Katarina Taikon

Writer (1932- 1995)

 

 

 

 

𝐊𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐚 𝐓𝐚𝐢𝐤𝐨𝐧 was born on July 29, 1932, in Almby (Sweden), in a family of Căldărari (cauldrons makers)  Roma. Undoubtedly, Katarina Taikon is an important name in the history of Swedish literature by publishing, in 1970, an autobiographical series of 13 children’s books, “Katitzi”, the story of the Roma girl Katitzi becoming one of the most famous and beloved stories in Sweden. Since then, the volumes have been translated into various languages ​​around the world, benefiting from a series of screenings.

Katarina Taikon would face dramatic marginalization and rejection since childhood, as Roma rights were not recognized at the time, which prevented her from attending school. She learns to read and write only at the age of adolescence, determined to fight discrimination and to establish a dialogue with the Swedish authorities, in articulating a new legal framework leading to a change in the perception of Roma and the recognition of Roma rights as full citizens in the society in which they live.

“I don’t know how people will react to my book, but I know it’s the beginning of a long struggle,” Katarina Taikon said in 1963 when her first book, The Roma Woman, was published. The publication of the book puts Katarina Taikon in the public spotlight, soon becoming a prominent figure, being the strongest voice advocating for equal rights for Roma in Sweden, recognizing Roma history, including centuries of marginalization, and recognizing Roma as victims of the Holocaust. The most pressing problems of the Roma were housing and education, as most Roma were excluded, not having access to Swedish public services. Katarina Taikon publishes numerous articles, organizes large meetings and protests in Stockholm, along with many participants. The force of her protests and the support of an increasing number of people has led the authorities to consider public policies for the Roma. Katarina Taikon, compared by the press to Martin Luther King, thus drew the recognition of the Roma in the history of Sweden for the first time, but the most important remains the path she opened to new generations: the struggle for dignity.

Katarina Taikon’s life and work were the subject of the documentary “Katarina Taikon”, released in 2015, directed by Gellert Tamas and Lawen Mohtadi, based on the autobiographical volume “The Day I Will Be Free”, written by Lawen Mohtadi (Natur & Kultur, 2012). The film portrays the activist and writer Katarina Taikon, the Roma woman who marked the history of Sweden, being the most important leader of the Roma civil rights movement and beyond, contributing to the construction of the Swedish model of social welfare, in full swing in those years.

Katarina Taikon was married to photographer Björn Langhammer. At the age of 50, the writer suffered a stroke. In December 1995, after more than 13 years in a coma, Katarina Taikon died. Her name was passed on by her three children. Katarina Taikon remains in the Roma consciousness as the one who opened a new page of history for the Roma, marked by the fight for equal opportunities and against racial discrimination.