Poles apologise for violence to Russians

'Slavic comradeship' on the streets of Warsaw before final group matches

Warsaw

A young Polish man approached three Russians on a street in Warsaw yesterday and apologised.

"We are really sorry," Marek Wolski told them. "We are ashamed."

It's a scene that has played out repeatedly since Polish hooligans attacked Russians on the streets of Warsaw on Tuesday ahead of an emotionally charged match between their national teams – one that pitted historic foes against each other.

Officials feared there could be more trouble yesterday with some 20,000 Russians expected to see their team play Greece in Warsaw's National Stadium.

Tuesday's violence got a lot of attention and the risk of more trouble is real given the existence of thugs – or "cretins", as Poland's justice minister called them on Friday.

Polish and Russian authorities have since sought to play down tensions between the two countries, but relations have been made fraught by centuries of conflict and the Soviet domination of Poland for more than four decades after the Second World War.

But the reality is that encounters between Poles and Russians are often warm despite that historical emnity. That Slavic comradeship was on display yesterday on Warsaw's streets hours before Russia played Greece and Poland took on the Czech Republic in Wroclaw in the final Group A matches.

Poles and Russians could be seen drinking together at outdoor cafes. One couple walked down a street pushing a baby carriage, him in a Polish team jersey, her wrapped in a Russian flag. It almost made the large number of police all over the place seem redundant.

"We have a lot in common," said Wolski, a 30-year-old lawyer. "We like the same music, we drink a lot like the Russians do, and we like to party together."

The Russians he approached on the street said it wasn't the first such apology they had received.

"About 30 to 40 Poles have come up to us in the past three days – Poles between the ages of 30 and 70 – and said they want to apologise for those 100 bastards who made Poland look bad," said Artem Borodin, a 28-year-old from Moscow.

Borodin and his friends said they witnessed some of Tuesday's violence first hand, crouching behind a police car when Polish thugs with batons began kicking and hitting Russians who were marching to the stadium.

But they also witnessed kindness. "Police were sitting in their cars not reacting and it was normal Poles who went to the police and asked them to intervene," he said.

Tuesday's clashes led to a few dozen injuries and more than 200 arrests.

After Wolski made his apology, he shook hands with the Russians and bade them farewell. He said he was furious at "Polish criminals" that made his country look bad across the world.

On one of Warsaw's most popular streets, Nowy Swiat, another young Polish man and three Russian fans were enjoying cold beers at an outdoor cafe. Grzegorz Bajer had met the Russians in Wroclaw last week when Russia played their opening match against the Czech Republic.

"We liked each other so I made the trip to Warsaw to meet them again," said Bajer, a 28-year-old financial adviser in between jobs.

"Normal Polish people do not have bad feeling toward Russians," he added. "History is in the past. Now is the present and the future."

Meanwhile, Warsaw bars and restaurants are marvelling at Russian fans' expenditure during Euro 2012, selling them litres of vodka and champagne and traditional Polish pork dishes.

"The Russians know how to party and they spend a lot. They seem to be having a lot of fun in Warsaw," said Adrian, a waiter at a restaurant in the city centre.

"They mostly order Polish cuisine, but, let's be honest, they do not pay any attention to the prices and they order the most expensive alcohol in significant quantities," said Stanislaw Korzynski, head waiter at another restaurant close to the historic old town.

Waiting staff are also delighted. "Russians tend to spend 25 to 50 per cent more than the rest of our clients and give very high tips," said waitress Ania.

Even the city's Greek restaurants are feeling the benefit of the thousands of Russian fans. "They are not sparing with either their euros or their zlotys," said Arkadiusz Danielewski, the manager of a Greek restaurant.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor