Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Day after racist thugs attacked her home in east Belfast resilient Polish woman is back at work

Anna Bloch holds the brick thrown through the window of her home at Inverary Drive in east Belfast
Anna Bloch holds the brick thrown through the window of her home at Inverary Drive in east Belfast
Anna Bloch holds the large brick that was thrown through the window of her house in east Belfast
DUP councillor Gavin Robinson talks with Ms Bloch

A courageous, hard-working Polish woman was back at work yesterday after racist thugs tried to put her out of her home just the day before.

A brick was thrown through the window of Anna Bloch's east Belfast home in the early hours of Thursday morning – one of three attacks on Polish homes in the area on the same night.

But in a remarkable demonstration of resilience, Ms Bloch defied the thugs and was straight back to her job as a laundry worker yesterday, refusing to allow racist bigots to stop her getting on with her life.

There have been seven racist attacks in the Sydenham area in the last two weeks. All have involved bricks or stones being thrown through windows.

Police have blamed a small group of extremists for the organised attacks – but have not said whether loyalist paramilitaries are involved.

Racist gang targets Poles in east Belfast

East Belfast MP Naomi Long praised Ms Bloch's positive attitude.

"We have an increasing number of Polish constituents in East Belfast and they are hard-working people making a valuable contribution," she said.

"The people of Sydenham recognise that and recognise them as good neighbours. They are appalled they are being treated in this way.

"They are trying to make a living, like everyone else, and need to be left in peace to do that. We will work with people as much as we can so they feel secure and safe in doing that."

Justice Minister David Ford called for an end to hate crime attacks on minority communities in the east of the city.

He condemned the "spate of hate crimes" and said Polish people and those who have moved here from all over the world enriched Northern Ireland.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms this spate of hate crimes," said Mr Ford.

"New people coming here enrich our community and should be welcomed with open arms. We can learn much from new cultures and have nothing to fear from them.

"There is a responsibility on all of us to work towards a truly shared and inclusive society, and the very small number of people carrying out these attacks have no support among the people of Belfast."

Mr Ford said his department was determined to tackle racist attacks and to provide support for those targeted by extremists.

He urged the public to report any information that would be of use to the PSNI in prosecuting perpetrators of hate crime.

"Our Community Safety Strategy aims to reduce the harm caused by this type of hate crime," he said.

"We are actively working with a range of statutory and non-statutory bodies to encourage greater reporting of hate crime, including through the use of third party reporting systems, and to increase the effectiveness of the support to victims of hate crime.

"I would call on anyone with information to pass it to the police or to the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111."

Last night Ms Long told the Belfast Telegraph a meeting with the PSNI yesterday was very useful and action from it should give residents "peace of mind."

"It was very useful to get the police perspective around the patterns of the attacks and it's important to note they haven't emerged from nowhere," she said.

"There have been incidents and tension over a longer period of time and I am concerned the attacks appear to be escalating.

"In terms of the outcome of the meeting, the police have the desire to work with the community, who have been assisting them with their inquiries, but it's also important to build confidence with members of the Polish community that they feel they can approach the police and share information.

"Often, victims are left feeling vulnerable, isolated and afraid to be prominent. We are trying to encourage them to pass on as much information as they can.

"The police have offered CCTV and other measures to protect them, and we feel this is very helpful to give them peace of mind."

Case studies

HATE CRIME ONE

Polish woman Anna Bloch, whose Inverary Drive home was attacked, said her mother was considering leaving east Belfast.

Ms Bloch, her mother and step-father escaped injury when a brick was thrown through the window of their home.

Anna, a laundry worker, said: "There has never been any trouble.

"My mum lived here for two years and in this area for six years, and something like that has never happened.

"I will be staying, but my mum is thinking about moving away."

HATE CRIME TWO

Anna Bloch's brother and sister-in-law Paulina, both domestic workers in a care home, live nearby in Sandbrook Park with their 11-year-old son.

Their front window was also smashed.

Paulina said: "It's very strange that our family has been attacked like this. I didn't know what had happened. We were sleeping and when I woke up at seven o'clock in the morning, my curtains were on the floor and inside was stone, and glass was broken.

"When I see this, I think, Jesus Christ, what are you doing?

"We have lived in Belfast from 2010. In Poland, people have £200-£300 pounds to live for one month. That is for everything. For rent, for food, for bills. Try to live on that when prices are the same as they are here. It's very, very difficult. At this moment we would like to stay here. My sisters are in England. My parents are here, living close by.

"We like Belfast, we like the people; they are very friendly. We are not scared, but we are worried that this can happen next time.

"Who is doing this and why, I do not know. If I could speak to the person I would ask why? Just why? We are working here normally, we pay tax, we want just, you know, to have a good life. That's all.

"We know a few Polish people on our street and we have a few friends, but not many. Our family is together.

"We have very, very good neighbours. If we have any problems they are very good.

"When this happened they come to the house and asked how are you? Are you all right? Do you need help? They say: 'We are here if you need someone, let me know, we are very sorry for this'. It is not their fault."

HATE CRIME THREE

A Polish man living in Victoria Court, just off the Holywood Road, also had a window smashed.

A concerned neighbour, May Barr, said she was horrified anyone would target a person because they were from another country.

"I went to speak to the man last night. A brick was put through the window, it was absolutely smashed. This gentleman is renting the place," May said.

"Apparently it happened in the early hours of the morning. The window was replaced last night.

"I am disgusted. This is a very very quiet place. We are all absolutely disgusted.

"I belong to the Salvation Army and I was ashamed that people in my country would do such a thing.

"When I was speaking to the policeman – they went round the doors – he was saying there had been a number of incidents.

"This is certainly not representative of the community."

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