Grafinya and Lyubov Erdenkov – Russia (Law and Humanities Program)

Grafinya and Lyubov Erdenkov are sisters who have not only achieved personal growth but also made substantial contributions to their local Roma community in Russia. Grafinya and Lyubov were born and grew up in Samara city in a Servian family who recognized the importance of a good education early on. With their parent’s support and a financial scholarship from REF the two sisters are currently in their last year of University, specializing in psychology.

Both Grafinya and Lyubov have faced several setbacks in their educational journey including prejudice from their classmates and teachers. An event that defined their future vocational choice happened in grade seven, “Our teacher publicly mistreated us saying that all the Roma sell drugs and me and my sister are not an exception” explains Lyubov.

This incident led to a mental stumbling block for the sisters, one which prohibited them from properly socializing with their classmates. The incident effected the girls so deeply that it forced them to choose a profession in psychology. The sisters insist that through the profession of psychology they can play an essential role in society especially from the perspective of discrimination and stigmatization existing in the Roma ethnos. They describe how Roma children often face problems they are not able to overcome due to their small age. It is at this critical stage that psychologists should be involved to help them get through these complicated psychological situations and mental stumbling blocks.

Both Grafinya and Lyubov are beneficiaries of the Law and Humanities Scholarship Program (LHP).  “For me and my sister personally REF made a huge financial support which allowed us to pay for our education and extra costs associated with it”, says Grafinya.

In addition, both the girls are involved in several volunteer initiatives including the Roma National Cultural Autonomy of Samara city where they participate in events focused on support and development of the Roma ethnos in Samara region. The girls also enjoy partaking in the “Khamoro” ensemble and perform on the stage within different art events in Samara as well as in other regions. “The ensemble is something we enjoy as it gives a chance to teach the audience more about our culture”.

 Both Grafinya and Lyubov plan to continue their education and pursue their Masters following graduation.