Exactly 7 days ago, organization “Youth for Peace” (UA) conducted an event called “Holidays with Roma children” and here comes the main question: what does this mean and what is the point of doing such event?
Firstly, the holidays supposed to bring together kids from Roma community in Ukraine and their older friends from “Youth for Peace”: to spend time with them and have a dialogue between us. The primary goal, of course, is to integrate these kids into Ukrainian society and to teach them basics of social, behavioral rules and practical ones so they can break the vicious circle of poverty, violence, and dependency, start a life without any prejudice from society’s side due to popular misconceptions.
The first event was organized in Kyiv in 2015; the next years’ destination was Uzhhorod, as some of the families returned to the Transcarpathians to their permanent place of residence, village Rus’ki Komarivtsi. It is Ukrainian community, where live a significant amount of Roma families, having their camp at the end of the settlement.
The friendship with Roma community for “Youth for Peace”, a branch of Sant’Egidio community, started around 5-6 years ago when Romas lived in Kyiv. Well, yes, physically they lived in Kyiv but speaking the truth, it was much of a forest in the suburbs of the city, where they settled their shacks. When the volunteers came and started playing with children, everyone was wondering. Some of them still wonder why do we do this when society excludes them, try to hide their existence or rushes citizens to behave dramatically to scare them, so they go away with peace themselves. Well, the first years were harsh, but nevertheless, some families were eager to maintain friendly relationships; sometimes, it felt like a family connection. Speaking of the kids, they were distracted a bit, introverted and wild: all of above due to lack of social relationships and dialogue with people outside their community.
Some years later, after the fruitful work, first results and achievements in a School of Peace (another project of an organization), the idea appeared in the minds of volunteers. The kids were communicating well, even though sometimes there was a poor connection due to the difference in language (note. – Roma people speak their own language – Romani, at times different dialects of it). Even though most of them live in Ukraine since the childhood, they do not have proficient knowledge of Ukrainian, oral or written. Of course, there are a lot of people (most of them – youth) who can continuously communicate with Ukrainian-speaking people, but sometimes significant misunderstandings appear between speakers.
Nevertheless, younger generation strives to talk Ukrainian, and they are not afraid to make mistakes – that is the important thing. They are determined, but they do lack perseverance. They are same as other children unless no social stigma and discrimination which are coming from our own society. They are different, but it’s not bad, isn’t it?
More or less, this year holidays are over, and we are here to make conclusions and remarks so we can upgrade next year conduction.
The holidays consisted of 3 full days of busy agenda, created by volunteers and had many various activities. For example, we went to Uzhhorod Museum of National Architecture and saw different types of homes from various parts of Ukraine on day 1, or we went to a children’s railway station and took a train to the nearest park on day 3. We draw, we partly taught them how to write and read; some children already knew how, so they practiced more, but most couldn’t write even their own name. That is sad, but they have 2 options: to skip school and go to work or to go to school and do not receive any education at all, because of school discriminative nature. So they balance in between.
Day 2 was full of museums: we went to an Art museum and the museum of ancient reliques in Transcarpathian Castle of Uzhhorod. Rooms full of antique musical instruments, preserved rooms of people who lived there centuries ago, the uniforms of warriors and their swords: all of the above-pushed youngsters’ minds to generate tons of questions. No one told them before it was real: some of them were genuinely shocked and did not want to believe such things existed. Some of them were dreaming of becoming painters, others wanted to become sculptors or even warriors to wear the fancy outfits presented in the museum area. Kids are always kids, even if they are 16 years old.
During this holidays, we had three age groups: the smallest (6-9), middle-aged (9-13) and grown-ups (14-16). Adults as we call them and some children from another age groups were present at last year holidays, that is why they were looking forward to meeting with their buddies sooner or later. Those shining eyes when they discovered we came one day earlier to the village to arrange documentation with their parents and record everyone who was coming the day after for a three-day vacation. Some of them had no idea, some knew but was not aware we could come that day, some didn’t believe even when their parents told them until they saw us. Even when they saw new people (e.g., me), who haven’t had an opportunity to spend time with them before, they were happy to see us all.
Some kids even remembered things from last year. For example, when one volunteer bought an ice-cream for a small child and yes, she was truly shocked when this kid brought this up when she saw her. They were hugging everyone, anytime they can. And yes, we were hugging back.
Exactly one day later, we were standing in the park of Uzhhorod playing games with everyone and exploring hidden spots of the city. Sounds very romantic, isn’t it? Well, it was and wasn’t at once. As any ordinary kids, they ARE children. And what do the kids like to do: right, be loud, run, sometimes break the rules and contradict themselves with their behavior.
Do you remember what did you do when you were a child? Exactly, and
it was hard it wasn’t easy.
It wasn’t easy when your kids were not behaving right (in your opinion) and break the rules, rushing to swim in the river; it wasn’t easy when they had a nap time, but they still managed to talk louder than before it. It wasn’t easy when the smallest started to cry as they were not sleeping with their sisters/brothers; it wasn’t easy when you need to break-up the fights and find out what happened (they talk their language when communicating with each other). But it was the hardest when you are standing there, in their village, hugging them all together and understand that these holidays passed and you will not see them maybe for a year.
Nevertheless, these endings are meant to be, because any end is just a new beginning. This is what we believe in “Youth for Peace”!
P.S.: these are our children. They are unique and magical. All of them live below minimum living wage.
If you want to help these kids, please write to “Youth for Peace”!
We can give you their addresses so you can send some clothes etc. or/and you also can donate some money so we can buy them necessary items.