Activism during the war: how Ukrainians and Roma stand together in order to win

At dawn, on the 24th of February, Russian troops crossed the state border of Ukraine. After occupying the surrounding areas, the invaders moved in the direction of Okhtyrka located in the Sumy region. Fierce fighting lasted more than a month, there was intensive shelling of territory from Grad rocket launchers, but the belief in victory permeated through fear and was stronger.

On the eve of the invasion, some Ukrainians anticipated danger and morally got ready for the coming struggle. Pavlo Ihnatchenko is a leader of the youth movement in Okhtyrka, activist and musician. The boy says that he decided to stay at home shortly before the war. Today, together with local youth, he takes an active part in rebuilding the city, implementing useful projects and helping the army. You can read the first part with Pavel Ignatchenko at the link.

Roma Easter bread for a Ukrainian soldier

Volodymyr Yakovenko is a Roma activist, human rights activist and a head of “ARCA” (Agency for the Advocacy of Roma Culture) – one of those who engaged with army support, sending dozens of traditional Roma “paskas” (loaves of Ester bread), food and everything necessary to the front. Every year, Volodymyr’s family adheres to the traditions of Roma culture. So, baking Easter bread is a special and very sacred affair for the whole family. Baking Easter bread for Roma is a unique process and technology. Easter bread or “paska” is baked in special ovens, which Ukrainians used a hundred years ago. Now this tradition has been preserved by the Roma too.

Volodymyr Yakovenko says that this year’s initiative to bake Roma Easter bread for a Ukrainian soldier appeared in his family spontaneously. The mother immediately supported her son’s idea and on the eve of Easter baked a great amount of scented Roma paskas, which were later sent to the front line for Ukrainian soldiers.

Easter bread is very symbolic for our army. Because in this way they will be able to learn more about the Roma and the fact that the Roma community of Ukraine also stand together in order to bring victory and overcome Russian invaders,” — Volodymyr Yakovenko says. The boy adds that this year’s Easter bread is significant for all Roma, because it is baked with the belief that light will overcome darkness. After all, this is the symbolism of Easter.

Tamara Tomenko is 64. She is the mother of Roma activist Volodymyr Yakovenko. She lives in Kremenchuk, where, like others, she volunteers and supports the Ukrainian army. When a woman talks about the process of baking Roma Easter bread for the forefront, her voice trembles, but tenderness is always traced in the timbre. She says that this year baking Easter bread for “our children” (as she calls all Ukrainian defenders) was especially important and necessary. Mrs. Tamara baked and handed over more than ten paskas to the front, leaving only two of them for her family.

Young boys are dying in the trenches. We are all having hard times. I wanted to do something in order for our defenders to feel the atmosphere of the holiday too. The Roma are very worried and supportive of them. I really want them to return home with a victory. We are waiting for them,” — the woman says in a touching, quiet voice.



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