One learns immediately that Erzsébet Gulyás is about light. She Is light. She brought us to this impossibly beautiful context, and said, See? We saw. We spoke breathlessly about other contexts, the meaning of shadow, the importance of shape. She is yet one more scholar of accomplishment at Central European University Budapest. And prior to that, the respected Moholy-Nagy Művészeti Egyetem (where romarising had been nicely received in 2007). She taught me anew about photography. We almost forgot to do pictures, so full of the conceptual was she. Searching for right words, it occurs to one: Erzsébet Gulyás is embodiment of emancipation and freedom.
Ronald Lee, a Romani Canadian, was born in Montreal where he spent most of his adult life. He moved to Toronto in 1997. He is a journalist and published author. From 2003 to 2008, he taught a spring seminar, the Romani Diaspora in Canada, at New College, University of Toronto as part of the Equity Studies Program, Department of Humanities. He is a founding member, former Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Roma Community Centre in Toronto, which assists Romani newcomers to Canada with their social integration. The RCC serves also as a cultural centre that organizes ethnic Romani events for the local Romani community, and to acquaint other Canadians with Romani culture, music, history and their situation in the refugee-producing countries in Europe. Its aim is also to assist with the social self-empowerment of Romani in Canada.
During his lifetime, he has worked at many jobs and professions interspersed with periods of self-employment from teenage office-boy to coppersmith in rural Quebec with Kalderash-Roma, mechanic, folk musician, model-building engineer at the Montreal Military and Maritime Museum, and, finally, journalist and author.
Mr. Lee has lectured extensively for colleges and universities, both in Canada and in the United States and also, in the Toronto area, for public and private elementary and high schools. He performs locally with other Romani musicians at Romani cultural events. In September 2012, he was awarded the Saip Jusuf Award for Literature and Language for his work as an author, journalist and linguist. And, in November 2014, he was awarded an honorary LLD by Queen's University, Ontario.
Viktoria Petrova is the first Country Coordinator of Roma background in charge of the REF Roma Scholarship Program- Bulgaria. Currently over 500 students per year apply for the scholarship and more than 200 are selected. The scholarship pays for only one academic year so, students must reapply on a yearly basis.
Viki has a B.A. in Public Administration from Veliko Tarnovo University and an M.A. in International Relations from Sofia University. Previously, she was Bulgarian coordinator of the Roma Mentor Program directed by OSI (Budapest) - an innovative pairing of Roma mentors and non-Roma teachers which emphasized developing cross cultural educational networks and educating students about Roma history and culture. “I have always believed that networking among students and educators is the key to addressing achievement gaps between Roma and non-Roma young people.”
Viki, herself, qualified for an OSI scholarship for Roma students, but found out about it too late. When she finally learned about the program at the end of her second year of university, she applied and was immediately accepted, but not before her parents had taken out a bank loan to put Viki and her brother through college. “Meeting Roma scholars was a revelation for me. For the first time I realized there were other Roma who thought like me, were educated and had economic goals.” Viki created a pre-Facebook social network for Roma Scholars while at university.
Viki credits her late father, Pietr Borisov, with inspiring her to continue her education and always pursue excellence. As part of the Bulgarian school desegregation effort, Pietr organized a concert featuring top Roma and non-Roma performers. “One day,” her father told Viki, “you will understand why I go to homes in the Roma neighborhoods and encourage the children to go to school. One day those children will thank me.” At his Memorial service, dozens of Roma students brought flowers to honor his memory.
Viktoria dreams of a better Bulgaria for her daughter Ani - a nation that includes more opportunities for all Bulgarians and elimination of anti-Roma prejudice and discrimination. “When she was only two, non-Roma children refused to play with Ani calling her ‘a dirty Gypsy’”. “Real change can only happen if other Roma who believe as I do are determined not to back down, and to strive for a world open to all.”
We chased through Bratislava, making appointment with this singular person who somehow was there, yet not here, not there. Finally. We connected. And dashed off to make a portrait. Communication, connexion, so very important. Deep Romani community contact. Before you, Petra Šarköziová, online host, thoroughly media competent, essential. The only presenter of Romani news in Slovakia. www.gipsytv.eu the HIRI. Utterly equivalent to any broadcaster. We were simply blown away by her complete hip. Way above our heads. What a chance, to include this person from Slovakia. Valued.
Let us celebrate the “normal” here. Rafał Siwak is a miner in one of the richest mineral zones in all of Europe, Lower Silesia. This should not draw attention, but it does, for he is Róm. What impresses greatly is his strength of character. He has seen his path to future, and seized it. Why should one celebrate this? Certainly not because a young and able man has found his livelihood. Perhaps simply because he has taken his place in the ceremony of life, and thrived.
Mgr Milan Virag was welcoming, but forbidden to allow photography of him in his court, even though he was a Municipal Judge in Teplice. He appears here in chamber, a Romani judge, courageously presenting himself. Other Romani judges in the Czech Republic declined inclusion in romarising. During the Civil Rights Era in my own country, the concept of “standing to be counted” was a constant mantra. Judge Virag earns admiration.