Roma also defend the country and suffer from the consequences of war – Tetiana Pechonchyk

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On April 8, 2024, on the occasion of International Romani Day, a thematic round table was held in Kyiv at the Ukrinform News Agency, where the role of Roma during the war and in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine was discussed. The Roma Women’s Fund “Chiricli” became the organiser of the discussion. The Head of the Board of Human Rights Centre ZMINA, Tetiana Pechonchyk also joined the event.

As Pechonchyk noted, the Roma community is a part of Ukrainian society and also participates in the defence of the country, suffering from the consequences of the war. Many Roma have moved abroad as refugees, and Roma initiatives, public organisations, and human rights groups participate in human rights and humanitarian work, the expert said.

“Some Roma remained in occupation, however, in my opinion, in many cases the situation of Roma citizens was much more difficult, because it was worsened by stereotypes and institutional discrimination”, Pechonchyk said.

In December, Human Rights Centre ZMINA together with Radio Liberty presented a documentary about the situation of Roma refugees in different European countries. The film highlights the problem of denial of accommodation or services to Roma compared to other Ukrainian citizens, which is a consequence of deep-rooted discrimination.

“Our movement towards the EU is very important, because it opens up new opportunities, in particular, in the context of observing the rights of the Roma community and implementing the Roma strategy. Inspiring news is, for example, the opening of the Roma Integration Center in Mukachevo as a multifunctional centre to support Roma communities, especially women, girls”, Pechonchyk said.

Also, according to the human rights activist, it is very important that the Ukrainian media regularly cover the stories of Roma who, together with other citizens, participate in the defence of the country, and talk about Roma activists and volunteers who provide humanitarian aid and help the frontline. Pechonchyk is convinced that such stories in the media help to overcome stereotypes and biases against Roma that have formed in Ukrainian society, and bring Ukrainian society closer to equality.

You can find the video from the event here.