GATEHerts: Dikh He Na Bister reflections part 4 by Leanne Wall

23 August 2018
Youth Sat smiling

Travellers' Times is bringing you a series of blogs from GATEHerts this week, following the  journeys of UK participants who attended the international youth event 'Dikh He Na Bister'  (Look and don’t forget)

Today, Leanne Wall shares her thoughts on the fourth day of the unique event that gathers 300 young Roma and non-Roma from across the world together to learn about the Roma genocide and the mechanisms of anti-gypsyism. 

Early on the morning of Thursday 2nd August, we took the 2-hour coach journey to Auschwitz -Birkenau for the official Roma genocide remembrance ceremony. When we arrived we broke off into our working groups and sat in circles under the shade from the hot sun to prepare for the official commemoration service at 12.

Young people sat in circle reflecting

It was moving to see so many people throughout Europe come together to remember such a tragic, horrific part of our history. We sat in our groups to hear stories of what happened and why we should not sit and let such things happen again. Feelings of horror, anger and disgust could be felt in our group.

Other feelings were also present on that morning, feelings such as pride and love, pride for being able to sit here and be able to remember what has happened and pass our thoughts and feelings to those around us and know that we are part of the reason as to why we will never again let this happen. Love can be felt for those around us, for the simple reason that once all this hatred and fear surrounded our people, now we are able to make change and love our peers.


August 2nd

We all walked together to the commemoration site for the occasion of the 74th anniversary of the liquidation of the so-called “Zigeunerlager camp” in Auschwitz-II-Birkenau. We wore our Dikh he Na Bister t-shirts proudly holding our Roma flags and red roses to later place at the memorial. We heard speeches from survivors and dignitaries from around Europe. There were dozens of floral tributes from around the world but none from the UK government so we laid a poem written by Gillian Green in tribute. 


Piece of paper lay on Roma flag

After the service and went on to the International youth meeting centre in Oswiecim (IYMC) for some lunch and a little rest, before meeting with holocaust survivors to hear their personal testimonies. 

However, my group met with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Dunja Mijatovic the Director Equality and Union Citizenship of the European Commission.

We had the opportunity to ask her questions, so one of the UK participants Johnson Welch started by asking Ms Mijatovic about how to tackle racism surrounding one of the oldest running Gypsy fairs in the world, Appleby Fair and other people went on to ask questions concerning their countries of origin.


meeting with the human rights comissioner

I went on to ask her about racism from the police towards Romany communities in England. I asked her how they could help us to tackle the institutional racism from the police such as raids on sites and cases of us being followed because of the address our vehicles come back to. This led to the members from our group in the UK discussing issues around ethnic profiling.

At first, I felt that meeting may be a suitable step in the right direction in getting my community equality and helping us get out of the shadows. I felt disappointed at the end, after consideration and meeting the commissioner it became clear to us all that she had little or no influence on UK laws, so I do not know where that leaves us as Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the UK. After this we wearily got back on our coaches for the long journey back to our accommodation, and that night listened to music to help decompress from the emotional day.

Watch out tomorrow for GATEHerts:Dikh He Na Bister reflections part 5 by Tyler Hatwell