International Romani Day was celebrated in several cities and towns in Russia, among them Samara. On this occasion the staff of ADC “Memorial” joined these celebrations. Samara region is home to several Romani population groups: Kotlyar (Căldărari) Roma dwelling in Mekhzavod, Yaitskoye, Smyshlyayevka and Stromilovo, Vlach Roma in Krotovka and Kinel’, Crimean and Russian Roma in Zubchaninovka, as well as Romani people from Central Asia.
Various events that were part of the celebrations of International Romani Day were both entertaining and educational, they were held in several schools of Samara region. Pre-school kids and pupils were invited to an event held in school No.52 – children were dancing, older pupils sang songs, teachers spoke on the importance of friendship and equality regardless of ethnic origins of various peoples in Russia. Piotr Krasnov of ADC “Memorial” held an interactive lesson devoted to the history of the International Romani Day, its nature, main branches of the Romani people and the importance of education and schooling for children. After the concert books with fairy tales in Roma language were given to kids, which notably aroused their interest. The event was a success due to its perfect organization by the teachers of the school.
The staff of ADC “Memorial” spoke to the pupils of school No.34 in Zubchaninovka not only about the International Romani Day, but also about the possibilities of getting scholarships from REF in case the pupils decide to continue education in vocation schools or universities. Pupils expressed their interest in the program and now consider applying for it next year.
Deputy director of school No.34 was very much interested in furthering cooperation with ADC “Memorial”, because the school already has some positive experience of cooperation with non-governmental organizations. Principles of tolerance and fighting against discrimination are part of this school’s policy: Roma children are studying together with other pupils in classes and there never was any segregation in education. Roma children successfully complete education in ninth and eleventh grades and some of them also go to universities for further education.
ADC “Memorial” has also established contacts with three other schools in Zubchaninovka, where a number of Roma pupils study. Information on scholarships and other materials were sent to these schools so that any Roma children willing to apply for REF scholarships can get in touch.
Another important address in Samara is school No.33 in Mekhzavod. Until this year local Roma children have never studied in school and that’s why the staff of ADC “Memorial” have discussed with the director of the school the issues of transferring 25 children to the second grade and accepting a new group of Roma children to the first grade this year. Representatives of ADC “Memorial” attended several classes and saw a test in one of them. Roma first graders were quick enough to solve the tasks, check their answers, etc. About a dozen Roma kids from this class have very good and good marks. One can say that they have already adapted themselves to the school and its life, became good and disciplined pupils. Back in the Roma encampment the kids showed their practice books and drawings, many of them expressed their pride about going to school, which is also a good sign for other kids who are going to enter the school next year.
In both Mekhzavod and Smyshlyayevka the staff of ADC “Memorial” spoke to adult Roma people. Most of the problems they encounter is due to the lack of identity documents and a large part of them is due to the difficulties they have in getting these documents because of the arbitrary actions of the staff of the Federal migration service (FMS). But we have also witnessed the fruits of labor of both the human rights defenders and the dwellers of these Roma encampments – the brand new passports some of the Roma people received. Happy owners of the new passports are examples for the others, as people see that this problem can be solved.
No doubt, Roma people in Samara region have different problems and they need support – legal advice, assistance in getting education and other social benefits. But it is good to see that the situation of Roma people is improving, however slow.