Roma in Ukraine: Too angry to write, too sad to stop writing

Roma, Europe’s largest and poorest minority, are discriminated against in all of Europe. Ukraine is no exception. While most of us admire the Ukrainians’ brave defense of their country, we must address the effects of unsavory elements among them who do harm to Romani women, children, and the elderly as they all flee. The stories of terrible treatment are mounting.

The crisis of Roma at the Ukraine border deepens every day. Both border officials and local volunteers are discriminating against Roma, who have suffered pogroms, police brutality, and intense discrimination inside Ukraine, as in all of Europe.

We have reports of Roma who are fleeing burning cities being denied entry, volunteers refusing food and water to them, officials segregating them because white nationalists among the refugee population are threatening them (Punishing the victims, the age old story.) Roma get the worst temporary housing, are left unprocessed for better housing, even as their children are denied the same food and water allotment as white Ukrainians.

Much of this has been documented by journalists such as Mauricio Lima, photographer for the New York Times, the nonprofit Roma Nation, Roma News, Romedia, and others. Google any of those names and “Roma” and you should find the details. My friend Sonya Jasaroska has posted a good bit on her Facebook page.

Our larger organizations such as the European Roma Rights Centre and the ERGO network seem to be expecting the UN to do something about this. They aren’t. They never have. Nor has the European Union addressed this current crisis among Romani Ukrainians in any meaningful way.

One organization addressing issues on the ground is the Foundation Towards Dialogue (Fundacja w Strone Dialogu) in Poland. Their web site is http://www.fundacjawstronedialogu.pl.

They are hiring buses to move Roma away from the temporary housing and to other major EU cities and countries where volunteers have given their spare rooms, their apartments, any space they have to the Romani Ukrainian refugees. They are serving as a clearing house for such housing. They are seeing the people get adequate food and water.

What can you do? Clearly we Roma must take these issues into our own hands. But you don’t have to be Roma to know this isn’t fair and want to help. Do you know lawyers or medical personnel who will help? do you own and/or know owners or spaces where people can be housed? Do you know restauranteurs who will donate food and water? Please send them to the Foundation’s page to volunteer. Or have them contact me and I will direct them to the Facebook page where volunteers are working.

Will you donate money to the Foundation Towards Dialogue so they can purchase what is needed? Below is their banking information. Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska, who chairs the foundation, has a good track record. This is where I’m putting my money.

We are collecting funds as donations to help accommodate Roma refugees coming to Poland. If you wish to support it, this is our internet site (basic information are also available in English) http://www.fundacjawstronedialogu.pl.

Thank you so much for your interest and thoughts! Please help before we have a humanitarian disaster within a disaster.

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