Dumaidan-2017: How to stop interethnic violence?

The following meeting of the Dumaidan’s organizers took place on June 21, due to a new exacerbation of interethnic aggression in Ukraine.

Petro Hryhorichenko, President of the All-Ukrainian Union of NGOs “Ukrainian Roma Congress”, reminded that intolerant attitude towards the Romani people is a long-standing problem in our country.


‘Unfortunately, recently we have seen an increase in interethnic aggression. On June 11, an unknown person had killed a Romani woman in the Sviatoshynskyi District of Kyiv. Recently, a deputy of the Local Regional Council was arrested for the murder of a Roma man in the Olshany Village in Kharkiv Oblast. In addition, he injured four more Ukrainian citizens – Romani nationals. The cases of forced deportation of Roma have become more frequent: this happened on Odesa Oblast in the Loshchivivka Village and Kyiv’, he said.

Olha Zhmurko, Director of the Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation, confirmed that the level of xenophobia in relation to Roma in Ukrainian society is the highest. She suggested solving this problem by overcoming the isolation of local Roma communities.

Olha Zhmurko, Director of the Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation
Olha Zhmurko, Director of the Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation

‘These citizens have the right to school education and identification documents in order to be able to participate in public life. It is because of the inability to exercise these rights, they remain outside the community. The security of the communityis also dependent on it, because isolation contributes to new conflicts,’ said Olha Zhmurko.

The project “Dumaidan-2017: Getting Together around the Tent of Understanding” started in March this year during the Docudays Festival in Kyiv. Representatives of many civil society organizations representing ethnic minorities of Ukraine were present there. All of them expressed their concern that the level of xenophobia and ethnic violence in our society does not decrease. At the same time, all decided to fight this problem jointly.

Olena Sapozhnikova, a lawyer for the Helsinki Union, reminded that, in addition to xenophobia, Ukrainian citizens, including government officials, are prone to profiling – that is, the spread of the attitude of one representative of a certain ethnic group to the whole group. One of the illustrative cases happened recently at the Helsinki Union’s office, where a Roma family was invited after a press conference. These were the same people, who were expelled from Kyiv by the unknown people, after the destruction of their camp. Olena Sapozhnikova signed a contract with them and handed over products collected by non-indifferent citizens. As soon as the family came out, they were immediately detained by police in civilian clothes, because, in their words, “some Roma person has stolen something in the area recently”. No explanations of Olena Sapozhnikova made impression on the law-enforcers. Without the personal intervention of the Office of the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, this whole story could have had no happy ending.

According to Olena Sapozhnikova, at first, it is necessary to identify the main problems that cause inter-ethnic misunderstanding. The first symbolic step is the joint embroidery of the Tent of Understanding – a large canvas made of scraps. During the sewing, its participants will propose their ideas on how to find an understanding in Ukraine.

‘The tent also has a certain ideological burden, so we show that it would be possible to combine seemingly unbundled things,” explained Olena Sapozhnikova.

When in March next year the tent is ready, it will be sold during a charity auction, and the organizers of Dumaidan-2017 will spend the money to help victims of ethnic misunderstanding to people, who will seek help from the Helsinki Human Rights Union.

Tetiana Kurach, Coordinator of projects of the international public organization “International Union”, informed that the resolution of Dumaidan-2017 contained a number of issues, among them:

  1. Discrimination on the basis of nationality in the media.
  2. Irregularity and unsystematic dialogue between state bodies and representatives of national minorities.
  3. Social problems of ethnic groups.
  4. Problems of national minorities with access to education.

Tetyana Kurach invited experts to write analytical articles on these topics. The conclusion in these articles should be a whole series of concrete tips for the authorities to solve these problems.

In addition, according to Tetiana Kurach, the all-Ukrainian competition of essays for students and schoolchildren “Ways of Understanding” has just finished.

‘We received 28 submissions from all over Ukraine, as well as one in English, from Bulgaria. Soon, on July 1, the names of the winners will be announced in six nominations: three among the school students, and three among the university students,’ said Tetiana Kurach.

Olena Sapozhnikova said that one of the prizes for the winner of the essay contest would be a trip to the tolerance camp in the Slavsko Village in the Carpathians. This annual camp was organized in 2002 by the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine. At present, there are 15 ethnic and 4 religious groups there. In general, the organization organizes 8 similar camps in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.

Josyf Zisels, Executive Vice President of the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine, spoke about a group of monitoring and analysis of manifestations of xenophobia.

Josyf Zisels, Executive Vice President of the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine,
Josyf Zisels, Executive Vice President of the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine,

‘We found that in tolerant Canada in 2015 more than 400 hate crimes occurred. This is a very high figure, and it is much higher than the same indicator in Eastern Europe and, in particular, in Ukraine. We have much fewer cases. But the state at all does nothing to eradicate this phenomenon completely,’ he said.

Olena Sapozhnikova urged the victims of interethnic misunderstanding to send complaints to the UHHRU e-mail [email protected] or P.O.Box 100, Kyiv, 04071 and by phone +38 (044) 383 95 19, +38 (094) 928 65 19. Lawyers of the Union will help solve the problems.

Organizers of the project “Dumaidan – 2017: Getting Together around the Tent of Understanding” are the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, the Ukraine-wide Union of NGOs “Congress of Roma of Ukraine”, the International Renaissance Foundation, the ICF Roma Women Fund “Chirikli”, the NGO Platform for change “Re:Design”, the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine, the Council of National Communities of Ukraine, the NGO “Center of Law”, the International Civic Organization “International Union”. The project is supported by the Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, the Center for Ukrainian Culture and Arts, the Institute of Pedagogical Science of the National Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of Ukraine.


Prepared by Oleh Shynkarenko specifically for the Left Bank


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