Groundbreaking Czech Roma leader Karel Holomek dies at 86

Photo: Czech Television

One of Czechia’s most important Roma leaders, Karel Holomek, has died at the age of 86. An activist, politician and journalist, Mr. Holomek was involved in the foundation of the national Museum of Romani Culture and numerous other key initiatives.

The Roma news website Romea broke the news that Karel Holomek had died on Sunday at the age of 86, describing him as one of the most important members of the country’s Romany community.

Holomek was a man of many activities. In an interview with the Memory of Nations project, he recalled one of them: distributing samizdat literature in the late communist period.

“I found myself among a group of people who were distributing those books. People knew that as a construction site manager I had a service car, and drove from site to site. They knew that was perfect for distributing samizdat, including the magazines Svědectví and Listy, and that I could get it to technical experts. Which I did.”

Holomek also founded a Roma rights organisation, the first in Czechoslovakia, in the1980s. But it was after the fall of communism that he really came into his own.

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Author: Ian Willoughby