Living Leeside: Meet the Polish native who fell in love with Cork City

Living Leeside: Meet the Polish native who fell in love with Cork City
Cork City FC supporter Chris Wolny at Turner's Cross, Cork.

CHRIS Wolny, originally from Poland but living in Cork for 14 years, is a man deeply immersed in the Rebel community.

From volunteering with Cork City Football Club, where he is a stalwart fan of the team, to contributing as a member of the Cork Cycling Campaign, Chris is well known and liked around the city.

Proud of his Polish roots, he is also involved in the Irish-Polish Society and has been the vice-chairman since 2018.

“I used to travel to the Polish House in Dublin for concerts and exhibitions, and I got to know everyone. Then in 2014, I went to a general meeting and in 2018 I was elected vice-chairman.

“I want to represent the Irish-Polish Society from the county of Cork.” 

Chris also helps out as a voluntary marketing officer for the Polish community in Cork City FC (CCFC).

Cork City FC supporter Chris Wolny at Turner's Cross, Cork.
Cork City FC supporter Chris Wolny at Turner's Cross, Cork.

He explained how he started working with the club.

“Tim O’Keeffe used to be involved in CCFC. I met him on a tram in Posnan going to an Ireland vs Poland game.

“I was wearing a Cork shirt and Tim asked me why I was wearing a Cork shirt when I was Polish. 

"We ended up having a shouting match on the tram taking turns yelling 'I’m from Cork' and 'no I’m from Cork'.” 

The pair have been firm friends ever since.

“This year, 2020, will be my sixth season as a marketing officer with CCFC.

"I advertise to the Polish community on ‘CCFC Polska’ Facebook page."

Chris is also a photographer and regularly takes photos from the sideline of matches.

“I have been taking professional photos for the past 14 years,” Chris said.

“I was involved with a Polish news feed here in Cork when I first arrived. I was the editor in chief, I ran the page.” 

Chris often took photos for the website MyCork.org and started photography from there.

“The website is still going, but I wanted to step down,” Chris said.

Chris is also involved with the Cork Cycling Campaign.

“I’m not on the committee but a member and trying to help. 

"I’ve been cycling for 40 years. Everyone cycles in Poland, but mostly to shop or church, just short trips.

“I thought people would cycle more here but I understand why they don’t. There are issues with traffic and cycle lanes. It's dangerous, car drivers can be aggressive.

“The problem is everyone ignores the rules, you can’t ignore the rules in Poland there are too many police officers.” 

Despite the risks, Chris said cycling is his favourite thing to do in Cork.

“I love to go to Ballincollig or Cobh. I have a trek bike that I got 14 years ago when I first arrived. I am neighbours with the seller now! He lives around the corner.” 

“Where I live in Poland it is close to the mountains and there is deep snow three months of the year. It is difficult for cyclists.” 

When not cycling, working or volunteering, Chris said he enjoys learning about the history of Cork.

“I love history, it is a big hobby of mine. I think it started when I was 14. I moved to a new part of Poland and loved learning the new history. 

"It motivates and engages me If we know the mistakes of the past, we don’t need to repeat them. My favourite piece of history about Cork is 1916, I learned about it in 2014.” 

Explaining why he moved to Cork, Chris said he followed his younger brother Peter over.

“He suggested I give Cork a try and I am glad I did.” 

Peter is living in Passage West with his family. 

“We are close, we spend Christmas together and go to matches together.” 

Their sister Kamila came for a six months visit, but has moved back home.

“My sister taught our mom how to email and text and Facebook before she came over. Mom visits often, to see her grandsons. Her first flight was to Cork, she used to be afraid to fly.

“I get home to Poland about once a year. I usually go to Poland’s biggest blues festival at a place close to my parents.” 

Chris said he doesn’t see himself ever leaving Cork.

“I always planned on staying. I’m very happy here. I like the people, they are friendly and open-minded.

“I have good friends here that take care of me.” 

Chris said his favourite memory of living in Cork is when City won the FAI Cup and the League of Ireland.

“I was at the cup final at the Aviva Stadium, it was a brilliant experience.”

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