The Ciuraru family lost a lot of its members during the Holocaust: some of its martyrs are mentioned in the archives of Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem. In Italy, particularly in Milan and Pesaro, they fell victim to further abuse and grave injustice. They are now starting to build something for themselves with bricks, cement and faith. The first stone of Romasia has now been laid and its success depends on all those who come into contact with the project and share this dream...

In the photos (the first is a library photo, the others were taken by Steed Gamero of EveryOne): a farm in Costanta (Romania); Jasmine, whose idea it was to create “Romasia” (the face has been blurred to protect the young Roma activist's identity); scenes from the Triboniano camp clearance in June 2007.

In the middle of all this discrimination, violence and injustice the seed of Romasia has taken root...

EveryOne Group
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