In Memory of Valery Novoselsky (1970-2016)

23 August 2016

By Bernard Rorke

It is with great sadness we mourn the passing of Valery Novoselsky. The virtual community to which Valery dedicated so many years of his life was united yesterday in shock and grief as news of his death filtered through online social networks. A regular visitor to Budapest in the course of his travels, many of us knew him personally; and yet few of us had an inkling of the fragility that lay beneath his good humoured bonhomie and generosity of spirit. 

Best-known perhaps as the editor of the Roma Virtual Network – a truly substantial imagined community - the peripatetic Valery was a frequent fixture at many Roma conferences, events, demonstrations and commemorations in European cities and towns. His travels also took him to the Americas and Asia in his personal contribution to forging a wider sense of solidarity among Roma.

Valery was born into an assimilated Romani family in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine (then part of the USSR). In one interview he gave a fascinating account of his family background: his grandmother was Ashkenazi Jewish with roots in Lithuania while his grandfather was a Roma from Eastern Ukraine, who was orphaned at the age of five and adopted by a Jewish family, surnamed Novoselsky, who could speak Romani and Yiddish, Russian and Ukranian, plus the dialect of the local German minority. His mother was part-Romani and part-Chinese. His maternal grandfather was from Shanghai, and the family was originally from Shaanxi Province, close to Mongolia and Xinxiang.

After graduating from secondary school, he worked in a factory, as a hospital attendant and an apprentice shoemaker. A student of history and Christian Theology he emigrated to Israel in 1995. He studied and worked as an English-Russian translator in the Galilee Bible College in Haifa, and obtained a BA degree in Theology and Bible Studies in 2002.

He became known to many of us from about the turn of the century as founder and editor of the Roma Virtual Network (RVN). He collaborated with many civil society organisations and NGOs over the years and spent some time with us here at ERRC as an intern in 2010. His commitment, dedication to the cause of Roma rights, and his singular determination to see the good in other people remain an inspiration. Aged only 46, he left us far too soon. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and nearest ones. As we mourn his passing, we will cherish his memory. 

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