When editor Jan Ciszewski received a phone call from the vice-president of Poznań with information that Teresa Zarzeczańska was the first person from Poland to swim across the English Channel, he couldn’t believe it. The expedition was organized in secret. It would not have happened without the help of the editor of the Poznań television, later Zarzeczańska’s husband. Teofil Różański died on Sunday at the age of 96.
The family informed about Teofil Różański’s death.
Teofil Różański was born on December 16, 1926 in Poznań. He was a local journalist, sea helmsman and sailing coach. From 1950 to 1957 he worked at Radio Poznań, and then, until his retirement in 1981, at the sports editorial office of the Poznań branch of Telewizja Polska. He was the originator of the construction of the first post-war Polish seagoing yacht S/Y “Wielkopolska” and the organizer of many sea expeditions and marathons, as well as four Polish women’s relays. Above all, however, he was behind the departure of Teresa Zarzeczańska, who in 1975 was the first person from Poland to swim across the English Channel.
They didn’t take her to the Games, she challenged herself
Teresa Zarzeczańska was then one of the best swimmers in Poland. Despite this, she was twice excluded from the team for the Olympic Games in 1968 and 1972. – I’ve been hurt a lot. For every athlete, the pinnacle is the Olympics. This peak was taken from me, causing irreparable harm – she recalled.
Then she decided to cross the English Channel. She has been preparing for this challenge for three years. She organized her own training, and to earn money, she worked as a math and physics teacher. She also trained with lifeguards.
She was going to go to the canal with marathon runners in swimming. But the trip did not come to fruition. Then Teofil Różański from Poznań television, who was also the honorary commander of the Scuba Diving Club of the National Defense League “Delfin”, came to her aid. He persuaded her to join the LOK Scuba Diving League. And she quickly won the vice-championship of Poland in a new sport for her.
Finally, in the summer of 1975, Zarzeczeńska received a passport. Soon enough, we also managed to get money for the trip. She might already be thinking of going to England.
Rozanski arranged the funds
– Teofil Różański convinced the then deputy mayor of Poznań, Andrzej Wituski, that this unfulfilled Olympian would prove who is the best swimmer in Poland. The president allocated money – illegally, we were leaving a bit “from the underground” – recalled Zarzeczańska on TVN24.
Where did these funds come from? Andrzej Wituski himself, later the president of Poznań, in a river interview conducted by Dorota Ronge-Juszczyk did not hide: – I had to transfer the money to finance this escapade from the municipal economy. It was then checked by the audit committee and it was decided that I had made the right decision, because it made Poznań splendid.
– Undertaking the first Polish expedition with a hero in a skirt was a difficult challenge. If the then president of the city had not allocated tens of thousands for the expedition, instead of the planned roads, nothing would have happened. Our transport – a hotel on wheels, it was a tarpan with a trailer. None of us thought what a woman needs on a journey. We had a tent, 20 kg of bread, 2 hams and some other food – this is how Teofil Różański recalled the preparations for the expedition.
“I was actually an icicle”
The breaking of the Polish record was scheduled for August 30, 1975. Exactly 100 years and four days earlier, Captain Matthew Webb swam the channel for the first time. He needed 21 hours and 45 minutes to do it. Since then, around 1,200 people have followed in his footsteps.
Zarzeczeńska stood on Shakespeare Beach in Dover at 5:30. The air temperature was 13 degrees Celsius. Water – 15 degrees. “After three hours, I was practically an icicle. Then it was just about this willpower, character and motivation – the swimmer recalled.
Despite the moments of crisis, the Polish swimmer managed to swim the 42-kilometre route between Dover and Vissant in 11 hours and 10 minutes on her first attempt.
National authorities were not informed of the intention to cross the English Channel. Officially, Teresa Zarzeczańska and her band went to England for tourist purposes.
Hence, when Andrzej Wituski passed the news of success to the famous sports commentator Jan Ciszewski, he did not believe it. – I said that I was the vice-president of Poznań and that I had just received a message that Teresa Zarzeczańska was the first Pole, and the first Pole, to swim across the English Channel. He started to question me a bit, but I felt that the mistrust on the other side was huge. Then I watched the sports news and heard that “according to unconfirmed information, Teresa Zarzeczańska swam across the English Channel” – Wituski recalled in the book “After all, it’s my Poznań. Andrzej Wituski in a conversation with Dorota Ronge-Juszczyk”.
Teofil Różański went on the expedition with a camera. He made a documentary entitled “Success” about Zarzeczańska, which was shown at the Short Film Festival in Krakow in 1976.
In 1979, Różański married Teresa Zarzeczańska. – When I swam across the English Channel, I was the happiest girl in the world. Now we are the happiest family – said tvn24.pl in 2021 Zarzeczańska-Różańska.
The funeral of Teofil Różański is scheduled for June 26.
Main photo source: Archives of Teresa Zarzeczańska