Head of Roma folk group Akimov gets French state award

THE FRENCH Ambassador to Slovakia Didier Lopinot decorated Ivan Akimov, head of Roma folk group Kesaj Tchave, with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre national du Mérite state award (Knight of the National Order for Merit) at Kežmarok Castle on May 28.

Ivan Akimov and Kesaj TchaveIvan Akimov and Kesaj Tchave (Source: TASR)

Akimov, who has been involved with Kesaj Tchave already for 15 years, received the French state award for merits, as he is been recognised in French music and culture circles for years.

“Mr Akimov is very modest and doesn’t like to be the centre of attention. He certainly hasn’t done the work he did to receive a state award,” said Lopinot, as quoted by TASR. “However, we have enormous respect for his work and know that what he does is a work truly deserving of this award.”

Kesaj Tchave is probably more recognised in France than at home in Slovakia, as they have performed numerous times in the land of the Gallic rooster and once even at the Olympia in Greece.

“I’m incredibly honoured. However, the greatest award for us is the feeling we experience when we come to the [Roma] settlement and everyone shouts: Mr Ivan, we want to go with you, too,” said Akimov, as quoted by TASR. “I’m certainly overjoyed because I’ve been asking myself every day whether it makes sense to do the things I do. Now I can see it was worthwhile and we can go on.”

The group currently boasts 50 permanent members, with others continuously joining in. Kesaj Tchave enjoys long-term amiable relations with the French Embassy to Slovakia that led to the distinguished state award. Akimov is not saddened that he hasn't been decorated in a similar manner by Slovakia

When describing Roma community Akimov said that there are some problems but he has nothing but deep respect for people in the field: teachers and social workers who do great work despite the fact that they do not receive a “slightest word of thanks for it”.

“Roma are people too, just a little different. It’s possible to work with Roma; it’s just that only negative examples make it to the spotlight,” Akimov. “However, there are successful Roma in Slovakia, with university education, but they’re invisible.”

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