By Rob Gloster
SAN FRANCISCO (Jewish News of Northern California) — The Nazis’ murder of 220,000 Roma, or Gypsies, has always been a historical anecdote overshadowed by the extermination of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
Mina Miller, president and artistic director of Music of Remembrance, wanted to focus on the persecution of Roma and decided it would be best told through the artwork and writings of Ceija Stojka, an Austrian Roma who survived internment at three concentration camps.
Miller was at a concert by the Kronos Quartet at UC Santa Barbara in December 2015 when she heard “Silent Cranes,” a multimedia work by composer Mary Kouyoumdjian commemorating the centennial of the Armenian genocide.
Miller immediately knew she had found the right person to create a piece about the Roma, but at first Bay Area native Kouyoumdjian was reluctant to take on the commission. Once she discovered Stojka’s work, she changed her mind.
“I didn’t really feel comfortable writing a piece about the Roma in the Holocaust because that’s not the community that I’m from,” Kouyoumdjian, 34, said in an interview from her home in Brooklyn, NY. “But I was comfortable writing about another artist. I really connected with her writings, and especially her paintings.”