KRAKOW — The Polish city of Lublin has abandoned plans to sell tickets for public transportation featuring images of Jews and other minorities, following separate protests by local soccer fans and leaders of the pictured groups. The protesters objected for opposing reasons: Some soccer supporters claimed the tickets promoted “degeneracy,” while members of the minority groups — who included Jews, African immigrants and gays — said the drawings portrayed them as stereotypical caricatures.
The limited-edition tickets, released in mid-November, showcased drawings of minority groups as part of Lublin for All, a tolerance campaign promoted by Motor Lublin, a professional soccer team. Like many sports clubs, the squad has struggled with fans who’ve occasionally used games as a venue for racist chants and violence.
Despite the club’s backing, the campaign failed to influence at least a few hundred fans, who last week marched through the city urging an end to the project. The tickets were recalled the next day.
Katarzyna Mieczkowska-Czerniak, Lublin’s deputy mayor, denied that the decision was a concession to belligerent soccer fans, attributing it instead to concerns from the groups depicted, some of whom found the images offensive.
“The tickets were criticized by minorities and organizations that have said that this is not a good way to present them,” Mieczkowska-Czerniak told The Times of Israel. She described the campaign as an effort to “encourage the local population to accept foreigners with open arms.”
Designed by the Rewiry Group, a studio of socially engaged artists in Lublin, the tickets were part of a project co-sponsored by the Polish culture ministry, and showed Motor Lublin fans embracing minorities — and, in one case, a drawing of two men kissing.
But Jewish leaders objected to a drawing of a Jewish man with long sideburns and a large, arguably hooked nose — an image that some said echoed classic anti-Semitic caricatures. Others criticized an image of a black man that also, they claimed, resurrected racist depictions of the past.
Of additional concern, Mieczkowska-Czerniak said, was the portrayal of soccer fans themselves, who were shown “with baseball caps, looking for trouble,” which she said had inspired further complaints.
Of the 2.5 million tickets that have been printed, 12,000 had been sold by the time the campaign was called off.
Nevertheless, Mieczkowska-Czerniak said Lublin for All would continue, calling it a “long-term project.”
“We are very proud of our activities to promote tolerance towards minorities in Lublin, including Jews,” she said.