By the International Roma Day 8th of April, Anti-discrimination Centre Memorial presents a photographic portrait of the Roma of Donbass, whose lives have been upended by war and pogroms. Living amid the devastation of war and lacking the most basic necessities, they are plagued by fear and uncertainty. “For today, they don’t seem to be shooting,” they say, straining their hearing to make sure this is true and worrying that at any moment their world could again come under attack, bringing fresh tragedy.
This collection of photographs chronicles the lives of Roma living along Eastern Ukraine’s frontlines (and serves to supplement ADC Memorial’s early human rights report, “The Roma and War”). More than a year has passed since these areas were returned to Ukrainian jurisdiction after being held by separatist militias. For now, the fighting has stopped, yet true peace has not returned: roadblocks are everywhere, the sound of gunfire is no rarity, homes damaged by artillery fire teeter unrepaired, daily routines have not returned to normal, and public services have yet to be restored. The people depicted in our collection have been through a lot: some were forced to flee when their homes were turned into battlefields and have had to rebuild their lives elsewhere; others returned as soon as they could to their looted and destroyed houses. Hardest hit were families with small children, many of whose schooling has been interrupted by the war, although some families have overcome tremendous obstacles to keep their children in school.
It is our hope that these images and the stories behind them will promote compassion for Eastern Ukraine’s Roma, along with understanding, acceptance, and recognition of their rights. They need support in this difficult time.