Everyone has a gift to be celebrated 


Carolin Ahlvik-Harju, Iuliana Baldovin, Svetoslava Nikolova, Anca Enache and Maria Dorofte from the Deaconess Foundation write about the power of encounter and living together on the Roma National Day. 

Neljä naista seisoo rivissä katsoen kameraan.

Svetoslava Nikolova, Carolin Ahlvik-Harju, Anca Enache and Maria Dorofte.

On the 8th of April, the shores of the Danube River in Bulgaria are filled with flowers, put there by people honouring the 500,000 Roma people who were killed in concentration camps during the Second World War. The 8th of April is a remembrance day for all the discrimination, hardships and racism faced by generations of Roma people all over the world.

The 8th of April is a celebration day for the strength, joy and pride that defines so many Roma people all over the world – and for the gifts they bring to the societies, communities, and friendships they are connected to.   

The Roma anthem “Gelem, Gelem” tells the story of a people with dark eyes and dark skin that come together in unity for the sake of a shared history, a shared life. And that is truly what they do! Although the Roma are spread all over the world, their common language and their common culture bring them together. Whenever their life paths cross, they recognize each other, embrace each other, laugh, and cry together.

And whilst so many non-Roma through the ages have labelled the Roma to be dark souls and unfairly used them as scapegoats for all kinds of societal problems; the Roma have continuously found themselves on a dark path being left on the sidelines, put last in line and not viewed to be worthy of anyone’s genuine interest for who they are as human beings. But underneath the darkness, there is a beauty to be found in the connectedness between people.

We – as both Roma and non-Roma – have over some years been blessed with each other’s presence in our lives. We have gotten to know each other’s histories, families and life struggles. But most of all, we have received each other’s gifts and found that together we are stronger, funnier, more competent and more fully human. And that is cause for celebration!

“Gelem, Gelem” is also an anthem about hope, pride and joy

Because even though the experience of being a migrant in a – sometimes – hostile country can never fully be understood by someone who has lived a whole life marked by privilege; Sharing life and embracing the other person’s story always leads to a shared history.

And a shared history has been proven to be a very fruitful path towards more kindness, more respect and more willingness to work for a common future where no one’s ethnical background or skin colour can ever determine someone’s fate.  

“Gelem, Gelem” is also an anthem about hope, pride and joy. So instead of deeming Roma people’s dream of a future with equal possibilities opportunistic – let us stand together as the human beings we all are. Let us give the next generation of Roma a future in which their children can go to school and not be judged simply because they are Roma. Let us on the 8th of April bring flowers as a gesture of welcome. Because everyone has a gift to be celebrated. Everyone has a right to belong.  

Text by Carolin Ahlvik-Harju, Project Manager of the Roma Gate Employment Lab project, Iuliana Baldovin, Host Baker, Svetoslava Nikolova, Employment Advisor of the Roma Gate Employment Lab project, Anca Enache, Human Rights expert of International Affairs and Maria Dorofte, Programme Coordinator of International Affairs.

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