I joined this project as a co-producer and collaborator on the media production in Romania, together with the rest of the international team. My motivation was clear from the beginning: I wanted to to contribute to public awareness about the Roma Holocaust in Romania and worldwide, and to further explore the Roma identity.
As a mother of my son, as a journalist, TV Producer, film maker and human rights activist, I believe that it is my mission to make today’s people aware of the Holocaust, and make them understand that during the times of the Holocaust people were treated inhumanely. It is a shameful period for humanity: people were terrified, and people killed people. Media and social media are powerful tools to spread information to the world, and I use it in my work. The task of education is to spread important informed about the dark past of humanity so these crimes will not happen again. I feel that I have to do this for my child Sundal and for the future Roma’s children. My heart would be torn apart and I wouldn’t survive the pain if my child would live in terror again.
What is Holocaust? I believe (as my grand-grandfather have thought me, a great man who founded our mixed Roma and Jewish family) that during that period we – the humans – have lost the God and stopped being humans.
In Romania, the oppression of Roma people started with the long period of several hundred years of slavery. But, worst than being slaves, the Roma were forced to give up their identity, including our name – the Roma. Today some people call the Roma “Tzigane” (dirty) or Gypsy. There are even some Roma people who do not know the correct name of their own people! Also, many non-Roma are using these pejorative names for our people because of ignorance and lack of knowledge about our history and culture. This is why we still have interethnic conflicts and discrimination today. Just recently in 2016, after 165 years after the abolition of slavery, the first ever Roma Euro-parliamentary Damian Draghici raised a monument dedicated to victims of the Roma slavery. Later even the Romanian Orthodox Church officials recognized the victims and apologized for the period of terror during the slavery.
The reason why Roma families were persecuted during the WWII is because they were traditional compact communities that preserved the Romani language and traditions. We learned more about this in the testimonies of the survivors we have interviewed during the production in November 2016. As a result of Antonescu’s policy of ethnic cleansing more than 25.000 Roma was deported to Transnistria along the River Bug in Moldova. During the years 1942 to 1944 the Roma in Transnistria were forced to live in insufficient shelters, without any water and food, dying of exhaustion and illness.
Since recently the Roma NGO’s in Romania are making considerable efforts in fighting for more freedom of expression and Roma rights. One of the important goals is also recognition of the Roma Holocaust, oppression and persecution of the Roma, and incorporation of this material in the official school curricula. Every year on 2nd August we commemorate the victims of Holocaust in Romania.
Cristinela Ionescu, Bucharest