A Polish policewoman has spent more than 27,500 zlotys (€5,800) out of her own pocket to buy plane tickets to ensure that a team of young Senegalese footballers return home without being deported.
Aleksandra Zydyk (pictured above left, a policewoman from the town of Piekary Śląskie, was one of the organizers of ‘Senegal Welcome to Piekary’, an anti-racism campaign that overcame various obstacles to get the team to compete in an international tournament.
On their way home after nearly two weeks in Poland, the Jed Foot players were prevented from boarding their connecting Venice-Madrid flight because they did not have certificates showing a negative Covid PCR test result.
“The options they had were either we find a new flight and they fly to Madrid…or they stay at the airport,” Zydyk told TVN24. “Their visas were about to expire, so they would most likely have been deported for staying illegally in the Schengen area.”
The policewoman decided to buy tickets for the new flights to Madrid – borrowing 27,527 zlotys to pay for them – so the youngsters would not have to face the ordeal and stigma of deportation. A crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs has since raised more than 30,000 zlotys.
“As his commanding officer said, ‘Ola [Aleksandra] has no heart – it has a nuclear reactor,” said Maciej Gwóźdź, who set up the campaign. “It’s a great description of his zeal, determination and drive.”
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The mayor of Piekary Śląskie, Sława Umińska-Duraj, also organized a running training session for children and adults where participants were asked to contribute to cover the costs.
“Ola is very modest and committed to what she does – not only at work, but also outside, recent events are an example of this,” said Adam Jachimczak of Katowice police.
Zydyk, whose police work involves crime prevention, was lecturing against racism at local schools and other institutions in 2019 when she and Paco, a Senegalese dance teacher based in the city, got the idea of inviting the team from the city of Tivaouane in Poland.
After an Iranian driver’s truck broke down in Poland, leaving him stranded, Poles donated more than 200,000 zlotys to buy him a new one and help him get home.
“Poles are great people, and it’s hard to believe in their help,” says the driver https://t.co/jUFGP7Klk5
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 19, 2019
The footballers were then due to travel to Piekary, but their planned visit was canceled when their Senegalese sponsor pulled out at the last minute. Thanks to fundraising efforts by Zydyk and others, they were finally able to travel three years later, reports local broadcaster Radio Piekary.
As part of the “We are all equal” campaign, with the slogan “Tolerance, respect, equality”, the Senegalese footballers finally arrived in Poland on 29 July. The next day, they participated in a tournament with young players from the region.
During the rest of their stay, the team toured the area and learned about Polish and Silesian culture. “They will need to rest a bit after today… but then there will be attractions and fun, and I think they will remember this trip for a long time,” Zydyk said on the day of the tournament.
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Main image credit: Policja Slaska
Ben Koschalka is a translator and editor-in-chief at Notes from Poland. Originally from Great Britain, he has lived in Krakow since 2005.