In Depth

Polish workers give blood and strike to show their value

But some Poles argue the campaign to counter anti-immigration rhetoric is 'irresponsible and divisive'

Polish people living in Britain have been raising awareness of their contribution to society by donating blood and taking part in industrial action.

The #polishblood campaign was launched by George Byczynski from the British Poles Initiative, who said he wanted to do something positive to counter widespread anti-immigration rhetoric.

The campaign was designed to remind Britons of the blood shed by Polish soldiers fighting for the British armed forces during the Second World War, as well as to combat the negative attitudes and stereotypes of migrants, The Guardian reports.

Meanwhile, the industrial action was organised by "ordinary polish immigrants" who wanted to come together to show their strength and importance, says the Polish Express.

John Zylinksi, the son of a Polish war hero who fought the Nazis, said the strike would draw attention to the fact that many Poles living in Britain "feel seriously scapegoated".

However, turnout today was extremely low after some in Polish community argued that a walkout would only harm British-Polish relations.

The newspaper's editor Tomasz Kowalski was defiant, saying it didn't matter how many people took part in the strike, the debate it had sparked meant that "we have already won".

But not everyone agreed. Jakub Krupa from the Polish Press Agency in London was critical of the entire campaign, saying it was opposed by most Poles in Britain.

Tadeusz Stenzel, chairman of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, agreed. He said he supported people who wanted to give blood, but he did not want it to be used to make a political statement. 

"The whole thing has been blown completely out of proportion," he told The Guardian. "It's mountains out of molehills, or, as we say in Poland, making a garden fork out of a needle.”

However, the campaign has been praised by the National Health Service and the Green Party. The NHS's Blood and Transplant division told the BBC that it welcomed the blood donation drive while the Green Party's deputy leader Shahrar Ali commended those who took part.

"In recent years the rhetoric around migration has become divisive, stigmatising and utterly deplorable and it’s wonderful to see such a positive fightback from migrant communities," said Ali. 

"But it should not be left to these communities alone to counter this rhetoric: in the face of growing hostility from politicians and the media, we should all be standing up for migrants."

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