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IFMR-POLSKA – how did it all start?

Many members of our Fellowship IFMR AGS visited neighbouring Poland several times during the last years: Eckehart Wache guided through the North in 2009 and through the South of the country in 2014. In 2015, Jörn Ranke showed the unique features of the Jelenia Gora valley in a weekend tour, which he offered in 2017 again given the great interest from AGS members. Subsequently, Alexander Heinelt led a small group all the way from Jelenia Gora to Biszczady in the far Southeast of Poland, close to Ukraine.

During all five tours unfortunately, we met only a few Rotarians with no motorcyclists among them. Jörn wanted to change this fact already two years ago because he was convinced from personal contacts with Poles that friendship between motorcycling Rotarians would bring both countries closer together – an explicit objective of Rotary International.

So, in the pouring rain Jörn rode to the district conference in Gdynia in 2016, where unfortunately he couldn’t present his idea during the conference, but luckily met Bendt Haverberg.

In September 2017, he asked Alex Heinelt – a polonised AGS member living in Warsaw – what he thought about the idea of getting the Chapter IFMR POLSKA started? Alex immediately believed in the possibility and joined Jörn to make it happen.

Also AGS president Friedhelm Kirchoff and the AGS board were very supportive and agreed to be the mother chapter for the charter process.

Even before the trip to the Rotary General Assembly in Lodz in autumn 2017 Jörn had already contacted Tomasz Wiszniewski via Jarek Wistuba, who is a member of the Polish-Germany ICC.

Tomasz came especially to Lodz to talk about IFMR where we finally all met.

IT WAS as if he had only been waiting for us!

Tomasz had already prepared a complete tour in Masuria and we agreed immediately to do the first ride and the charter on the weekend of 17.05.-20.05.2018.

Alex and Jörn presented our Fellowship and the Chapter AGS on the second day of the Assembly and distributed 250 contact flyers and received very good interest and support from the Rotarians present.

In the evening they also met Evelyna Jelec from the Polish-Lithuanian ICC, who offered (and did) spread the information to the Lithuanian Rotarians.

In numerous phone calls and mails Alex and Jörn prepared the next steps with Tomasz – starting with a Facebook group to and connect with interested Rotarians and share information, which quickly accumulated members. For this purpose, Jörn overcame his dislike for Facebook in order to get into contact with Poles and Lithuanians via this (so far deliberately avoided) medium.

Thereafter they published an article in the Polish Rotary Magazine announcing the plan and details of the first ride and a message on the District webpage, which together attracted several new riders.

Initially, the number of confirmed participants grew slowly, but it was already certain during the time of the test ride by Tomasz and Alex, that we will have a good number of Rotarians eager to find out about the Fellowship. In the end we had grown to 50 motorcyclists – roughly one third each from Poland, Lithuania and Germany – which was far beyond our original hopes.

In order to meet the requirements of setting up a IFMR chapter volunteers for the board had to be found and elected, which proved to be a fast process:

President:                           Tomasz Wiszniewski
Vice-President:                  Michał Frelichowski
Secretary:                            Janusz Babicz
Treasurer:                           Alexander Heinelt
Media:                                  Bendt Haverberg
Relation IFMR AGS:           Jörn Ranke

Thus, after 8 months of preparation, the Chapter IFMR-POLSKA was founded by our incoming World President Dirk Jesinghaus in Lutry on 19.05.2018.

The Polish friends came so well prepared to the Charter that already another meeting in Lodz had been agreed for September 2018 and the second tour the IFMR-POLSKA had been set around Lublin area in 2019 –  organized by Janusz Babic.

Furthermore, we will participate in next year’s IFMR Rally for the Rotary Convention in Hamburg 1-5. June 2019. and Bendt Haverberg aims to bring together Polish, Scandinavian and German IFMR members in 2020 in Kashubia.

Led by Jörn Ranke close cooperation between the hopefully fast-growing members of IFMR-POLSKA and the mother Chapter AGS is envisaged. This not only includes the possibility to participate in respective Chapter tours, but also aims to organize an annually cross-border tour dedicated to both fellowships in order to deepen the friendship started.

Tomasz, Alex and Jörn

The IFMR is one of the largest of the 64 Rotary Fellowships with 2150 members in 30 different countries. We know that many more Rotarian riders are not yet members and our responsibility rests with demonstrating to them the fun, fellowship, skill and knowledge trading and service accomplishments that they would enjoy as full members. And yes, we welcome them on every ride/event that is held.

Membership is open and inviting to riders of every make and model machine. Whether one is an Iron Butt rider doing 1,000+ miles each day or most satisfied with a 200-300 circular route you are welcomed as a member.

Great friendships have developed between riders both within countries and between distant continents; a true Rotary Exchange. Rotary and riding is the glue that molds them together. I have witnessed IFMR to be Rotary’s greatest membership retention tool as it is the very rare rider who drops out.

Service activities are common and encouraged within IFMR, the most popular being raising awareness and funds for polio eradication.

We will be riding with you, preparing information booths at district conferences, President-Elect Training Seminars, Zone Institutes and the International convention. Join with us during the year but especially in June, Rotary Fellowships Month by inviting riders in your Rotary club and surrounding Rotary clubs to have a ride-in show prior to the scheduled Rotary meeting.

Come ride with us


(text from President Raymond E. Plue )


(IFMR is not an agency of, nor controlled by Rotary International)


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