#RomaHolocaustStories: Generations

Name: Leo Bernhard

Country: Netherlands

Age: 21

Place of Birth: Eindhoven

Occupation: Student

Bio: Leo is in his third year of study at the University of Utrecht where he is studying for a Bachelor's Degree in Pedagogical Sciences. He is the first person in his family to study at university and wants to become a primary school teacher. When he was a child his grandfather taught him to play the violin, which he now in turn teaches to young children. He is passionate about environmental causes, and is interested in working or volunteering in this area for a year when he finishes his studies.

Name: Benjamin Ignac

Country: United Kingdom

Age: 28

Place of Birth:Čakovec, Croatia

Occupation: Student

Bio: Benjamin was born into a Bajash Roma family, in a segregated Romani neighbourhood near Cakovec in Croatia. He is currently studying for a Masters of Public Policy at Oxford University. As a child he attended the local primary school and gymnasium where he had good teachers who supported him and encouraged him to pursue further education outside of Croatia. When he was 16 he was accepted on a full scholarship to attend the United World College Red Cross Nordic, an international academy in Norway. He later went on to study Geography in the United States at the University of Oklahoma, where he also had the opportunity to work as a geospatial analyst in a NASA development programme. Benjamin returned to Europe to work at the European Roma Rights Centre for several years before beginning his studies at Oxford last year. Benjamin is the proud uncle of a niece and nephew back in Croatia and he often goes home to visit his parents and extended family. He likes rap music, skateboarding, and anything which allows him to play with data. He hopes to find a job in future where he can marry his passion for social justice with his skills in data manipulation and analysis.

Name: Matej Nikolić

Country: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Age: 25

Place of Birth: Tuzla

Occupation: Cook

Bio: Matej works as a cook in a restaurant in the Stari Grad (old town) part of the city in Tuzla. He is married and his wife and him are currently expecting their first child. He has two younger brothers, one of which lives at home with their parents and the other lives near to him and his family. Matej plays five-a-side football every weekend in a local league and some day would like to open his own restaurant in the city.

Name: Jana Orsos

Country: Croatia

Age: 24

Place of Birth: Koprivnica

Occupation: Social worker

Bio: Jana grew up in a segregated Romani neighbourhood near Koprivnica, the town where she was born. As a child she always wanted to be a nurse or a firefighter when she grew up. In school she had a good teacher who supported her and made sure she made it into Fran Galović Gymnasium for highschool. After she graduated she studied for a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work at the Study Center of Social Work in the University of Zagreb, which she completed in 2018. Since then she has been working as a social worker in the city of Zagreb. She loves to travel, and would like to work internationally some day.

Name: Vanessa Paszkowska

Country: Ireland

Age: 19

Place of Birth: Dublin

Occupation: Student

Bio: Vanessa was born to Romani parents who had moved from Poland to Ireland in search of a better life and better future for them and their family. She is now a second year law and criminology student, studying at Maynooth University. In the future she aspires to become a family solicitor and is planning to complete a PhD in Law with the goal of eventually becoming a law professor. She enjoys drawing portraits as a hobby and keeping fit. She is very interested in researching Romani history and human rights.

Name: Anna Růžičková

Country: Slovakia

Age: 19

Place of Birth: Malacky

Occupation: Retail / Artist

Bio: Anna comes from a small Romani community near Malacky, close to the Czech border. She is one of the few in her family to graduate highschool and receive a full education. She currently works in retail, in a shop in Bratislava which is a 30 minute drive from her home. She spends a lot of her spare time painting, which has been her obsession since she was a young child. She has exhibited her paintings in Bratislava and Budapest, and has recently received a grant from a Roma organisation to develop a social art project working with Romani youths.

Name: Mihaly Kovcs

Country: Hungary

Age: 3

Place of Birth: Pécs

Bio: Mihai very much enjoys playing with paints and anything which he can get his hands into to make a mess. He attends his local kindergarten in Pécs and always looks forward to going in every morning and seeing his friends. His favourite food is cherries, which he likes to pick with his grandmother from the tree which grows in his family’s garden.

Name: Ðorđe Jovanović

Country: Serbia

Age: 40

Place of Birth: Zemun

Occupation: President of ERRC

Bio: Ðorđe comes from a Romani community in Vojvodina, near the city of Novi Sad where he currently lives. Growing up, his family instilled in him an abiding aversion to fascism, racism, and other forms of injustice. Motivated by his relatives’ experiences of torture, forced labour, and, in some cases, extermination in Nazi concentration and death camps, Ðorđe has dedicated his professional life to working for the emancipation of his fellow Roma. Ðorđe is also a queer man in an emotional relationship with another man, and is particularly interested in the intersectional forms of discrimination many Roma face. He holds a university degree in preschool education and completed Romani studies at the University of Novi Sad. He also studied psychotherapy at the school of Transactional Analysis (TA) and is a TA practitioner. Ðorđe has worked with the ERRC since 2001 and is now the President of the organisation.

Name: Nikolai Kolomiets

Country: Russia

Age: 25

Place of Birth: St. Petersburg

Occupation: Journalist

Bio: Nikolai was born in Russia’s cultural capital, St. Petersburg, and currently works and lives in the centre of the city as a freelance journalist and English teacher. From a young child he loved watching British and Italian television and films, after an uncle introduced him to them via VHS tapes acquired on his travels. Nikolai became obsessed with detective dramas in particular, and wanted to become a private eye when he grew up. After finishing school, Nikolai decided to pursue a career in journalism. While completing his studies at St. Petersburg State University’s School of Journalism & Mass Communications, Nikolai began an internship at the now defunct English language newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. He enjoys picnics in the city’s many parks, appreciates modern architecture, and would like to move to London or Rome to pursue his career further. Nikolai speaks fluent English, continues to learn Italian, and still enjoys watching British films and TV via Netflix.

