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International Renaissance Foundation at Book Arsenal Festival: Roma Program

For the first time the Roma program was presented at the Book Arsenal Festival. During 4 days - from May 17 till May 20 - events on the grounds of the international festival introduced visitors to the Roma culture: literature, theater, documentary, science and education.

The special program of the Book Arsenal Festival "Roma (not) known" was prepared for about half a year and implemented by NGO "Platform for Changes" Re: Design" with the support of International Renaissance Foundation. "In Ukraine now there is a unique opportunity situation for those who did not have them before, and participation in the Book Arsenal Festival is a chance, a platform for a successful start not only for the invited guests, but for the whole Roma community of the country", said the curator of the special project, Romologist Natalia Zinevych.

Day 1: "Roma literature exists!"

The discussion "Roma Literature in Ukraine and the World" brought together 5 speakers. For the first time not only in Ukraine, but also in the post-Soviet space, several Roma writers from different countries of the world were simultaneously invited to the discussion. Due to the wide media field of the Book Arsenal Festival, people learned that there are hundreds of Roma publications in the world and Roma literature has been developing dynamically for the last decade.


Literature discussion. Photo by Olena Orlova.

Day 2. Roma theater

The second day of the Roma program was devoted to reading the play "Gypsy Nights" by the actors of Kyiv Theater "Romance" and its discussion in the Q&A format. The only professional Romani Theater in Ukraine presented its own creative interpretation of the topic of the fate of the Romani people. From the scene the poetry by Lina Kostenko with her poem "Gypsy Muse" on the life of the Romani poet Papusza, the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca and translations of Alexander Pushkin's poem "The Gypsies" were heard in Ukrainian, Romani and Spanish.

"It is extremely important that the Romani Theater is on the main intellectual platform of the country today. Participation in the Arsenal program is an opportunity for the theater to be noticed by a potential spectator who did not know about it to date”, said Roman Blazhan, director and board member of the Platform for Change Re: Design.

Stage setting of the play "Gypsy Nights". Photo by Olena Orlova.

Day 3. Documentary Cycle "Seven Stories of Successful Romani Women"

The premiere series of documentary short films on the Roma theme was held on May 19. About a year the team of the Platform for changes" Re: Design worked on the project. Seven heroines of the cycle are women known among the Roma community. Through their monologues, certain facts of the biographies the viewer learns about the traditions, culture of the Roma, the relationships of generations.

The premiere of the "Seven Stories" at the Arsenal for the Ukrainian audience became an opportunity to get acquainted with the unknown Roma - shooting took place at the heroines’ homes, at work, in their favorite places.

Premiere of the Seven Stories at the Book Arsenal Hall. Photo by Olena Orlova.


Speakers of the discussion. Photo by Olena Orlova.

"Today the question of incorporating the Roma theme into the wider discourse of academic humanities arises. It is not just about research, the exchange of thoughts and practices in the narrow scientific community, but also about transfering the topic to a practical plane. The introduction of the Roma studies in formal higher education can and must become a serious step towards systematic educational work with different age groups in Ukrainian society, in particular in the area of tolerance", the Director of Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation Olga Zhmurko emphasized.

Materials are created with the support of International Renaissance Foundation. For additional comments on the projects of the Roma Program Initiative, you can contact Olga Zhmurko, its director, sending a request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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