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September 18, 2021



Today International Romani Day celebrated worldwide to mark the beginning of the Romani movement

8.4.2020 8:09
The international Romani flag. (PHOTO:  Embassy of the United States of America to the Czech Republic)
The international Romani flag. (PHOTO: Embassy of the United States of America to the Czech Republic)

Today Romani people all over the planet are celebrating International Romani Day, but because of restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, many of those events have moved online. On this day, Romani people remember the historic event of the first-ever World Romani Congress in 1971, which happened near London, England in Orpington.

That event laid the foundations for international cooperation among Romani people and the Romani movement achieved an international, political-social dimension as a consequence. On this day Romani people annually remember their common origin, language, culture, unity and cooperation, and above all their "Romipen".

The first congress was held primarily thanks to the initiative of Slobodan Berberski, Ján Cibula, Juan de Dios Ramirez Heredia, Grattan Puxon and Vanko Rouda. Intepretation was performed by Donald Kenrick and Mateo Maximoff.

There were about 30 official participants in the Congress, but many more Romani people actually attended, above all those who were visiting the festival associated with the Congress in nearby Hampstead. Participants then publicized their historic resolutions about the form of the Romani flag and the international Romani anthem.

That assembly also approved the official use of the term "Rom" instead of Cikán. In 1977 the first international Romani organization, the International Romani Union (IRU), was created to meet the needs of smoothly organizing the second World Romani Congress.

That second Congress was held in 1978 in Geneva, Switzerland. 8 April was not recognized as an international day until much later, in 1990 in Warsaw, Poland, when the fourth World Romani Congress took place.


The flag was co-designed with Dr. W. R. Rischi, a linguist and Romani Studies scholar from Chandigar, India (where he later established a Center for Romani Studies). He passed away on 1 December 2002.

The Romani flag comprises two horizontal stripes, the lower, green one symbolizing the connection of Romani people to the natural world and the upper, blue one symbolizing heaven, or the realm of spirit, philosophy, etc. The central wheel overlapping both stripes symbolizes pilgrimage, travel, and is also based on the ancient Indian wheel of Dharma; it originally featured 16 spokes and its bright red color corresponds to the first chakra, the element of the Earth.


The international Romani anthem, "Gelem, gelem", is based on a traditional Romani melody for which new lyrics were written by the Romani musician and politician Jarko Jovanović (1924-1985), originally from Belgrade, who was a longtime resident of Paris. The Czech and Slovak Roma also have their own anthem, "Čhajori romani", which was created by Romani prisoners at Auschwitz, and Romani people in the Czech Republic and Slovakia did not begin using the international Romani anthem until the 1990s.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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