‘I didn’t want to be the Jo Cox of this Island'
NUMEROUS ‘aggressive, threatening’ letters – including one which showed a picture of a newborn baby and her Polish parents with a red cross through their faces – have been sent to a leader of the Island’s Polish community.
Today, for the first time, Magda Chmielewska, Jersey’s honorary Polish consul, has spoken about the ordeal of receiving the hate mail, which she says nearly forced her family out of the Island they have grown to love and call home.
Despite saying she loves Jersey and stressing that the vast majority of people are welcoming and friendly to Polish people, she said that at the height of the period when she was receiving the letters, which were coming every ‘three or four months’, she feared for her safety.
‘I didn’t want to be the [MP] Jo Cox of this Island,’ she said. Mrs Cox, a former MP in West Yorkshire, was shot and stabbed in 2016 by a right-wing extremist.
The letters were reported to the police. However, despite investigation, including a social media appeal, the case remains unsolved.
As the States police’s first hate crime campaign – #StopHateUK – continues, Mrs Chmielewska has called on all Poles in Jersey, and anyone from any minority groups, to speak up if they are victims of hate. She also called on Islanders who witness hate, prejudice or discrimination to not be silent bystanders.
Speaking about the impact the letters had on her family Mrs Chmielewska said: ‘There was a point when I was deciding with my husband whether we wanted this life. I have lived in fear because of this.
‘They have been very threatening, very aggressive, very bad.’
The letters she received included pieces cut out from the UK and local press. One letter included a cut-out of the JEP’s front page the day after Prince George was born in 2013. A couple, from Poland, were featured on the front with their newborn who had been born on the same day as the Prince – ‘they [the letter writer] had drawn a big red cross over their faces,’ Mrs Chmielewska said.
Hate crimes, according to the States police, are acts of violence and hostility directed at a group or individual because of who they are, or who someone thinks they are, based on their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
The force believe that hate crimes are vastly under-reported in Jersey. A total of 37 were recorded last year, 26 of which related to race or religion. However, 9% of Islanders who responded to last year’s Opinions and Lifestyle Survey said they had been victims of prejudice or discrimination, which, if that accounted for the whole population, would equate to almost 10,000 people.
In a separate case, Islander and Polish national Żaneta Dudkiewicz took to Facebook recently to tell how she was publicly embarrassed by two grandmothers who confronted her and her two-year-old son in Howard Davis Park before unleashing a racist volley or verbal abuse.
‘He [my son] was playing on the playground with other kids and a little girl around similar age to him. He was all happy and smiling, just wanted to play,’ she said.
‘However, during the fun time, he pushed the little girl. [I] couldn’t accept this fact, I took him straight away on the side and I explain that he’s not allowed to do so.’
Mrs Dudkiewicz said she apologised to the grandmothers before one ‘exploded’ with rage.
‘Other parents were just looking at us as she started to shout saying that me and my son should not be here and I should go back to where I came from. She also mentioned she was born here and we are not welcome in here.’
To report hate crime, contact the States police on 612612 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. Advice can also be sought from Stop Hate UK’s 24-hour helpline on 08001 381625.