Phiren Amenca

Reading the poets of Papusza

In memory of the Roma victims of August 2, 1944, a group of young Roma from Spain read the poem “Tears of Blood – How we suffered under the German soldiers in Volyň  from 1943 to 1944” written by the Polish Roma poet Bronislawa Wajs, known as Papusza, in 1952 part of the work “The forest, my father” (Spanish translation published in 2019):

Poetry and literature are an integral part of commemorating the Roma Holocaust for many reasons. The Romani language itself is an oral tradition, making the art of speaking a way to continue an aspect of our history as a way to tell stories, and continue cultural understanding in a way which can be passed down for generations without being written or published. The foundations for our survival as a people have historically relied on entertainment and creative skills, with poetry being one of the many bases for music, culture, and human connection within the creation of our modern society. Commemorating the Roma Holocaust through poetry and literature makes the concept of ‘remembering’ accessible to all within our communities, and allows for us to collectively mourn in ways which heal the soul and provide beauty and structure to a situation of irrational hate.

For survivors, the act of poetry and literature being a part of commemorating the Roma Holocaust is something of resistance and emotion. Since during the time of Nazi Germany our people were forbidden and starved of art, not even being allowed to sing. Creating poetry acts as a direct resistance to this measure, and a way to authentically represent their experiences that are often dehumanised. In poetry we don’t just understand the experiences of survivors but aspects of themselves along with it. By creating literature we resist the continuation of others telling our people’s stories, and give power to our survivors to hold the pen, and write their own recounts and reflections of history. By commemorating the Roma Holocaust through poetry and literature, we create a space for loss that is completely ours, and theirs. We create a sanctuary.