‘Most Roma in Poland are Catholic. Religion is very important for all Roma,’ says Anna Krawczyk, the leader of Romani Rad, a Roma music and dance ensemble. ‘It gives me strength to bring up my children, believing in a world free of discrimination and hatred. It gives all Roma strength to believe that we are not on our own, that we belong to same family, being children of the same Father. Religion and my strong belief in God give me peace, a refuge and freedom to hope. When I am in the church and talk to God, I also listen to Him, believe in Him and He believes in our love towards him.’
Anna Krawczyk, 39 years old Roma refugee from Poland, arrived in the UK with her family in the mid-1990s. Anna is a Trustee of the Roma Support Group, a charity organisation working with Roma refugees and migrants since 1998. She is the leading light behind the making of the organisation, highly contributing to popularising Roma culture and art in the UK.
Anna’s family was one of many thousands of Roma families fleeing post-communist Eastern Europe, escaping from institutionalised racism, segregated education for Roma children and anti-Roma discrimination. Like many thousands of Roma refugees and migrants in the UK, Anna has established herself in this country and is happy that her children take advantage of mainstream education to fulfil their potential. For Anna her life in the UK means safety and fulfilment of her dream to share her love for Roma music and dance with British people. ‘Our music rejoices and despairs with us. It is strongly linked with our life and our love for God,’ she says.
For Anna and other members of Romani Rad, the participation in the Papal Vigil signifies an equality that they have come to enjoy in the UK. Discriminated and marginalised in their Eastern European homelands, they have endeavoured to make the most of new opportunities, which are available for them in their adopted country. The Catholic Church has enabled many Roma from Eastern Europe to integrate into British society, making them feel welcome and included.
However, Anna is still concerned for the future of the Roma people in Europe and their rights as nationals of the European Union. She is happy that the Pope is standing up for the vulnerable and voiceless Roma in France, who now face enforced expulsion. But she also realises that there are many challenges ahead for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers in the UK before they can fully exercise their equal rights in the face of continued discrimination. She fears that there are many Roma, Gypsies and Travellers who still face the edge of exclusion and marginalisation, which led Papusha, Anna’s favourite Polish Roma poetess to write the following words many years ago:
‘I did not come to you so you can feed me. I come, so you can believe me.
I did not come to ask for your money. I come, so you can give it to everyone.
I did not come to ask for your money. I come, so you can welcome everyone.
So you do not create black night out of White Day.’
Papusha, 1910 – 1987
Anna Krawczyk, an artistic director of Romani Rad ensemble and a singer, performing at the Papal Vigil in Hyde Park.