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Speak, My Life - Dijana Pavlović


In Speak, My Life by Dijana Pavlović unfolds the life story of Mariella Mehr, the Swiss Yenish writer, and the attempted genocide of the Yenish people in Switzerland in the 20th century.

The play is based on the novel of Mariella Mehr The Stone Age and presents the life of a woman who – similarly to many Yenish people – was torn from her mother at the age of 5, and lived in different families, institutions and suffered violence, had electroshock. Her son was also taken from her, and she got sterilized at the age of 18.

Although the extermination program was stopped in 1973, many families never got back their loved-ones and their life never became ‘normal’ again. The Swiss Federation has apologized to the Yenish, but all documents related to the genocide have been encrypted for a hundred years.

The play is presented in the frame of a reading performance.

‘My name is Mariella Mehr, according to my civil profession I am a so-called Yenish writer, but at the same time I am a victim of Pro Juventute's "Children of the Road" extermination program – one of the many victims.’


Writers:Dijana Pavlović and Giuseppe di Leva (based on the novel The Stone Age written by Mariella Mehr)
Performer:Dijana Pavlović
Related to the performance realized at the Roma Heroes Festival in 2017Violin: Tamás Seres
Translation (Hungarian and English): Kinga Júlia Király
Premiered:2012, Teatro Borelli, Boves, Italy


The protagonist of the drama, Mariella Mehr, was born in 1947 and is one of the victims of the Children of the Highway program (1926-1973). As a child, he lived in foster care, 16 orphanages and 3 correctional facilities, was referred to a mental institution four times, and was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy several times from the age of 9. Her first writing was published in 1975, and her first novel, The Stone Age, was published in 1981. Her work was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Basel in 1998. Mariella was involved in a press campaign against Pro Juventute in the 1970s to bring to light the events they were following. 

The Yenish in Switzerland 

The Yenish are the third largest nomadic ethnic group in Europe, having been the target of constant persecution and exclusion since the 1500s because of their way of life.

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materials to read

excerpts from the play
In case you would like to request availability to the full play and/or the full video about the performance, write an email to info@romaheroes.org and describe the aim of your request!

Suggestion for educational elaboration in english

photo credits

All rights reserved

*left -> right*

 1: ©Alina Vincze_Dijana Pavlović

2: ©Alina Vincze_Dijana Pavlović

3: ©Alina Vincze_Dijana Pavlović

4: ©Alina Vincze_Dijana Pavlović, Tamás Seres

5: ©Alina Vincze_Dijana Pavlović