Mykolaiv Sketchbook: Roma Remembrance

By Gabriela Bulisova and Mark Isaac

We were exceptionally honored and pleased to be welcomed yesterday on a bus by members of the Romani Bacht ensemble to travel more than 200 kilometers northwest of Mykolaiv to a site that is very important to Roma history and remembrance. We joined local Romas and their friends in commemorating a massacre of 5,000 Romas, many of them women and children, that occurred in World War II during German occupation of this territory. A wreath was laid, songs were sung, and poems were recited near the village of Krivoe Ozero (Crooked Lake) where  a monument marks this terrible event. After solemnly remembering this tragedy, local residents also embraced their heritage with a celebration in song and dance -- and a meal -- before the long ride back to Mykolaiv. By the time we returned, late in the evening, we felt we had made a lasting link to new friends -- and we certainly honor and respect their outstanding contributions to local culture and their history. We are sharing a small number of photos that document the proceedings, but we also made connections that will further our project on ethnic identity and the reasons why so many peoples of different backgrounds have been able to live together peacefully in Southern Ukraine.