Rifat S. (born in 1932)
“My family was large. My father had four wives. When the war started, I remember the arrival of the Germans and Bulgarians. The Germans went into the village to pick out pretty girls and then came at night to take them and rape them. The Germans also came to my family. The Bulgarians came and they forced all Roma to wash themselves and to wash their clothes. There was a special large washing machine in the Gypsy neighborhood where all Roma brought their clothes every week. They put the clothes in the machine and had to wait for it to wash. Then, after putting in the product, they went to shower at the place that still exists. Two doctors went into the village to see if Roma had lice. They cut our hair.”
During this first research trip to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Yahad-In Unum investigated in the region of Skopje, in the East and Northeast regions of the country.
During the course of this 14 day investigation in these regions, the Yahad team interviewed 42 witnesses.
- Regions of Skopje
- Investigated towns/villages: Skopje, Chouto Orizari, Kumanovo, Staro Nagoricane, Miladinovci, Mrševci, Tetovo, Stip and Kocani.
For the Yahad-In Unum team, it was a real challenge to work in a country where we had no archival support, no information on what happened to Roma during the Second World War. We only knew that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was occupied by the Bulgarians. Therefore, this trip provided an opportunity to discover the history without having any previous research results.
Our first investigations were in Chouto Orizari or Šuto Orizari (in Macedonian) in Romani Shuto Orizari. It is commonly referred to as Choutka or Šutka. It is characterized by a very large Roma population and was created after the 1963 earthquake, to decently relocate the Roma who were left homeless. Choutka is reputed to be the largest city in the Gypsy world. The municipality is the only one in the world to have adopted the Romani language as an official language.
- The abuse and humiliation of Roma by the Bulgarian and German military
- Attempted shootings of Roma
- Rape of Roma women
- Forced labor
- Roma participation in the Partisan groups
- Arrests of Jews