Poland fundraiser shows gratitude for mountain rescuers


Rescuers in a helicopter checking the slopes of the Giewont peak for missing persons and anyone who might need help in the Tatra Mountains in Poland, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Three people are still missing in southern Poland after a deadly thunderstorm with multiple lightning strikes hit the Tatra Mountains, killing five people and injuring over 150. (AP Photo/Bartlomiej Jurecki)

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An online fundraiser in Poland for the Tatra Mountains rescuers, a largely voluntary emergency service, has exceeded expectations by raising more than 117,000 zlotys ($27,000) in five days.

The collection for the so-called TOPR was launched by mountain guide Maja Sindalska on Saturday, two days after dozens of rescuers rushed by helicopter and on foot to aid tourists caught up in a deadly thunderstorm over the Tatras that killed four and injured more than 150 others.

The daring rescue operation that started while the storm was still raging and producing lighting strikes over the Giewont peak drew attention to the group, 37 of whom are state-employed with pre-tax monthly earnings of about 4,500 zlotys ($1,140). About 250 others are volunteers.

“We would like to do our jobs on an even higher level, but we have limitations, because in our time off we do other jobs to earn money,” TOPR chief Jan Krzysztof recently told the onet.pl news portal.

The rescuers’ tasks range from bringing down injured skiers to saving climbers. They are available around the clock.

TOPR says it needs more funds for rescue equipment and salaries. The Ministry of Interior and Administration said it paid about 7 million zlotys ($1.7 million) for TOPR in 2019, half of it for a helicopter. But the needs are greater.

Sindalska said her motive was to help take the financial worries off their heads in thanks for their “heroism, sacrifice, strength and struggle.”

She had hoped to raise just 5,000 zlotys, but on Wednesday the amount collected far surpassed that goal.

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