The Roma Memorial Centre was opened in Ustica, near Jasenovac, on Sunday on the occasion of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, or the Samudaripen observed on August 2.
The Memorial Centre was opened by Suzana Krcmar, president of the Croatian Roma Federation, Veljko Kajtazi, the representative of the Roma minority in the Croatian parliament, and Milan Bandic, the mayor of Zagreb.
Addressing those present, Kajtazi recalled that on this day in 1944 the last group of Roma were executed in the Auschwitz concentration camp and that on this day all Roma victims of genocide committed during the Second World War were commemorated.
"Here we commemorate the victims of the Ustasha regime by remembering all Roma and non-Roma victims of that regime," Kajtazi said, referring to the Nazi-allied regime that ruled Croatian during the Second World War.
He expressed hope that the Roma Memorial Centre in Ustica would become "a place of gathering rather than a place of controversy." "We will certainly try to make it that way and I hope others will follow us," he added.
Kajtazi said that in Ustica the Roma had been subjected to brutalisation, robbery and genocide and that to this day the Roma felt transgenerational fear, mistrust and social exclusion. "That's why this is a very important message to the Roma and I am certain that this project will be the basis for dealing with many other problems that we have not managed to resolve to date."
After the opening ceremony, the names of some of the Roma women and men killed and buried in Ustica were read. Among those attending were also representatives of the churches in Croatia.
Ustica, located about 110km southeast of Zagreb, is the site of mass executions of Roma who were deported to the Jasenovac concentration camp during the Second World War. The Memorial Centre includes a cemetery with 21 mass graves.