Flowers thrown in Vltava to mark International Day of Roma

Czech town of Nymburk, Labe river, photo CTK

Monday was the International Day of Roma. While April 8 has been celebrated as International Day of Roma since 1971, last year was the first time it was marked in the Czech Republic. After a seminar on Roma identity in Prague a ceremony took place in which daffodils were thrown into the River Vltava on Monday afternoon. On a very windy Charles Bridge, Yvetta Kenety of the Romany organisation Athinganoi told Radio Prague why.

Czech town of Nymburk, Labe river, photo CTK
"This year a special part of this celebration is this river ceremony, which was organised by Roma living in India. They asked Roma organisations who are active around the world to take part in this event, and throw flowers into the river and so demonstrate the fact that Roma are all from India, that they left India about a thousand years ago and that they are still up to now forced to migrate and to leave their homes and that they are spread all over the world, and by this one event that all Roma living all over the world meet, unite and do this one event together, demonstrate solidarity and unity."

Was Prague the only place where the event took place?

"They are taking place as far as we know in the whole world basically. From America to Asia through Europe. We know of Moscow, St Petersburg, Budapest, Belgrade, Israel... Prague is a part of it. Also America, San Francisco, New York. There has been a big communication between Roma leaders on the Internet and there might be more. In the Czech Republic the first river ceremony took place last Thursday in Nymburk."

Prague, photo CTK
The Romanies are a nation without a homeland, and live in many different countries. Do Romanies around the world feel they are part of some kind of international community?

"I think so and it's becoming more and more common and more and more obvious and Roma people feel unity and identity. Today we had a seminar where we discussed exactly this - identity of Roma people. And there are no easy answers."

Among those who took part in Monday's event was the American author and Romany rights activist Paul Polansky. What was his opinion of the ceremony in which flowers were thrown in the river?

"Well, it's better than the skinheads throwing gypsies off the bridge, as has happened in the past. It seems pretty quiet, pretty passive, and I'm really pleased to see that public events like this can be held. Five years ago you couldn't have had a public event like this. You would have had skinheads here throwing the gypsies into the river, as happened in Pisek."

And Paul Polansky was referring to an incident which took place in the town of Pisek in September 1993, when a group of skinheads forced a Romany man named Tibor Danihel into the river Otava, where he drowned.