Speak, My Life

Genocide in Switzerland

Mariella Mehr/Photo
In her performance, Dijana Pavlovic from Italy tells about a hardly known genocide of the 20th century, which took place in Switzerland and was targeted against a less known European minority, Jenish people. 
We get to know the harrowing childhood of Mariella Mehr, who was separated from her mother and sent to a re-education programme. 
However, the play does not only show the atrocities, but also proves that victims may be able to fight against oppression. 
Not even after having obtained an honorary degree from the University of Basel did Mariella forget what happened to her, her family and her community in the very heart of Europe, in a more than hundred-year-old democracy. 
She reserved her own voice despite the traumas, and may serve as an example for every group or individual who are being oppressed, distorted or even destroyed by their surroundings.

Dijana performes in Italian language, with Hungarian interpreting and English subtitles. Speak, my life premieres in Hungary on 28 July, on the 30 anniversary of the Swiss Federation’s apology for the persecution. 

The premiere of the play takes place in the framework of the First International Roma Storytelling Festival, 27-28 July. After the performance, Dijana Pavlovic is in conversation.

Performed by: Dijana Pavlovic
Violin: Tamás Seres

The playscript, based on the novel Steinzeit by Mariella Mehr, is
written by: Dijana Pavlovic and Giuseppe di Leva
translated by: Kinga Júlia Király

Stúdió K Theatre (Budapest, 9. district, Ráday street 32.)
28th July 2017, 18.00

Duration of the performance: 60 min
Duration of the conversation: 60 min

The webpage of Stúdió K Theater, in a limited number.

Jenish people in Switzerland    

Nowadays, about 30.000 Jenish people live in Switzerland but only a few thousands of them lead a nomadic life. 
Jenish language consists of 600 words and has roots in Romani, Hebrew, and German languages. 
Jenish people have been persecuted and discriminated against since the Middle Ages. 
In the 20th century, the systematic and forced assimilation of Jenish took place under the Kinder der Landstrasse (1924-1973) re-education programme. 
The programme was implemented by the biggest childcare organisation (Pro Juventute Foundation), members of the Swiss Catholic church and the Swiss state. Apart from separating the families, the project included the sterilisation of women, as well as the re-education and compulsory psychiatric treatment of the children. 
Due to the proactive participation of victims - amongst them the writer Mariella Mehr - in the early 70’s, the programme got noticed by the Swiss press and was soon terminated. 
The statistics differ on the number of victims; supposedly, the life of 500-2000 people changed forever as a result of the project. Swiss Federation apologised to the victims 30 years ago, in 1987.