Monument that split Mukachevo

Recently it was reported in the media that inMukachevo, townwiththelargestinUkraineRomacommunityofseventhousandpersons, amassivemonumenttoaRoma-janitor was established.

Iryna Tkachenko, Zemfira Kondur, for UP. Life

Recently it was reported in the media that in Mukachevo, town with the largest in Ukraine Roma community of seven thousand persons, amassivemonumenttoaRoma-janitor was established.

The appearance of this Roma person is very stereotypical: beard, hat, apron, broom and a dog nearby. Apparently, the monument is not cheap.  

It would be possible to take it easy and say – yes, indeed, this is an important moment for the Roma community of this city. If it were not for…

Representatives of civil society organizations protecting the interests of the Roma communities told us about “no” and “but” of this monument.

The first thing I want to note: in the camp that is home to seven thousand people, there is no water,” so begins a conversation Zemfira Kondur, vice-president of the International Charitable Roma Women’s Foundation “Chirikli”. – “All the negotiations conducted by the local civil society groups with the city Mayor on this issue were unsuccessful.

Why? The Mayor believes that since the Roma have no job, they are not able to pay for utility services, in this case why to lay on water supply? The city mayor has repeatedly stated that in private conversations as well as in the open meetings conducted on this topic.”

In the camp, among other things, there is no road, the territory is not organized, and most of its inhabitants are crammed into uncontrolled settlements, which would hardly ever be possible to legalize: theses premises do not correspond to the basic safety standards.

And now, against the backdrop of total poverty among the inhabitants of the camp, lack of education and the fact that these people cannot count on any other job except the job of janitor – somebody sets such a monument! Note that all this is happening on the eve of local elections.

The public reaction was instantaneous. On the next day local activists that represent and protect interests of the Roma community have initiated a flash mob campaign in which they expressed their negative attitude to this newly erected monument.

In social networks, representatives of the Roma community from different regions of Ukraine have posted their “non-stereotypical” images in formal attire with a broom in their hands. The photos came along with comments: occupation of a person appearing in a photo and their reaction presented as a quotation regarding the appearance of this monument.

The participants of the campaign were the Roma lawyers, public activists and cultural workers, translators, social workers, doctors, university students and persons of other occupations.

This monument is perceived by people as the rooting of negative stereotypes about the Roma people. In this case this is an illustration of the fact that these people are unable to master other trades and all they can do it to sweep the streets.

Among the further actions is the address to the city Mayor.

After all, the money spent on this monument was, so to speak, wasted. This money could have been spent at least on road repairs in the camp.

Nikolay Yurchenko, chairperson of the Roma organization “Ternipe” in Lviv, so expressed his opinion about the monument to the Roma with a broom:

My first impression about this monument is shock. Whatisamonumentatall? A monument is an incarnation of something worthy of our respect and our memory. Let’s take monuments to miners or grain growers: as a rule, they are sculptures without national characteristics.

Of course, we respect each kind of work. But this fact that here the kind of activity was combined with the nationality, as though one does not exist without the other, this is, in my opinion, discrimination. This is particularly disturbing since the creation of this dubious, from all points of view, monument was initiated by local council members, representatives of the Ukrainian people in power!”


Pap Aladar, a representative of the Transcarpathian region, director of the “Rom Som” cultural society, said about the monument: “It has become a mockery of the people – as if the Roma are only janitors. In 20 years of experience in the field of protection of the rights of the Roma I saw everything, but I never felt such humiliation as I feel today.”

Representatives of the expert coalition of the Roma organizations in Ukraine found out that the city authorities of Mukachevo did not ask the opinion of the local Roma about whether they need such a monument.

The Roma represent a significant part of the population in Mukachevo. However, the inability of the authorities to engage in dialogue with people leads to the fact that they “wanted to make it better…” – and then you know.

The problem of communication of the local authorities with the Roma population is traditional for the whole Ukraine. The program of the Roma medical and social mediators is aimed at solving this problem. In Mukachevo there is one Roma mediator. The authorities are informed about his activities, but, somehow, it never occurred to them to consult with him on advisability of installation of this monument.

To say that the monument is a symbol of a traditional trade of the Roma, as the local officials stated during the ceremony of the monument inauguration, is unacceptable.

There may be several ways out of this situation.

Either local authorities make an official announcement that the monument has nothing to do with the Roma – but it is just a monument to janitors, as a kind of tribute to the people who are busy cleaning the streets, but with no mention, and, moreover, connection to the ethnicity.

Or the second option is that the monument should be taken down, because it does not correspond to either criteria, or concepts of tolerance and good-neighborly relations. And, moreover, it symbolizes the rooting of negative stereotypes regarding the Roma.

According to Olga Zhmurko, program director of the Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation, the monument in Mukachevo is the stereotype about the Roma immortalized in metal”.

The argument that it is the Roma who sweep the streets today does not hold water. First of all let us think why these people cannot apply for another job? Do they have a full access to education? Can their families give them at least minimal social and economic opportunities?

In addition, this monument simply negates the efforts and contribution to the development of local communities of those Roma who got education or are getting education (today there are more than 300 scholars and graduates of the Roma Education Fund in Ukraine), mastering the trade and by their own examples fighting the discrimination and prejudices towards their ethnicity.”

The expert coalition of the Roma organizations “Strategy 2020” states:

The efforts of the local authorities of Mukachevo should be directed at providing concrete assistance to people, city dwellers, who live in isolation in inhuman conditions and are deprived of basic things,– but not at the erection of the monuments like this one, which has a questionable cultural and artistic value and which, moreover, perpetuates negative stereotypes.

Contacts: UP. Life 

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