Polish community celebrates ‘bloody foreigners’ donating blood

Campaign slogan ‘is about bringing a positive spin to a term that is negative’

The ‘Bloody Foreigners’ campaign organised by The Immigrant Council of Ireland, Irish Blood Transfusion Service and Forum Polonia has been encouraging members of the Polish community in Ireland to donate blood. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

Dozens of members of the Polish community have donated blood at clinics to mark the contribution of “bloody foreigners” to vital blood stocks.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), Irish Blood Transfusion Service and Forum Polonia, an online information service for Polish people living in Ireland, are behind the campaign, which has seen hundreds of Poles pledge to donate blood.

Teresa Buczkowska, who has lived in Ireland for 13 years, works with the Immigrant Council and is a Polish national. She says the use of the term “bloody foreigners” was a way of reclaiming a phrase often used to offend.

“It’s being used by people who hold racist attitudes and sentiments, so it’s about taking that back and making it our own and also bringing a positive spin to something that is negative,” she said.

“Today I am donating blood with my fellow Polish people because we are part of Irish society, we are part of this community. We want to contribute to the community that we’re living in,” she said.

Ms Buczkowska recently received a commemorative pin from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service for her 10th donation and donated for the 11th time on Tuesday.

‘Making home’

“More than 120,000 Polish people have made Ireland their home and it is great to know so many of them donate,” she said.

Barnaba Dorda, an organiser with the trade union Siptu and chair of Forum Polonia, said: “The Bloody Foreigners campaign encouraged me to register to donate. I also got a chance to see the ‘blood journey’, where we saw in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service laboratories where donations go, how they are processed and used. It was fascinating.”

IBTS national donor services manager Stephen Cousins said the service had been overwhelmed by the support and stories from Polish blood donors in Ireland.

He noted the Polish community was the second largest group living here after Irish-born nationals and said we could not do “without regular donations from our Polish neighbours”.

Last year, the IBTS had 79,000 blood donors out of a total population of nearly 4.8 million. Of those, 1,123 were Polish, which is 1.44 per cent of the total.

“Holding a day of action gives us an opportunity to celebrate existing and new donors in Ireland. There is always a need for new donors and we are delighted to welcome anyone who is able to safely give,” Mr Cousins said.

“We need new donors all the time – we need at least 15,000 new donors in any given year. We would love to see younger donors coming in as well, because that’s always a challenge for us.”

Donors must be 18 years of age, but the average age of the service’s current donors is 41.