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< All Fellows and Scholars

Dr. Helena Sadílková

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Helena Sadílková
Ben and Zelda Cohen Fellow

“Silenced (?) Accounts of Genocide: Romani Survivors from Czechoslovakia and Their References to the Holocaust of Roma and Sinti during 1945-89”

Professional Background

Helena Sadílková is Assistant Professor in the Department of Central-European Studies at Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) and Head of the Seminar of Romani Studies at the same institution. She has earned her PhD from Charles University as well. Sadílková is a board member of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories at the Institute of Contemporary History at the Czech Academy of Sciences and co-editor-in-chief of a Czech Romani studies journal Romano Džaniben.

Sadílková works on war and post-war history of the Roma with a focus on the territory of former Czechoslovakia. Her research interests include the history of state socialism, social movements, and socio-political participation of the Roma as a historically marginalized community. She has done archival and field research in Czechia and Slovakia, focused on the interactions among members of local Romani communities and local non-Romani population, including local authorities in the process of negotiation of central Roma-related policies. She is particularly interested in looking at Romani experiences and perspectives and written sources that document these. She has also been working on memory culture and recognition in relation to the Nazi persecution of the Roma and Sinti. Cooperating with the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, Helena has participated in the preparation of the memorial of the Holocaust of the Czech Roma and Sinti in Lety u Písku, at the site of the former concentration camp, after the site hosting the infamous pig farm was finally acquired by the Czech state in 2018 in order to enable dignified commemoration of the Romani and Sinti Holocaust victims.  

Her publications include “Asserting a Presence in the Public Sphere: Autobiographies by two Romani Holocaust Survivors in Communist Czechoslovakia“ (together with M. Závodská in Donert C., Rosenhaft E.: The Legacies of the Romani Genocide in Europe since 1945, Routledge, 2022) and „The Postwar Migration of Romani Families from Slovakia to the Bohemian Lands. A Complex Legacy of War and Genocide in Czechoslovakia“ (in Čapková K., Adler E.: Jewish and Romani Families in the Holocaust and its Aftermath, Rutgers University Press, 2020).

Fellowship Research

During her fellowship, Helena will search for ego documents capturing any type of post-war testimonies by the Romani and Sinti survivors from Czechoslovakia on their wartime experiences. She is interested in exploring the different niches of memorialization and commemoration of the Holocaust of the Sinti and Roma in post-war Czechoslovakia the Romani survivors used to present their wartime fates either in public or in communication with different public bodies and state administration. They did so in a social environment that silenced such wartime narratives that problematized the explanation of the whole of the Czechoslovak nation as a mass victim of Nazi aggression and/or ignored specific features of the racial persecution of the Roma and Sinti. She will analyse the contexts in which Romani and Sinti survivors were willing / allowed to share some of their memories outside the private sphere, and how the specific circumstances of these communications influenced the way in which they phrased their accounts. Documents produced in this process are an important contribution for the production of knowledge on Romani Holocaust in the post-war years and our understanding of these processes as negotiations on the then position of the Roma in the post war society and the ways in which the Romani and Sinti survivors positioned themselves in these.

Residency Period: March 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022