Polish community fun day: Families enjoy activities and football game at event organised by Bishop's Stortford police
A community fun day organised by police to help Polish people living in Bishop's Stortford feel more integrated was declared a resounding success.
Between 250 and 300 people descended on Birchwood High School on Sunday to enjoy activities, food and a football match between Hertfordshire Constabulary and a team of Polish players. PC James Marshall, who helped to organise the game, captained the cops while the Poles were led by Rafal Pawlowski.
East Herts' Chief Inspector David Cooke and Bishop's Stortford's Safer Neighbourhood Team Inspector Mark Collins, who were both off duty, attended the event, named Project Razem, which means 'Together' in Polish.
Newly inaugurated town mayor Cllr Dave Anderson, himself a former police officer, presented medals to both sides – the police won 7-1 – and met organisers and families attending. He said that it was just the kind of inclusive community event he was keen to promote throughout his year in office.
"It really was a good fun day. I went round and met all the stallholders and members of the public and watched the football match. We're arranging a rematch already and I even learned a few words in Polish – how to say 'Good game'!" he said.
PCSO Edyta Szrajber, who is from the northern Polish city of Bydgoszcz and moved to Stortford 10 years ago, was key to pulling together the fun day and was delighted with the response.
"I strongly believe that building bridges between communities is absolutely crucial and creates better communication between us," she said, adding that Polish was the town's second most spoken language.
"We want better integration between communities and to build up trust with the police and to make the Polish community visible and an important part of the town, for them to feel like they are at home.
"It was also about promoting a positive image of the Polish. With the war in Ukraine there is huge pressure for the Polish community and it's important to break down the stereotypes and misunderstandings and to engage with them, and I hope we make them feel important and more valued."
A focus group has been set up. Polish community members have been surveyed about living in Stortford and what more can be done to integrate them.
Edyta said: "Polish people are very happy living in Bishop's Stortford and would love more events, particularly for those with children. This event was about making them feel included and how as police we can help them feel more welcome. We don't have a bad relationship, but police in Poland work differently.
"Police in Poland have guns, we do not, and police here are very approachable and we want people to know that we are there for them if they need us."
The event was sponsored by Hertfordshire Constabulary with support from Kate Byers at Birchwood, Waitrose at the M11 Birchanger Green services, QULATEX and U Gorala and Spiritual Spa.