Last week riots broke out on the streets of Warsaw, before Poland took on Russia. The Polish capital descended into panic as police worked hard to contain the trouble.
Now, I was in Poland when all this was going on, tensions had been building in the media for some days, leading up to the event. The game just happened to fall on Russia day, a national holiday in Russia and some 10,000 fans had planned to march from the city centre, to the stadium, before the game. I had monitored the situation closely and due to obvious historical tensions, trouble was expected.
My friend Clair Cartwright, 26, from Dudley, lives and works in the city and due to obvious concerns, I wanted to know how things were for her that evening. Clair works as an English Language Assistant at the Montessori Academy for International Children at Konstancin-Jeziorna (just outside Warsaw).
After looking for a new challenge she decided to take a chance and move to Poland, she said, “I chose Poland because I had been coming here for holidays since 2006 and had completely fallen in love with the country. I had an email just before the Christmas holidays (2011) saying I got a job and I flew out to start my trial period on 5th January”.
Clair has had a fantastic time since moving to her new home, saying “Warsaw is an amazing and vibrant city. People who have never been to Poland have the impression that it’s always cold and grey and miserable but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s plenty to do in Warsaw, whether it’s the history you’re interested in, culture or even just a bit of shopping”.
This is her fist hand account of what happened to her that night; this is Clair’s Euro 2012 story.
“Since the Euros have started, the atmosphere has been incredible; it’s great to see so many different people, from so many diffrent countries and cultures”.
In the days prior to the game the atmosphere remained jovial she recalled, “I saw a groups of Poles and Russians drinking together, laughing and enjoying the Spain v Italy match, so at that moment, everything was Ok”.
As the game got closer the mood became tenser in the city, 6,000 riot police, had been drafted in, to control the crowds. 55,000 fans would be inside the national stadium and a further 100,000 had gone to the fan zone in the city centre.
For anybody, this would be a unique opportunity to sample an electric atmosphere, which only the host can bring to their tournament. So Clair headed into the centre to experience it for herself and this is what happened that night, from her point of view.
“There was a definite change in atmosphere on Tuesday night. It was a sea of red and white everywhere you looked! I only saw some anti-social behaviour outside the Centrum Metro Station before we went into the Fan Zone, but none of it was racist or aimed at the Russian fans”.
“The Police presence was very high, they were armed/riot Police and brought any trouble under control very quickly. In my opinion, it seemed to me that the Poles resented the Police more than the Russian fans and any bad behaviour seemed to be aimed at them. Shouting abuse at the Police when they walked by”.
“There were 100,000 people plus in the Fan Zone so it was very crowded. I personally felt safe once there, everyone had come for the same reason, to watch and enjoy the game. When the Russian’s took the lead, I didn’t hear any reaction other than what you’d expect, just the usual swearing!! No anti-Russian songs were sung or any racist abuse whatsoever from where I was standing”.
“I can’t honestly describe the atmosphere and the reaction when the Poles scored, I can’t put it into words. You could actually feel the passion and pride for their country in the air. It was palpable. I’ve never known patriotism like it”.
“They also did this chant, when translated means something like ‘If you’re not jumping, you’re not with Poland”, so you had to jump up and down. The Poles seemed very happy with the score-line and dispersed pretty quickly after the game. Some small groups did hang around to carry on singing and dance in the street”
“Again, on the way home, the Police presence was noticeable, only small groups of people were allowed into the Metro Station at a time. I must admit, as a young woman, on my own, the journey home was a little intimidating. There were lots of drunken men around, but it was uneventful and I got back safely”
“Apart from that night, I feel so safe here walking around the city at any time of day, you know the Police are never too far away. I really feel lucky to be here in Warsaw during the tournament. I’ve spent most evenings at the Fan Zone watching the different matches because the atmosphere is great, it’s a good place to meet new people and of course, it’s free! I’m looking forward to seeing how England progress now they’ve qualified through the Group Stages. I will definitely be at the Fan Zone on the night of the final, whoever makes it through!”
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