Name: Victoria Svoboda

Country: USA

Age: 24

Place of Birth: Portland

Occupation: Artist

Bio: Victoria is an American Romani woman living in Portland, Oregon. She is half Romani, with her family originating in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. She is a professional artist with a university degree whose passions are art and volunteer work. She is always looking for ways to combine the two. Being involved in her local government and community is also very important to Victoria and she volunteers in various capacities. Her ultimate goal, through art and activism, is to elevate the voices of Roma in other countries where racism is more prominent.

Name: Suzanna Szwarc

Country: Poland

Age: 30

Place of Birth: Andrychowska

Bio: Suzanna comes from a traditional Polish Roma family near Poznan. She has three (very busy) children aged 12, 9, and 4, and she is a proud aunt to her sister’s two children who live next door to them. Suzanna completed her high school education at night school in Poznan after dropping out of school as a child. She now runs a Romani women’s NGO dedicated to helping keep children in her community, particularly girls, in school. She also works part-time as a health mediator in her city, while completing an access course to health and social work at the same time. She loves to sing and enjoys listening to classic soul, Motown, and R&B music from the 1950’s and 60’s. She would love to visit the United States one day.

Name: Vivien Brassói

Country: Hungary

Age: 31

Place of Birth: Kalocsa

Occupation: Lawyer

Bio: Vivien comes from a Lovari Roma family from a small city in the South of Hungary. She grew up in a Romani household and still keeps close ties with her family and community. She attended her local primary and secondary school there before moving to Budapest when she was 18 to study law at Eötvös Loránd University. After completing her legal studies, she went on to work at the European Roma Rights Centre. Later she also studied an LLM programme in Human Rights at Central European University. During this time she had the chance to study in Helsinki and to participate in a fellowship programme with the UN. She has also co-authored the book If I run, they shoot me dead - If I stop they beat me to death: the European Roma Holocaust.

Vivien has a direct relationship with Romani culture and art that has from an early age been mongrelized (in a good sense, as Salman Rushdie phrased it) by her interest in all western cultures, specifically towards modern and contemporary art, literature and music. She currently works as a lawyer for the European Roma Rights Centre and lives in Budapest with her partner, and her dog Floki.

Name: Ilona Dráfi

Country: Hungary

Age: 20

Place of Birth: Budapest

Occupation: Student

Bio: Ilona is from Újpest, one of the districts of Budapest. From an early age, she was interested in music and it quickly became clear that she would like to become a violinist. When she was 8 years old, her parents bought her first violin. She practiced constantly and always asked musical family members to teach her new tunes. Her uncle taught her how to play her first scales and folk tunes, before she began having classical music lessons. After graduating high school she was accepted into the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where she is currently studying in her second year. Besides her studies, she is a devoted volunteer at the Gyöngyi Rácz Community Centre where she helps organize after school programs for Romani children. Ilona aspires to play in a philharmonic orchestra after she finishes her MA studies. Her dream is to become a first chair violinist after years of practice and hard work.

Name: Marianne Adler

Country: Germany

Age: 7

Place of Birth: Halle

Bio: Marianne comes from a small Sinti community in Saxony-Anhalt who have lived and worked in the town of Dessau for more than four generations. Her family and friends call her Mari. She is the first child to be born in the family for several years, so is spoiled for attention from her grandparents, aunts, and uncles. She attends Elementary School An der Heide where her cousin works in the cafeteria. Her favourite subject is reading. She is especially good at reading aloud to the class, and likes to make up stories about the characters she learns about in her books. Marianne’s mother works in a hotel and her father owns an antiques shop in the centre of town. Marianna says she would like to write stories for children's movies one day when she grows up

Name: Marek Balaz

Country: United Kingdom

Age: 34

Place of Birth: Banská Bystrice, Slovakia

Occupation: Human Rights Worker

Bio: Marek comes from a Slovak Roma family on his father’s side and grew up amongst his Romani cousins, aunts, and uncles in his hometown of Banská Bystrica. He attended his local primary and secondary school before moving to the UK where he lived for three and half years. He returned home to complete a Bachelors in Social Work. After graduating, Marek moved to Budapest to study at Central European University. Throughout his studies he has always been a full time Roma Rights activist. He worked as a Romani health mediator, as a country monitor for the ERRC, and in several Roma initiatives in Slovakia. Marek has worked for the European Roma Rights Centre since 2016 as the Human Rights Monitoring Coordinator. An avid supporter of Real Madrid and Man United, Marek has a longstanding love for ‘the beautiful game’ and enjoys playing five-a-side football every week. Marek moved to the UK in 2018 and lives in Cambridge with his partner Nasiba.

Name: Roxanna-Lorraine Witt

Country: Germany

Age: 27

Place of Birth: Minden

Occupation: Researcher and Human Rights Worker

Bio: Roxanna-Lorraine grew up in Minden as the oldest sister of three other siblings. After finishing high-school she went to Bremerhaven to study Marine Biotechnology until she was asked by Sinti activist Romani Rose, to fill the position of Head of the Educational Office at the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, before finishing her degree in 2018. By this time, she had already been actively participating in political and social justice movements for around ten years, motivated by the history of injustice and inequality her family had endured in their past. Currently she is working as an independent researcher and consultant and is founding her own organization with the aim to focus on intersectionality, inclusiveness, digitalization and empowerment. She loves animals, reading and learning new languages from Chinese to C++; she likes to write poetry and create paintings and sculptures. She would like to start a revolution someday and rid the world of white supremacy.

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