Opre Roma: Worldwide Celebration of International Roma Day

On the 8th of April, the world’s Roma come together to celebrate International Roma Day, a relatively new tradition for a people with such a long history.

Despite the Roma having lived in Europe for centuries, it was only in 1971 that the first World Roma Congress was held in Orpington near London. The day was formally ratified during the 4th World Romani Congress in Poland in 1990.

On the 8th of April, 1971 foundations of an international Roma movement were laid. Funded by the World Council of Churches and the Government of India, the Congress hosted 23 representatives from nine nations.

It was forty-five years ago that sub-commissions were assigned to look after issues such as social affairs and language, the Congress instated the now iconic green and blue flag with the red sixteen-spoked chakra as the official emblem of the Romani people.


It was also on this day that the word ‘Gypsy’, so often used in a derogatory or disrespectful way, was officially discarded in favor of ‘Roma’.

Moreover, International Roma Day is significant as it commemorates the day on which the song “Gelem, Gelem” was officially recognized as the national anthem of the Romani people. The anthem was composed by Serbian-born musician Žarko Jovanović (Жарко Јовановић). Having fled German-occupied Belgrade during the Second World War, Jovanović blossomed as a very gifted balalaika player and would go on to release several records in the Paris nightclub scene. However, it was in England, on a trip from London to Birmingham, that Jovanović wrote his most memorable piece.

This year, a performance group, Via Romen, which is rooted in the Russian-Romani tradition while also creating modern, innovative, and fresh music, encouraged the sharing of their performance of  “Gelem, Gelem”to raise awareness of the International Roma Day.

The 45th anniversary of the World Romani Congress also coincides with the invitation to establish the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC) in Berlin. The European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture will rigorously document Romani artistic and cultural heritage of all forms and provide opportunities for creative exchange among the hundreds of Romani organizations and individuals who are active in the Roma cultural field. ERIAC is a joint initiative of the Alliance for the European Roma Institute, the Council of Europe and the Open Society Foundations.

This year, on the 8th of April diverse events will be held worldwide to celebrate Romani culture, history and to discuss the current issues as well as the future of Romani communities.

In San Fransisco, CA International Roma Day is celebrated at the Croatian American Cultural Center presenting Romani music, dances and food. In Boston, MA the Mediterranean Music Institute, and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University will join forces to celebrate Roma culture and its music in a concert of traditional Romani folk music. Berklee students will perform with guest artist Damian Draghici, the legendary Romanian pan flutist.

Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance, “Amalipe” will hold meetings with representatives of different institutions at the facility of Ministry of Education and Science in Sofia, Bulgaria. Furthermore, Love & Happiness Music along with Global Vision Circle will hold an event with the participation of Orchestra Karandila with chief executive Angel Tichaliev, Balkan Scientists Soundsystem and the dance ensemble Abyssinian Pearls (Танцов Ансамбъл Абисински Бисери).

David Tišer, Roma Green party member from Czech Republic, will discuss the discrimination faced by LGBT Roma. In addition, an association ARA ART will celebrate the International Roma Day with the original musical program, accompanying an afternoon NGO market, after party with live music and much more.

In Budapest, Hungary, series of events will take place including, students and alumni of the Roma Access Programs from Central European University march to the Shoes on the Danube Memorial, where they will cast flowers into the river. The flower casting will be followed by a speech by current RGPP student, Yulian Kondur, from Ukraine. In addition, The Cartwheel – Roma Values Festival will take place through which the visitors can get acquainted with the diversity and values of Roma culture in Hungary. At the event, the high-quality traditional music, dance productions and and a round-table discussion will be held, in which participants can meet successful Roma people, whose career could serve as an example to us all.  In addition, there will be Romani bazar at Szimpla Kert as well the Educational Holocaust Center will have extended opening hours and the visit will still free.

Coordinated activity of all NGOs belonging to the Platform Khetane and others that belong to the State Council of the Roma will join, to communicate a single message, “Let the silence be over” in the various ceremonies to be held in Spain.

In Germany, one of the events will be organized by RomArchive – Digital Archive of the Roma, a project funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, including Sinto Holocaust survivor, Zoni Weisz’s talk about his biography and holocaust, British artist Damian Le Bas’ exhibition “Frontiers de Luxe” presenting the difference in economic power and access to opportunities, and André Raatzsch’s visual wall installation as well as talk, “RomArchive Getting into Discourse”, discussing the importance of creating the Roma photo archive. In Berlin, the Alliance for Solidarity with the Sinti and Roma of Europe will organize a rally against anti-Gypsyism and deportation. The rally will include Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration Soraya Post, members of the European Parliament, speech by Sinto Holocaust survivor Zoni Weisz, performance by Shermin Langhoff, director of the Maxim Gorki Theater, and Hamze Bytyci, a Kosovo-born Roma activist, actor and media personality from Germany.

In Belgium Tomas Zdechovsky will be co-hosting and be opening the conference on the Employment Opportunities for Young Roma.

University of Salford, UK organizes event, “Supporting Roma Voice”, presenting topics such as “a cross-national discussion on the experiences of the Roma community within and across health and social sectors”. In Liverpool, musicians Sendrejovci and Anička Oláhová, will take part in the concert organized by the Czechoslovak Association. Moreover, Rich Mix Centre in London will host a dance and music event in celebration of the International Roma Day.

In Glasgow, members from Romane Cerhenia, especially the children, will do a small performance for students of the Annette Street Primary School. In addition, there will be an opening of a new exhibition of photographs that offer a small glimpse into the rich diversity of Govanhill in support of their Roma neighbours. The photographs were taken as part of a project involving a great team of young Roma from Govanhill. There will also be a rally and procession starting from Govanhill Park at noon on Saturday, 9th April.

In Dublin, Pavee Point will celebrate International Roma and Traveller Day with an afternoon of music and performances to celebrate the achievements of Travellers and Roma and also to highlight the human rights issues that continue today.

Swedish Public Service TV SVT will be a host for a Romano TV-show broadcasted in Romanes with guests from all around Sweden.

The World Bank Social Protection and Labor Global Practice and the European Country Unit are organizing a roundtable discussion on global lessons to expand opportunities for the most disadvantaged by promoting inclusive education, productive employment and improving livelihoods.

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network have been involved in organizing the so-called Roma Week in the European Parliament: a series of events aiming to celebrate the Roma Day. Within the Roma Week at the European Parliament two public conferences were held concerning employment among young Roma and anti-Gypsyism. The Week also includes screening of two films and will present two Roma thematic exhibitions. In addition, during the Week is expected the chairpersons of the political groups of the European Parliament to unite and sign a joint Declaration on combating anti-Gypsyism.


Wherever you are, and however you mark International Roma Day, we hope that today you can express pride in your Roma identity, and pride in your Roma friends, family and colleagues.

Opre Roma!