Roma Genocide Memorial Day – 2nd August

To mark Roma Genocide Memorial Day on the 2nd of August, Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, in collaboration with An Post, is organising a special viewing of the tapestry ‘el holocausto’ at the historic GPO building on O’Connell Street, with a short ceremony featuring testimonies from Roma survivors.

Vanessa Paszkowska. Maxwell Photography.

Testimony of the Paszkowska Family by Vanessa Paszkowska

Both of my great grandparents, Kristina and Franiu, were survivors of the Holocaust. Like most Roma, they lost many of their loved ones during this time. I was fortunate to meet my great grand mother to hear her experience first hand.

It was very valuable to me as a young Roma woman to hear about  how strong and courageous my family was. They are my heroes.

At the age of 12 my grandmother was brought to a Roma Ghetto with her family where she was about to be executed at the wall of death as she was holding her 5 year old sister Jadwiga. The SS officer took pity on her and her sister as they were crying very loudly and so he took a Jewish person instead.

At the Ghetto she met my grandfather who instantly fell in love with her. There was no food at the ghetto which forced young Roma children or anyone small enough to fit through a hole that was dug under a wall to get some food and bring it back. Many risked their lives knowing that it may be their last journey.

Knowing the risk, my grandfather risked his life to bring back an apple for my grandmother as his proclamation of his love for her. Ever since they were inseparable. They were a definition of true love.

Before the Roma ghetto both of my  great grandparents had terrible experience where they have met eye to eye with death but were fortunate to avoid it.

My grand mother told me how her and her siblings watched their father being chased and murdered in the open field due to him having gold teeth. His jaw was kicked and teeth removed. The children had to wait until night-time to get his body and bury him with their bare hands.

My grandfather lost his father after he gave up his life to save his son by distracting the Nazis who had him at a gun point. All he heard was a gunshot as he was running away to safety to the rest of the family.

His family lived a nomadic life and it consisted of approximately 80 people. When the Nazis banned the free travel of Roma, they were forced to stay in a town called Karczew. They lived there for three years where they have build good relations with the community.

One night two men disguised themselves as Roma and stole a calf. The Nazis were called and that day a massacre of 77 innocent Roma men, women and children occurred. My grandfather ran in zigzags to avoid the bullets that were shot at him by the Nazis.

He got shot in the hip but was fortunate to have crossed the river where he passed out. He was found and aided by another Roma boy who had also recently lost his entire family.

Later my grandfather was caught and brought to the Roma Ghetto
where his path crossed with my grandmother. The effects of the massacre are to be felt to this day as my family has been fighting 34 years to memorialise the mass grave of the 77 murdered Roma in Karczew.

The Importance of Remembering #ProtectTheFacts

Rudolf Simonic, Roma Community Worker at Pavee Point says: “The Holocaust marked a deep trauma in the Roma community and has impacted us deeply through the generations. We mark this date after years of struggle for recognition as victims and survivors of the Holocaust”.

Martin Collins, Co-Director of Pavee Point says: “At Pavee Point we have commemorated Roma Genocide Memorial Day for many years. It is an important part of our work to keep this history alive in the public consciousness, as it reminds us of the dangers of racism and hatred, and the importance of calling for the equal rights and opportunities for all Roma and Travellers”.

“Across Europe and in Ireland, Roma continue to be subjected to racially motivated hate crime, violence, persecution, expulsion and discrimination. Over the past year, Ukrainian Roma have experienced discriminatory treatment when fleeing the war in Ukraine”.

The El Holocausto tapestry is a memorial to all those murdered in the Holocaust, including the half a million Roma who were murdered, and it is an artistic protest against impunity for genocide and against all forms of racism.

The tapestry will be on public display at the GPO until the end of August of this year before continuing its journey to other significant sites of memory and art around the world.

Photo Caption – (LtoR) Martin Collins, Pavee Point; Carol Baxter, Dept of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth; Lynn Jackson, Holocaust Education Trust Ireland; Bianca Tanase, Pavee Point; Vanessa Paszkowska, Pavee Point; Kate Fitzgerald, Holocaust Education Trust Ireland; Jenny Liston, Pavee Point and Rudolf Simonic, Pavee Point.

More information on Roma Genocide Memorial Day

Council of Europe Booklet – Right to Remember – A Handbook for Education with Young People on the Roma Genocide