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Gnat Tyrpak: “Being the Rom Baro is a calling. It can't be taught”
Gnat Tyrpak among colleagues - Roma activists and representatives of NGOs Photo: “Protection of the Rights of Roma of Ukraine” Facebook community
Gnat Tyrpak among colleagues - Roma activists and representatives of NGOs

How the Roma differ from other nationalities, why parents are more responsible for education of their children than the state and why it is incorrect to call the Roma leader “Baro”... The Roma mediator of ICF “Chiricli”, the chairman of the Transcarpathian cultural-educational society “Romani Jag" (Perechin) Gnat TYRPAK answers the above questions asked by the journalist of the Roma Woman Fund “Chiricli”. Gnat is the first person in the gallery of interesting personalities of the heading “The Portrait of Successful Roma”.

- Mr. Tyrpak, is it hard to become the successful Roma in Ukraine, in other country? What does it depend on?

- If the Roma is competent, well-educated, he moves ahead like people of any other nationalities. Therefore, education is the first condition. Personally I am a builder. After technical school I served in the army, then got married (now I have two children - the son and daughter, two grandsons). My children have got education. In Uzhgorod we have a lot of young people who graduated from the Lviv University, in particular, law department, there are biologists, representatives of other professions.

- It is possible to tell that this is the region of the successful Roma?

-Yes! And that pleases me very much. In due time the education program for the Roma of Zakarpattya (Roma Program Initiative) was implemented with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.

- When talking about success, what is considered “successful” in Roma communities? Large amounts of money, houses?

- The answer is simple. The Roma differ in that they are the Roma. They have no state, the official language. The difference is only in those aspects.

- Please tell how you help other Roma.

- This help would be impossible without close cooperation with local authorities. To help the Roma is our routine. The role of the leader is very important here.

- You mean the Rom Baro?

- They usually say so - the Rom Baro, but it is wrong. The Baro, to be more exact, is the head, it is translated as “senior”. The Roma can’t do without such person, they trust him.

- So the Baro is, actually, a mediator, respected person...

- If something happened in Roma community, they, first of all, appeal to the leader who can resolve arguable issues. Actually, there are leaders or heads of that sort in all structures. If the head looks after the camp, everything is fine there: children go to school, nobody steals or starts fights. Of course, if this person is in the right place.

- But if not?

- The Baro is either re-elected, or expelled. Then they elect another Baro who can be really helpful.

- Is being the Baro a service, job?

- No, I consider it a calling. It can't be taught.

- What does the education level, in particular, among the Roma depend on? On the state?

- No. It depends on the mother and father. Actually, if the mother doesn't send her child to school - no state will make her do it. We often say: the state does not provide this or that… That’s a half-truth. But the main thing is your child, and parents first of all have to protect, feed and educate it. I’d like to note that the Roma have changed much recently. In particular, in our region.

- To the best?

- Exactly so. I’m heading several camps. The Roma have built houses here, arranged water supply, bought good furniture. They work, send children to school. For example, in Perechinsky district where I’m working. Churches play a very important and positive role in life of Roma communities. They are different, and they help a lot - in every sense. Earlier the Roma drank vodka, smoked, were idle. Now they go to church, don't drink, don't smoke. Many of them work, earn money – not much, but quite enough to support themselves.

- So you wish good life to all Roma...

- Each of them, throughout Ukraine.

- And what does it depend on?

- It is very important to communicate. We, Roma mediators, meet 2-3 times for a year - generally in Kyiv, thanks to Zemfira Kondur, vice president of ICF “Chiricli”. We participate in trainings, study. You see, it’s difficult – to keep Roma traditions, to be included in the Ukrainian society. But I think that we will rise high - if we work hard for the benefit of both our Roma communities and Ukraine as a whole.

Reference
The model of Roma Health Mediators is implemented in Ukraine since 2010 by ICF “Chiricli” with the support of the Roma Health Program (Budapest) and Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation. The main objective is to provide support to the Roma from the state at the national and regional levels. Mediators were, first of all, representatives of Roma communities, who enjoy special confidence and honor among the Romani people, besides have a certain education level. Also among mediators there are not only the Roma by nationality, but people who are not indifferent to problems the Roma communities face. For today the network of Health Care Mediators working in Roma communities totals 55 persons. During the implementation of the project mediators provided aid to over 12 000 Roma.

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