Museum of Romani Culture

Posted in: Activism, Dance, Reflections on 17 December, 2017 by Amelia

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I’ve now visited the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno twice, once as part of my internship, and once again last week to discuss the possibility of offering dance lessons there. It’s a very valuable institution, encompassing permanent exhibition on Roma history, temporary exhibitions, currently concerning racism, a department restoring artifacts, and a network of volunteers offering tutoring, mentoring and workshops for the local population of Roma children.

I’m not sure how many tourists visit the exhibitions, because the museum is in the heart of the local Roma community, hidden away from the known sights of Brno. That’s naturally good for Romani people who use the services, but worrying in terms of the lack of external understanding about not only their culture, but the oppression that has been, and is still, suffered. One of the organisations I work for is a former WWII concentration camp memorial, and it shocks me when working with teenagers in Germany that so few have even heard of Roma. My former boss in the Czech Republic openly told me that he did not want Roma children attending events, whilst my former landlady frequently used the word, “gypsy.”

This needs to change, both on structural and individual levels, to benefit both Roma and non-Roma alike; as the embroidery above tells us, “Who has no bread, is poor. Who has no understanding, is poorer.”


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Continued Learning… Continued.

Posted in: Reflections on 13 December, 2017 by Amelia

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A few months, or perhaps longer, ago, I wrote about how the concept of finishing education is really confusing to me, listing examples of things I had learned over the last week. Well, today, I got thinking about the same thing, after explaining to somebody that student tickets on Czech trains cannot be purchased by persons over 26, even if they study full-time, and I’m more convinced than ever that a person with a desire to learn need never stop doing so!

So, allow me to back up my hypothesis 😉 :

Wednesday: One week ago today I got to grips with a new piece of statistical software, which was difficult but will save a lot of calculation time in the future.

Thursday: When observing a workshop on gender and violence I learned new techniques and methods for working with students aged 17-20.

Friday: After years of being frustrated at not being able to neatly fold fitted bedsheets, the Internet helped me out with a step-by-step guide!

Saturday: I got creative with a broken candle holder and found that glass is actually really easy to smooth with sandpaper. To be honest I should probably have known that given that I did engineering and chemistry at college, but better late than never.

Sunday: The development of the alphabets used in the South Caucasus, especially in the early- and post-Soviet periods, proved extremely interesting.

Monday: I’m not the only one who always perceives a delay in the second hand’s movement when shifting my eyes to a clock: it happens to all of us, and it’s called chronostasis. I’d always wondered whether I was imagining it.

Tuesday: Bob Jones University in South Carolina attempted formally to ban students from inter-racial dating until 2000!

Now, what will the coming week bring?


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ICAN and the Nobel Peace Prize

Posted in: Activism on 10 December, 2017 by Amelia

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Congratulations to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, to whom the Nobel Peace Prize was presented in Oslo this weekend.

This network of national and local groups and individual activists has worked since 2007 towards a United Nations treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, which was realised this year in New York in July. The treaty opened for signature in September and as of today has been signed by 56 states and ratified by 3.

These developments constitute a huge breakthrough against the horrors of nuclear weapons, and the road has been difficult; sadly the immense efforts of campaigners at the height of the Cold War were dismissed, despite the weakness of the NPT, and by the time I was old enough to understand the concept, many seemed to feel that the threat had passed. When I studied in the UK, a nuclear state, I was highly passionate about demonstrating at the gates of nuclear plants, and led a university union chapter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament NGO, but it was so frustrating not to make any progress. Later when studying Human Rights in Gothenburg I had the chance to do an internship, and returned to CND to its main office to try and become more directly involved. I very much enjoyed this placement, well apart from living in London, and was pleased to see that the campaign was focused on peace education, and how individuals were personally effected; with threats of mass destruction no longer being taken seriously, I was given the task of calculating how many nurses and teachers could be trained and employed if the state abandoned it’s nukes. This tactic convinced much of the public, but unfortunately the UK government is of another opinion and has not yet signed the treaty.

Fast forward to 2014 and I attended two large events, including lobbying training, hosted by ICAN in Berlin and Vienna, where I had the honour of listening to Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who accepted the aware today with executive director, Beatrice Fihn. Aside from as an e-activist, I have not been as active in the movement since then as I’d have liked to have been, as I did not live close to any local groups, but those two weekends were enough to show me how passionate, well-informed, and strong in number the organisation was. That hard work has paid off, and whilst there is still work to be done in obtaining more signatories, the efforts of ICAN well and truly deserve recognition, respect, and the Nobel Peace Prize.


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Brno Winter Markets

Posted in: Recreation on 6 December, 2017 by Amelia

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For over a week now, the winter markets in Brno have been in full swing, and as someone who is annoyingly fussy about such markets, I must say that I am a fan. See, whilst I love glühwein, handmade crafts, cosy wooden huts and live music, (plus of course the model trains in Stuttgart!), I feel uncomfortable in large crowds, amongst religious settings, and when seeing live animals enclosed to act as toys for children. So, I’m the first to admit that I’m difficult to please, but Brno has me well and truly satisfied 🙂

Each of the main squares and parks is filled with huts decorated with tasteful white lights, selling delicious traditional Moravian wines, wooden kitchen utensils, handmade toys, colourful candles and costume jewellery – thanks to my husband for gifting me a necklace :). The largest square also has a stage with a nightly schedule of bands, including a good rock act last Monday, and spectators can listen and dance whilst enjoying hot drinks, potato pancakes, and best of all, snacks from the four completely vegan huts.

A different style of music can be found in a marquee at the park nearest to my flat, with the chance to dance jive until around midnight, and a make-shift ice-skating rink has been erected just across the road. My husband was happy to browse a whole tent’s worth of second hand books, whilst I finally tracked down Cayenne pepper, easy to find in Hemköp but mostly unheard of over here!

One thing which surprised me, given the prevalence of Christianity in this region, is that with the exception of a few pagan decorations, the squares and parks are almost completely divided into religious and secular areas; two of the largest settings focus on crafts, food and drink, and an almost carnival atmosphere, whilst nativity scenes, advent bells and Chanukah candles can be found in the park and on a smaller square. Therefore people of different beliefs can choose what they want to explore and have a good time without any conflict between faiths.

There is not the huge choice of gifts that there is in Stuttgart, nor are there any indoor huts, but the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and walking through make my journeys to the supermarket a good deal less of a chore 😀


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Veggie Planet in Vienna

Posted in: Activism, Travel, work on 3 December, 2017 by Amelia

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Last weekend I went on a very fun business trip, representing my organisation at a large vegan expo in Vienna, which is only an hour and a half from Brno by train. Having lived there in 2008, I always enjoy going back, and as a vegan, Vienna plus event equated to the perfect combination!

In addition to promoting HappyCow, for whom I work, to both business owners and the public, I was able to listen to some of the lectures myself; the story of Patrik Baboumian, a champion vegan weight-lifter, is fascinating and puts all of those, “vegans are weak,” doubters to shame! There were also plenty of chances to taste samples, shop for everything from crockery to activists’ literature to foodstuffs to clothing, sign petitions, and watch plant-based cheese being made.

The event happens twice per year, so I’m already looking forward to next time!


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Amelia Gackowska

Amelia Gackowska
Hej, my name is Amelia and I recently moved to Linköping to study the Master programme in Applied Ethics, as I thought it was about time to study the theories behind my activism!

When I am not studying you can find me teaching ballroom dancing, learning Swedish, up-cycling whatever I can find, or getting carried away debating politics into the early hours.

MA in Applied Ethics

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