Oleksandra Koryak

Since her law studies, Oleksandra Koryak was active in Roma organizations in the Donetsk region: organizing cultural events and supporting the community in legal issues. After graduation, she began to advocate for the rights of Roma in her homeland on an international political level.

What is most important to you at the moment?
At the moment the most important thing for me is my country. Its presence and its future. I fall asleep and wake up thinking when this bloody and cruel war will end.

What is your engagement?
I am a Roma human rights activist and human rights defender from Ukraine. I was born and raised in Donetsk region. I have been engaged in activism since my university years. Together with the Donetsk based Roma organization I organized cultural events, helped with documentation of Roma people, and helped them with legal issues.
I have a master’s degree in Law, and I have in the past worked in the Ombudsman's Office of Ukraine. My position in this institution made it clear to me that work on the protection of human rights should be carried out in a comprehensive and institutional way. I actively advocate for Roma rights on an international level and take part in different high-level events, such as the UN Forum on Minority Issues. 
I have also been active in the NGO sector, where I worked on issues of non-discrimination against Roma, their interaction with law enforcement agencies, and on issues relating to hate crimes and hate speech, as well as empowering Roma women. Now I work as a human rights monitoring coordinator in the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and run my own women NGO "Invisible". Also, under this program I am doing my internship in Budapest in a Roma organization called Phiren Amenca.

How can we best support socially and politically engaged people in your country?
I think that at the moment many activists need financial support, as well as informational support. They need help with building networking in a new country if they left the country. If they have stayed in the country, I think that help might be to provide them with information about existing donors and opportunities they can apply for to support themselves and their organization. Information support also consists in making the voice of activists heard. It is important to invite Ukrainian activists to various meetings so that they share what is happening in Ukraine, how Ukrainian refugees are treated in the host countries.

When/in what context did you first hear about the EVZ Foundation?
I heard about the EVZ Foundation for the first time when I started receiving a scholarship from the Roma Educational Foundation. At that time, the EVZ foundation was one of those who co-financed the scholarship program for the Roma. But then I realized that I heard about the EVZ Foundation much earlier. When my grandma who is Roma received financial support as a war child.

What makes you happy?
Honestly, nothing makes me happy right now. I managed to evacuate my parents from Donetsk region to Budapest, but it seems that they lost their house. We don't know for sure, as many people from their street fled to other parts of Ukraine or to European countries. Part of my family is still in Ukraine: it's my sister and my brother. And I worry about them because in Ukraine there is no safe place. And this is just illusion because we don't know which city Russians will bomb next. This could be an answer on a 6th question.
But still sometimes I am happy because I can see the results of my work. We help the Roma community inside and outside of Ukraine. Inside Ukraine my organization provides humanitarian aid outside Ukraine.
With a financial support of the EVZ Foundation me and my friend and colleague Anzhelika Bielova managed to evacuate Roma people to Germany. And when I understand that I am contributing to supporting people in need, I feel happy.

What would you do if the war ended today?
If war ended today, I will go to Ukraine and I will gather my loved ones to celebrate our victory.