Six of Poland's best junior tennis players and their coach, here for the annual Junior Orange Bowl tournament, are in limbo.
The team of three boys and three girls was en route here when martial law was declared in their country. Since arrival for the prestigious nine-day tournament, they have found it impossible to communicate with anyone in Poland, according to Witold Meres, the coach.
"We have tried to telephone and send letters, but, as of yet, we have not received any messages or letters from our families," he said. "We have a big worry about them."
In reply to a question, Meres said that the team might stay in the United States longer than expected to see if things settle down in Poland. But he said that no one anticipates staying here permanently. He is the only one among his group who speaks English.
"Even if I could bring my family over and get a good job as a tennis pro here, I would still return to Poland," Meres said, "because I would miss my friends and the familiarity of my country. I don't believe that anything would happen to us if we decided to stay here, but I hope that the problems in my country can be worked out."
Valdemar Rogowski, 18, Poland's top junior player, advanced to the round of 32 before losing to Martin Jaite of Spain. He had defeated Zang Fan of China and Ravlo Toffolo of Italy. Through an interpreter, Rogowski said his goal is to play well enough in junior tournaments to obtain a college scholarship in the United States.
Rogowski was the only Polish player to survive the first round. But in losing to Jaite, Rogowski appeared lethargic and "looked like he wasn't fully concentrating on the match," according to Meres.
Three other Poles qualified for the main draw: Renata Marcinkowska, 16; Joanna Misztal, 18, and Michael Lewandowski, 18.
Poland has one well-known player currently on the world professional circuit--Wotjek Fibak. Meres said he used to play doubles with Fibak.
In Poland, Rogowski said, there are few indoor courts so that practice during the winter is difficult, and now, during martial law, he is worried that no one will be allowed to play tennis.
In exchange for Rogowski working in a local mine, the mine donated money to a tennis club, which in turn awarded it to Rogowski for tournament expenses. The cost of traveling from Poland to Florida, according to Meres, is equal to seven months' work in the mines. The air fare from Poland to Miami is approximately $1,300.
But there will be some holiday touches of home life for the visitors.
The Junior Orange Bowl Committee located a Polish family in the Miami area and the tennis group was scheduled to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with them, as well as attend observances at a Polish Catholic church.