The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Eyes on Eastern Europe: ARCA (Youth Agency for the Advocacy of Roma Culture)
By Verdell Wright on June 29, 2023
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, more than 62,000 people have died, nearly 60,000 have been injured, and roughly 14 million have been displaced. UUSC immediately mobilized its resources in support of those who were impacted by the invasion, culminating in 10 partnerships with organizations in Eastern Europe. All of these organizations are committed to helping communities facing compounding forms of oppression during this conflict—meaning we focus our resources on communities already facing severe oppression even before the invasion (people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, etc.). This series will highlight those partners and the work they do.
One of the invisible casualties of war is culture. When people have to flee for their safety, they take what they can. However, it is impossible to take as much as you need to continue traditions. When you consider how many tangible things people use to engage and create culture—materials, space, ideas—it becomes clear why war destroys the invisible threads of people’s lives.
Currently, Roma (Romani) people in Ukraine are experiencing this issue. Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine threatens to destroy the cultural ties the Roma people have created in the country. Roma people find themselves at the mercy of war on one side and cruel stereotypes and prejudices on the other.
This is why and how the Youth Agency for the Advocacy of Roma Culture (ARCA) came to be. ARCA combats xenophobia and hate speech by implementing projects on the local, national, and international levels. The organization’s mission is to promote positive images and shift public opinion of Roma communities in Ukraine. ARCA operates with the values of openness, mutual support, responsibility, trust, freedom of expression, security, equity, and tolerance.
Originally, ARCA’s work consisted of providing programming, networks, and services to challenge the negative views of the Roma population. Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the organization has made evacuating vulnerable groups away from war zones a priority. ARCA also provides humanitarian support to civilians from all walks of life in their service areas.
UUSC funding will enable ARCA to further develop and strengthen its internal infrastructure and staff. This will increase the capacity and quality of the services they provide. Specifically, the organization’s work will be elevated, allowing ARCA to more actively fight against right-wing radical propaganda and the stoking of inter-ethnic conflicts. The organization intends to hire communications specialists to develop a comprehensive media strategy.
The relationship between ARCA and UUSC continues to yield amazing results for Romani communities in Ukraine and all those impacted by Russian aggression.