Nicolae Gheorghe 1946-2013
Dezideriu Gergely writes: Nicolae Gheorghe was a very dear person not only to me, but also to thousands of Romani people, Romani leaders and activists, diplomats and politicians. He has sadly departed, but leaves behind a strong, spiritual heritage of Roma activism.
Nicolae Gheorghe was a mentor for me while I was a lawyer at Romani CRISS, and acted as a mentor for many other Roma and non-Roma. He was an outstanding driving force in the Roma movement, a strong personality and a fighter. I learned so much from being around him. Many of us were influenced and sometimes challenged by his passionate stance in the fight for human rights and Roma.
His legacy is seen in the following generations of Roma activists who continue to fight on, inspired by his example. Gheorghe was a role model - he dedicated his entire life fighting for the Roma cause and particularly for unity. He taught us that diffences must unite us.
In 1993, he founded Romani Criss, which became one of the leading Roma rights NGOs in Romania, as well as in Europe. In 1998-1999, he played a crucial role in establishing the Working Group of Roma Associations, bringing together Romani organisations from Romania to be equal partners with the Romanian Government in creating the national strategy for Roma.
Nicolae Gheorghe continued his dedicated work for Roma rights as head of the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues in the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. From his terms in office, we learned how to make diplomacy on Roma issues work.
Nicolae Gheorghe was one of the most outstanding Romani leaders in Europe and a key figure in Roma political activism, not just for me but for many of us. We say goodbye with regret in our hearts, but also with the knowledge that the important work he started will continue.
Budapest, 9 August, 2013.