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Issue 17 - September 2005

Monday 26 September 2005

In Memoriam

Milena Hübschmannová, a distinguished Roma scholar and a great friend of Roma around the world, had passed away unexpectedly earlier this month. She dedicated her life to collecting Romani folklore and cultural heritage, encouraged the use of Romani as a language and helped develop Romani literature. She had been the head and the very heart of the Romani Studies Department at Charles University in Prague until her tragic death. Milena was a valuable advisor of our Romani Program and we will remember her as committed and good-hearted woman.

How to promote reading and literacy among Romani youth

A workshop on Promoting Reading for Romani Children and Young People was held in Zagreb, Croatia, on 29-30 July 2005 under the auspices of our VORBA project. It brought together Roma organizations from the field of education and culture as well as authors from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia. Special guests who introduced the concepts of reading promotion were Dr. Charles Temple from Critical Thinking International, Inc. and Dr. Lydia Dachkova from the Bulgarian Reading Association.

Main points of debate were the literacy development (in its relation to reading habits of Romani children and young people) and the cultural relevance of different means and material applied in this process. Most of the participants in the workshop will commit themselves to concrete reading campaigns in the Autumn of 2005 within their communities. The case studies and outcomes of these campaigns will be presented at the annual meeting of the International Development for Europe Committee (IDEC) of the International Reading Association that will be held in Sofia in January 2006.

Exclusive presentation of Romani books reading initiatives at the 14th European Reading Conference

The 14th European Conference on Reading Literacy Without Boundaries (organized by IDEC of the International Reading Association and the Croatian Reading Association) brought together more than 300 experts in reading and education practices from 40 countries to discuss the issue of literacy and its challenges on a trans-national basis. During the conference a special symposium Reading Romani Books in Literacy-related Initiatives was organized by the Next Page Foundation, with presentations by Dr. Ljatif Demir, director of Roma Educational and Cultural Center Darhija (Macedonia), Liliyana Kovacheva, Romani language teaching expert at Ministry of Education (Bulgaria) and Maria Ursu, Romani language teaching expert at Resource Center for Roma Communities (Romania). It was for the first time at such forum that the issue of Romani literacy and reading initiatives has been presented. One of the focuses of the event was on the campaigns for raising reading literacy, undertaken by Romani cultural and educational organizations.

In the discussions that followed, the Roma participants and the reading organizations’ representatives committed themselves to future work on creating new reading-related opportunities for Romani children’s and young people’s and came to three strategies for further common action: family literacy initiatives, teacher training, and children’s book production.

Books can again cross the borders

This summer for the first time after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, readers in Croatia can find in their libraries a good quantity of new books from Serbia and Montenegro, and booklovers in Serbia will be able to read books recently published in Croatia. After a small and successful pilot project launched by OSI – Budapest in 1999, this year the once vivid cultural exchange between libraries across the border has been revitalized with the help of the Book Market Project in Croatia and Bibliodyssey in Serbia-Montenegro.

In numbers: 17 Croatian public libraries purchased app. 1250 books from 211 publishers in Serbia-Montenegro, 20 libraries in Serbia-Montenegro purchased almost 1200 books from 184 Croatian publishers. The selection of titles was entirely up to the participating libraries. There was a strong interest in reference books – dictionaries, encyclopaedias, atlases, but also in the original literary and scientific production of the neighbouring country. For example, nearly 1/3 of the purchases made from Croatia are for books by Serbian authors. The import and export was taken care of by distribution companies BookBridge (Belgrade) and Distriks (Zagreb).

As part of a larger publishing infrastructure support projects for Serbia ( and Croatia (, the program was made possible thanks to the Dutch Matra Program, Next Page Foundation and CEEBP - Amsterdam.

Newly published books

Milorad Pavich, Star Cape , transl. into Armenian by Meruzhan Harutyunyan (Areg PH, Erevan,2005), supported by East Translates East Publications Project.

As the subtitle of the novel ( «An Astrological Guide for Amateurs » ) - suggests, similarly to Dictionary of the Khazars and Last Love in Constantinople, this is again a nonlinear hyperfiction with a strong element of mystification. This time, though, it does not deal with Khazars, or with Byzantine tarot, but with stars and signs. Both astral and earthly, written on the verge between mystical poetry and popular magic, the Guide is another big joke and postmodern challenge of this great « Homeric storyteller », as The Washington Times calls Pavic.

Well done for the Areg Publishing House, who translated the novel into Armenian and left behind the UK and US publishers.