Though visiting all the beautiful places the Czech Republic has to offer is an incredible experience, I thought it would be a valuable experience learning more about the locations I visit. Having learnt about the homogeneity of the Czech Republic and the prejudices against the Roma, a traditionally itinerant ethnic group in Europe, I chose to go on the Lety and Dobříš trip to see the memorial and learn more about the history of Roma persecution in the Czech Republic.
Like with other NYU trips, we met early at Vltavská and travelled via coach bus. For the first half of this trip, we were joined by other students of Professors Yassar Abu Ghosh and Salim Murad.
Lety Memorial and Mirovice Cemetery
Our first stop was the memorial at Lety. There was immense controversy surrounding the area; despite being the former site of a Roma concentration camp, an industrial pig farm has been running there since the 70's. Here, the professors provided us with a brief history of the site and of the Roma Holocaust. You can read more about this site, including an interview with Martin, one of Professor Murad’s students of Roma descent, in my upcoming article.
After a walk through the site, we stopped by a cemetery in Mirovice, a small town nearby. The professors pointed out the names of the Roma victims along the wall, one of which contained the names of countless Roma children that died in concentration camps. The statues of three hooded women stand next to that wall, representing the mothers that continue to look after their children. Before coming to Lety, I was unaware of the depth of the issue surrounding the Roma Holocaust; seeing the memorial and learning about the symbolism behind the statues was very touching and powerful.
Once we finished at Mirovice cemetery, the NYU group continued to Dobříš Castle, a Rococo chateau from the 1700's. We had lunch at the restaurant in the castle (paid by NYU!!!) and then continued on a tour inside. Since it was still early March, and quite cold, we were the only ones there that day. I prefer places that have few tourists and crowds, so this tour was very relaxing and peaceful! Looking to take photos inside the castle? Be ready to pay 50 CZK for a photo pass.
Overall, I found this trip to be a particularly unique experience. It was eye-opening to listen to what the professors had to say about Lety and the Roma people’s history, while the tour of Dobříš served as a peaceful conclusion to the trip. Though we may enjoy sightseeing during our travels in Europe, this trip was a perfect reminder of the value of understanding the history of the places we visit, and I definitely recommend going on a trip like this to learn more!