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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Prince Charles makes secret donation to help rebuild Polish Tatar restaurant

A restaurant owner who uses food to promote Poland's Muslim minority says the Prince of Wales has donated money to help her rebuild after she lost everything in a fire

Britain's Prince Charles (C), owner of Tatar restaurant Dzenneta Bogdanowicz (R) and Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz (L) talk about traditional Tatar food in her restaurant in Kruszyniany. AFP 
Britain's Prince Charles (C), owner of Tatar restaurant Dzenneta Bogdanowicz (R) and Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz (L) talk about traditional Tatar food in her restaurant in Kruszyniany. AFP 

A Polish Muslim woman who lost her restaurant in a fire says Britain’s Prince Charles has offered “great support” in the form of a donation to help her to rebuild.

Dzenneta Bogdanowicz opened the Tatar Yurt 17 years ago in the small village of Kruszyniany in north-eastern Poland, near the border with Belarus.

She cooked traditional Tatar food — which includes dishes such as stuffed dumplings, one-pot stews and meat pastries — for visitors to the village’s small wooden mosque and tourists from within the country and beyond, hoping to help people understand her culture and Islam better.

In 2010, she hosted a high-profile visit from the Prince of Wales during a nine-day official tour of central Europe with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Ms Bogdanowicz met the prince and talked to him about her culture, she cooked for him and also showed him how to cook a traditional dish.

However, in May this year, during a bank holiday weekend, an electrical short circuit caused the wooden restaurant to catch fire. It was completely destroyed, with Ms Bogdanowicz losing everything including a photograph given to her by Charles of the two of them together.

The only thing that survived was a charred beam carrying an Arabic prayer.

“After the fire, we one day got a letter from Prince Charles,” Ms Bogdanowicz told The National.

“It’s really shocking when the mail person brings a letter with all these stamps and seals.”

She says the prince personally offered her an undisclosed sum of money to help her rebuild, and they broke ground on the project last week.

“It’s not a lot of money for him, but it’s a great support for the restaurant.”

“He saw some information on the internet about a restaurant burning down and he remembered that he visited this restaurant eight years before. It was a very kind expression of solidarity.”

Prince Charles funds a number of projects through his grant-making body the Prince of Wales's Charity Foundation. The fund has, for example, invested over £1 million in development projects in Romania, promoting the country's natural and cultural heritage.

He also makes personal donations of undisclosed amounts to good causes, previously giving money to help the victims of the 2015 Nepalese earthquake and the 2014 Philippines typhoon fund.

The National was unable to see the letter due to a non-disclosure agreement, but Ms Bogdanowicz said that it was “very kind and personal — it’s amazing how the royal family can express such nice things to a restaurant in a village in Poland”.

She has replied, thanking the prince and inviting him to the opening of the restaurant, although she has not received a response yet.

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Lipka, or Polish, Tatars are the descendants of Turkic Muslim nomads who trace their roots back to Genghis Khan.

They settled in Poland 620 years ago and were given land in Kruszyniany in the late 17th century for their valiant efforts fighting against the Ottomans alongside the Polish army.

“When we opened this restaurant 17 years ago, we wanted to show people in Poland how diverse and rich the country is thanks to these regional minorities, like Tatars. And now there are many visitors here,” said Ms Bogdanowicz.

She also travels overseas to cater at Polish embassy events and uses her food to help people understand Muslims and Islam, which has become particularly important in the face of rising Islamophobia.

“Through food, we get to know each other and the more we get to know each other the more respect we have for each other,” she said.

She is currently cooking from the nearby Muslim community centre, with people still visiting from around the country to show their support.

“Food connects,” she said.

Clarence House, the Prince of Wales' office, confirmed that the donation had been made.