Polish team sacrifices schedule to transport Ukrainian refugees
The cycling world’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen sanctions, fundraisers and words of support on social media. For teams a little closer to the conflict, however, there is more immediacy – especially for countries bordering Ukraine, which are trying to take in refugees fleeing the war zone.
Poland’s first continental team, HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski Team, has decided to lend its support in the most practical way it knows how: by sacrificing its race starts and sending team vehicles to the border, to help transporting refugees through Poland.
The HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski team – which has an all-Polish roster – has grown steadily over the past two seasons. In 2020, they were the highest ranked continental team in Europe. In 2021, they were the highest ranked continental team in the world, with 14 wins. They were no doubt hoping for further success in 2022 – but when your neighbor is invaded, plans change.
In a post on their Facebook page, the team wrote:
It is a very difficult situation for us, but there are things that are important and more important – we have decided to give up the start of the Visit Friesland Elfsteden Race. Today, four of our buses took residents of Ukraine to different places in Poland. We help as much as we can, that’s the most important goal for us today. The funds that were to be issued for the first starts are allocated to the “Ukraine project”
We think we are doing the right thing, we have a lot of Ukrainian friends from the cycling world and that is what we are focusing on today.
Yesterday we transported and deployed around 60 people – we are shaken by the situation. We hope that our nearly three-month-long preparations will not be in vain and that we will soon be able to compete on the roads of Poland, Europe and the world with a pure heart and a calm mind.
Glory to Ukraine!
The team will also miss this week’s Croatian tour, the Istrian Spring Trophy, due to its entire fleet of team vehicles involved in transporting refugees from the Ukrainian border. The team plans to resume its season soon, with future starts on the calendar including the Giro d’Italia U23, the Sibiu Cycling Tour in Romania and the Tour of Denmark.
Poland has accepted the majority of the 1.7 million refugees who fled Ukraine, with Polish border guards registering more than 1,027,000 people crossing the border. Many of them were housed by individuals or companies. Poland has also announced plans to set up an 8bn zloty (US$1.75bn/€1.61bn) fund for fleeing Ukrainians, including a one-off payment of 300 zlotys (£50) for each refugee.
The HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski team has been contacted by CyclingTips for further comment.