Dignity for Lety ….At Last!

Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre welcomes the announcement this week that a pig farm on the site of a Roma concentration camp in the Czech Republic will finally be bought by the Czech government and a proper memorial put in place.

L to R, Manu Paun, Gabi Muntean and Ricardo Munteanu at the Roma Holocaust Memorial Event 2015.  Photo by Derek Speirs

Owners of the pig farm, AGPI, agreed a sale price with the Czech authorities and it is expected the sale will be concluded before the next Czech general election in October.

Pavee Point actively campaigned, as part of a Europe-wide campaign, for the removal of this pig farm, as it causes grave offence to the families of the estimated 500,000 Roma people who were murdered in concentration camps during World War 2.

In June this year 4 members of the Irish Roma and Traveller communities from Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre went to Lety to take part in a ‘Dignity for Lety’ demonstration organised by  the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement.

Tica Muntean at ‘Dignity for Lety’ 24 June 2017. Red roses became the symbol for respect for the Roma Holocaust.

Gabi Muntean and Tica Muntean explained that visiting Lety was a very emotional experience.  “It was very obvious that this pig farm was a terrible insult to Roma.  But, for a long time nobody seemed to care,” said Gabi.

James Anthony McDonagh also visited this year.  “I was delighted to play my part and represent the support of Irish Travellers in this campaign,” he said.

Thanks to this campaign Lety came from being an unknown spot to a European focal point for the mobilisation of civil society and political leaders.

Benjamin Abtan, EGAM president said on Monday : “Today marks a historical day for the dignity of Roma people, and a historical victory for  European civil society.

Benjamin Abtan, president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement.

“Together, activists and political leaders, Roma and non-Roma, Czech and other Europeans, we have turned Lety from a symbol of shame to that of victory and dignity. A lot more needs to be done to have the dignity of the victims of the Roma genocide and their descendants respected.

“All over the continent, the cases where history is too little known or respected should be urgently addressed, with the involvement of civil society.
This could be done for example through the creation of a European Foundation for the Memory of the Roma genocide.”

At Pavee Point’s recent Roma Holocaust Memorial Event on August 2nd,  two young Roma read the WW2 testimonies of Stelian Ciuciu and Danafe Spirachi, Roma living in Ireland.  The importance of testimonies in moving beyond facism was highlighted by US Holocaust Memorial Council member and Roma Professor, Ethel Brooks at this event.