Rita Pastrama: ‘Our houses were burned before Eurovision’

Roma and Hungarians, who were expelled from Kyiv to their “home” in Zakarpattia, could not find housing and work there and returned to Kyiv in order to demand protection of their rights.

Rita Pastrama speaks Russian and Ukrainian fluently, can read, write, and has a Ukrainian passport. That is why she represents exiles before Ukrainian authorities. She denied the official version, voiced by the Darnytsia District Administration that ‘Roma decided to leave Kyiv and move to Zakarpattia voluntarily,’ and claims that this was preceded by in­­­­timidation and violence. She described everything in the application to the National Police of Ukraine.

Rita Pastrama and Olena Sapozhnikova (UHHRU)
Rita Pastrama and Olena Sapozhnikova (UHHRU)

‘Several people dressed like civilians had suddenly come and said that to leave the area immediately in order to make room for construction. They also added: “There are some people, let us call them “Nazis”, they are cruel and will spare no one,’ said Rita Pastrama.

Then representatives of one of the Ukrainian party came to Roma and promised to pay for their train tickets to Zakarpattia, but no one received money except for Rita Pastrama.

Serhii Mehet, Deputy Head of the Department of Family, Youth and Sports of the Darnytsia District Administration, talked to Roma and Hungarians, who lived near the Telbyn Lake and helped them. According to him, none of the officials of the district administration is related to the eviction of people from the camp.

Serhii Mehet
Serhii Mehet

“Those evicted were residents of Berehovo, Uzhhorod district, and temporarily came to Kyiv in search of work. I knew Rita Pastrama since 2014. Residents of the camp were occupied with waste paper and metal collection. Such work can feed no more than 20-30 people, and when more people came, some of them were engaged in illegal activities,” said Serhii Mehet.

Olena Sapozhnikova, a lawyer of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, prepared complaints of victims and sent them to authorities, but received only few replies.


Unfortunately, the story had sad continuation. Once the press conference ended, and Roma went to the streets, they were immediately arrested by the police. Law enforcement officers said that “some Roma had stolen something somewhere in this district.” They could not explain how these Roma were related to possible crimes.

Petro Hryhorichenko, president of the Ukrainian Union of NGOs "Congress of Roma of Ukraine"
Petro Hryhorichenko, president of the Ukrainian Union of NGOs “Congress of Roma of Ukraine”

We recall that in April 2017 in Kyiv in Berezniaky district, unknown people had burned remains of the Roma camp that its residents had left because of the threats. Zola Kondur, a representative of the Roma Fund “Chirikli”, explained that Roma was informed about the attack of the camp. They feared for their children and left the camp. The initiator of Roma evictions was the deputy of Kyiv City Council, Chairman of the Standing Committee on the Budget and Socio-Economic Development Andrii Strannikov. In 2012, the camp of Roma in Berezniaky was also dispersed and set on fire the day before the 2012 UEFA European Championship.

Prepared by Oleh Shynkarenko


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