Irish group bound for Poland to learn about Roma in the Holocaust
2018-07-15 14:27:45 -

By Finn Hoogensen


Irish Traveller and Roma NGO Pavee Point is sending a group of 10 people to Kraków in Poland to take part in the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative.


The weeklong event brings together some 250 young Roma and non-Roma from across Europe to commemorate the genocide of Roma people during the Second World War. It will include educational sessions on topics such as Roma history and present-day anti-gypsyism.


Participants will have the chance to meet with Roma survivors, and they will also visit the concentration camp at Auschwitz. At the end of the week, a ceremony will be held to commemorate Roma who were killed during the Holocaust.


The initiative hopes to inspire participants to share their knowledge of the atrocities experienced by Roma. Some participants think these experiences are an overlooked part of history.


“I keep finding out more and more facts about how Roma were treated during World War II,” said Bianca Paun, a student from Kilcock taking part in the initiative. “You don’t really hear about Roma or Travellers in the Holocaust.”


Paun, who has a Roma parent, has volunteered at Pavee Point since she was 12 years old. She said she became more involved in learning about and honouring Roma in the Holocaust during an internship with Pavee Point last year, for which she helped to organise the National Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.


“I’m looking forward to meeting other Roma and Traveller teams from other countries and sharing our experiences,” Paun said.


The group being sent by Pavee Point comprises both Irish Travellers and Roma immigrants. While the initiative focuses on the Roma experience in the Holocaust, it is also important to include Travellers as well, according to Gabi Muntean, Pavee Point team leader for the trip.


“The Travellers are in the same oppression as we are. I don’t see myself and a Traveller person [as] different,” Muntean said. “We have the same problems, the same issues, the same outcome. Racism is very much in both communities.”


Muntean said it is important for both the Roma and Traveller communities to learn about the Holocaust because parallels can be drawn with their experiences today.


“If we’re looking at history, everything is coming back that has happened before with Roma. Nothing really gets changed. Roma have the same experiences as before.”


Another Pavee Point participant is Megan Berry, who has a Traveller background and said she is looking forward for the opportunity to speak with Roma who survived the Holocaust.


“It’s good to show some sort of empathy and to recognise [them] and let them see that people do care … because the focus is always on everyone else and not so much the Roma community,” Berry said.


Following their return from the trip, Pavee Point’s participants will work to share what they learned with others, both fellow Travellers and wider society.


“Hopefully when we come back and we deliver our presentations, other people might learn more and raise awareness too,” added Berry, a student at Carlow College, who suggested using intercultural days on campus to raise awareness of the prejudice experienced by Travellers and Roma alike.

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