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Roma seek to step out of shadows and raise awareness of their plight

A Red Deer woman wants to bring the issues facing the Roma people around the world to the forefront.

Zoe DuVal was adopted by a Red Deer couple in 1991 when she was 17 weeks old from a small Roma village called Stefanestii de Jos in Romania during the Romania Revolution.

Her new family lost touch with her biological family when DuVal was two years old.

One day, DuVal would like to reunite with her parents, her other siblings and relatives.

“I would like to thank them for giving me this life that I have here,” said DuVal, 21. “I am successful. I run my own business. I am so fortunate to be here I feel that I need to give back to my community.”

DuVal is working closely with the Toronto Roma Community Centre to create awareness of the plight of the Roma people. DuVal said the Roma people are being persecuted in their home countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania and Russia.

“My parents have raised me to be Canadian and to be accepting of all people,” said DuVal. “They explained to me my culture and where I came from. The more I found out the worst it got.”

The Roma people immigrated from India more than a thousand years ago and settled all over the world but most live in eastern Europe. There are roughly 80,000 Roma in Canada. DuVal doesn’t know how many are in Alberta but she would like them to come forward so they can unite and become contributing members of society and to abolish the “gypsy” stereotypes.

“That is a huge thing to ask,” said DuVal. “A lot of them have assimilated. They have changed their identity because they don’t want to be known ... The problem with Roma is there is a large distrust with authority because in these different countries authorities don’t really care. They are treated than less than dogs.”

DuVal said the Roma have suffered silently after being been marginalized and prosecuted and persecuted for years. She said Hungary was put on the safe countries list as part of Canada’s new immigration law but the country far from safe for the Roma people and Jewish people.

Every year on April 8th, the International Romani Day is celebrated around the world. For more information or to help, contact DuVal at



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