| TreasurySpeak, My Life - Dijana Pavlović
SPEAK, MY LIFE
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.
|Writers:||Dijana Pavlović and Giuseppe di Leva (based on the novel The Stone Age written by Mariella Mehr)|
|Related to the performance realized at the Roma Heroes Festival in 2017||Violin: 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.
Yenish culture also has its own dialect, which includes a 600-word basic vocabulary, but they have no spelling. The word Yenish was first used for a language formed from a mixture of German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Romani, and German-based Argo, Rot Welsh. The Yenish language includes a basic vocabulary of about 600 words. From the beginning of the 20th century, Switzerland tried to eradicate the traditional, migratory way of life of the Yenish and to settle them. A key player in this process was the Swiss child protection organization Pro Juventute and the Children of the Highway (Kinder der Landstrasse) program, which ran from 1926 till 1973.
Children of Highway Program
The children were taken out of their families and could no longer meet their parents at all. Most of the children were placed in orphanages, church-maintained orphanages, or other special institutions. Because they were inherited as social, criminal, or mentally handicapped because of their origins, they were often admitted to institutions for children with special educational needs or disabilities after psychiatric examinations, where in many cases they received involuntary treatment, most often electroshock therapy. Hardly any of the children had reached high school or vocational training, and most of them later worked as maids. Thus, the program did not help their social uplift. Marriage of the Yenish was banned, and many Yenish women were sterilized.
The number of victims, especially children, is obscured. While data on 585 victims can be found in the Pro Juventute’s archive, it is estimated that there could have been as many as 2,000 victims of the pogrom. The Swiss Federation has apologized to the Yenish, but all documents related to the genocide have been encrypted for a hundred years, leading to historical oblivion, so their way of life remains in danger. Almost no information about the Yenish genocide can be found on the net. Pro Juventute is an organization that still exists today, condemning the entire program.
‘The strongest monologue … the storyteller as a chronicle means a voice, which doesn’t let the stories fall into oblivion...’Revizor, Fanni Szemerédi
‘Today in Italy, where many parties standing on the left or in the center promote maximal acceptance related to immigration, meanwhile totally reject the Roma people.’HVG, Fanni Czeglédi
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