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THE FIRST EXPLORATORY VISIT TO SKARSZEWY

29th August – 2nd September 1996

Press release d/d Tuesday, September 03, 1996

Alan Wicks, Chairman of the Sandy Twinning Association, and Upper School Headteacher Max Hill, who has undertaken responsibility for the Polish link, have just returned from a memorable four day first visit to Poland. Their stay centered upon the small town of Skarszewy situated about 40kms South of Gdansk and it is hoped that the enormous success of this year’s two preliminary visits will be the prelude in due course to a long-lasting and fruitful relationship between the two communities.

The pair travelled to Poland with LOT airlines flying from Heathrow to Warsaw and then on to Gdansk, and it has to be said that the in-flight hospitality was of a very high order. The Polish hosts were waiting at the airport and accompanied their guests in an ‘interesting’ form of minibus, to the country abode of Skarszewy Mayor Josef Ebertowski. This was to be Alan Wicks’ home for four days whilst Max Hill had the interesting prospect of lodging in a small apartment on the eighth floor of one of the many functional housing blocks on the outskirts of Gdansk. He was the guest of Henryk Pauli, the organiser of the programme for the visit.

The first full day was spent visiting a range of industries in the Skarszewy district, all of whom have shown some interest in forging some kind of contact with companies of similar size and character in the UK. The companies visited comprised two furniture factories, one which makes upholstery for various kinds of prams, a food processing works, a bathroom furniture maker, the highly successful Graso packaging company and a large Vodka distillery where there were samples in abundance! The day ended with attendance at an extraordinary meeting of the Town Council in the local agricultural college followed by a meal and dance.

The first part of Saturday was spent sightseeing in the famous city of Malbork which boasts the largest brickbuilt castle in Europe dating from Teutonic times. This was followed by a visit to Skarszewy itelf and a guided tour around the town’s museum, an excellent facility and one whose development and refurbishment might provide a few answers for Sandy in the current debate on Council spending. The party moved on to a meal in the local hotel and then on to the town’s major tourist attraction, a kind of lido with holiday chalets (costing £5 a day to rent even in the high season!), very clean sandy beach and freshwater lake and a range of sporting opportunities. A visit to a local farm followed with more food. The day ended in unusual fashion with a barbecue and singsong right in the middle of the forest.

Sunday was spent in and around Gdansk beginning with a walk down the pier at the holiday resort of Sopot, a brief stop at Oliwa Cathedral and municipal gardens and then on to old Gdansk with its street market and wonderful collections of amber, silver and glassware products. After shopping in the one and only large supermarket in the city the group had a meal at a taverna on the waterfront with Zander as a delicious main dish. There was then a visit to the magnificent cathedral, more sightseeing in the old city., trips out to war memorials on the Westerplatte and, as dusk fell, the visitors found themselves in a very eerie, moving place outside the giant gates of the now derelict Gdansk shipyard, where Solidarity’s fight for freedom under Lech Walenska captured the attention and sympathy of the entire world in the early eighties.

First thing Monday morning it was off to the airport and the journey home with both delegates admitting to feeling exhausted after the hectic schedule and the very many glasses of vodka! There is no doubt that Poland is striving hard to stay on its feet. Many facilities are lacking and certain aspects of the urban environment appear run down and neglected. On the other hand, Skarszewy can boast just as many shops as Sandy and with a similar range, and the quality and variety of food available and offered to the guests was of a very high order. Hospitality everywhere was warm in the extreme though there were limits to the number of glasses of vodka it was possible to accept, and Henryk Pauli ensured the programme ran impeccably to time.

The visit was a huge success in every respect. Poland is different but is developing fast. There is much for the English visitor to admire and obvious opportunities for the entrepreneurial businessman. The visit has opened up many avenues for possible future co-operaton and hopefully the people of Sandy will support the venture. An exchange of larger delegations is planned for 1997 but in the meantime we hope to establish some individual contacts and further information for any interested companies, clubs, families ete can be obtained from Max Hill at the Upper School.