With messages that the Roma are an integral part of Croatian history and that they enrich the country's multiculturalism and need to be better integrated with Croatian society, a commemoration was held on Tuesday in the village of Ustica near the Jasenovac WWII camp in honour of the international day of remembrance of the WWII Roma genocide.
"It is necessary to remember that 16,173 Roma people were killed in this area between 1941 and 1945. In this place alone, 5,608 Roma children and 4,887 women were killed. This was a true genocide aimed at annihilating the Roma people from these regions," Roma MP Veljko Kajtazi said adding that the number of victims was much higher.
He called for the truth about the Roma genocide to be included in school text books and that a permanent museum or exhibition in that regard be set up.
He added that according to the population census there are 16,975 Roma people in Croatia, however that number probably comes to around 40,000. According to Kajtazi that indicates that the Roma are still afraid to express themselves as Roma.
"The national interests of the Roma people were not in conflict with the interests of the majority population, however the interests of the majority population were not always in line with our interests," he said, adding that the Roma were often compelled to meet their interests on their own without institutional support.
The commemoration in Ustica is the largest annual gathering of the Roma in Croatia at the place where the largest genocide in this part of Europe occurred and the date was symbolically chosen being the day when the last group of 2,987 Roma were killed in Auschwitz.
The commemoration has been organised in Croatia since 2012 by the "Kali Sara" Roma league with the support of the Council for National Minorities, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, the Jasenovac WWII memorial centre, the City of Novska and Jasenovac Municipality.
In addition to Roma representatives the commemoration was attended by parliamentary delegates, and government, county, city and municipal officials as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps, religious dignitaries and others.