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Anzhelika Bielova, Zaporizhzhya/Uzhhorod

Photo: Dmytro Myntyan

"My grandmother showed me that it is possible to become a leader"

April 2024 -4 minutes read

Anzhelika Bielova, founder and president of Voice of Romni, believes anything is possible if you work hard, believe in yourself, stick to your principles and values, and fight for your rights.

Following a near-fatal attack in 2019, Anzhelika Bielova, founded the organisation Voice of Romni in Zaporizhzhya to fight against gender-based violence. Following the Russian invasion of 2022, she moved the organisation to Uzhhorod, where it is assisting internally displaced Roma women. This interview with her accompanies our Fighting for a Fairer Future report, which highlights the contributions made by Roma to Ukraine's defence, examines the war's impact on Roma communities, and offers ideas for inclusive post-war reconstruction.

What was the most difficult challenge you faced in your life and how did you overcome it? 

It was an attack on me in 2019; I was seriously stabbed and barely survived. I transformed my experience into the fight against gender-based violence, started a women's organization and am doing everything I can to create a safe world for girls and women. 

Who or what inspired you to keep moving forward in difficult times? 

My grandmother. She is a Roma woman, a child of war, who was educated at a time when few women were educated and became a respected person in the Roma community and beyond. She showed me that even in a world where women's rights are constantly restricted, it is possible to become a leader.  

Can you share a moment when you wanted to give up, but you didn't, and what helped you not to give up? 

This is the moment when I was between life and death after an attack. I was saved by the thought of my daughter, the lives of other girls and women who suffer from gender-based violence, and the desire to fight this phenomenon.  

How do you keep a positive attitude when you face difficulties? 

First of all, my husband supports me. He is my support and always stands by my side in any situation. I am supported by my family and my team, with whom we grew up as professionals together. I care about each of them and, in turn, am shrouded in their care. 

What advice would you give to someone who is going through a difficult time? 

Don't give up on outside help. I know how difficult it is to accept the fact that you are in a vulnerable position, I lived this while immersed in my work. But it is important to understand that your life, the life of every person, is the highest value and you need to help yourself and let others take care of you.  

How has overcoming difficulties changed your outlook on life? 

It definitely improved my leadership skills, I became a fighter with a keen sense of justice. But for me, the greatest value is to keep kindness, love in my heart and empathy. And I manage to do that. 

What lessons have you learned from facing difficulties? 

It is normal to be vulnerable and need help. Human life is the highest value.  

How do you think your experience can help other people facing similar difficulties? 

My experience and my story can prove to Roma girls that anything is possible if you work hard, believe in yourself, stick to your principles and values, fight for your rights, and believe in other people who sincerely want to help and support you.  

What motivates you to keep moving forward, even when it seems impossible? 

The stories of other women and girls I work with, who come to me for help, who we visit to provide assistance. Too many women and girls continue to face discrimination in society and in their own communities, live in poor conditions, do not receive decent education or health services, and suffer from gender-based violence. There is too much to do and too much to fight for. 

Looking back, what are you most proud of in your journey of overcoming obstacles? 

The fact that I never gave up, that I tried again and again, that I fought, that I believed in myself, that I believed in people no matter what.  

Why do you consider yourself a hero? 

I do not consider myself a heroine but I consider myself a leader whose story can inspire others to believe in themselves! 

Author(s)

Roma Foundation for Europe

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