Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy, the Polish charity that funds hospital equipment and medicine for children and the elderly, looks set for record takings despite being all but ignored by Poland's state broadcaster.
Now into its 25th year, Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy's primary objective has always been to "Protect health and save children's lives by providing medical equipment to public hospitals". During the first finale the foundation collected a total of 1,535,440 US dollars.
Since then the charity has also provided medical equipment to aid elderly patients, and moved from strength to strength in its size and scope. Year on year millions of Poles donate large quantities of money to WOSP, with its annual donations increasing hugely since its inception. The love heart synonymous with the charity is plastered across countless medical machines in Poland's underfunded hospitals, and Wielka Orkiestra's positive reputation has seen major companies queuing up to donate cash to the cause.
Here in Wroclaw, healthy crowds gathered on pl. Nowy Targ yesterday for a series of concerts, while volunteers braved the cold weather to collect as many donations as possible.
Not everybody is a fan of the organisation however – some individuals in the Polish Catholic Church are believed to resent the popularity of the Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy compared to the Caritas charity. In the run up to some editions of WOSP, a few priests have reportedly encouraged people not to donate to the charity.
Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy's quirky organiser Jerzy Owsiak is another reason the charity is disliked. The journalist and social campaigner's outlandish glasses and earrings do not represent what a staunch conservative would call "normal". The fact that Owsiek has a history of drug taking and organises the popular Woodstock festival, a fun loving drug fuelled mudbath complete with live punk music, doesn't endear himself to Poland's right wing media either.
As a result, Owsiak has been subject to heavy criticism in some quarters and been accused on countless allegations of financial wrongdoing. However on each and every occasion the claims have been disproved, much to the frustration of Owsiak's opponents.
With that line of attack now rendered ineffective, those against WOSP have decided to smear the charity by associating it with Owsiak's personal views on abortion and euthanasia. Yesterday anti-WOSP protesters erected a banner near Warsaw's Palace of Culture that suggested money sent WOSP "supports euthanasia and abortion". A priest in the town of Strzelce also repeated the comments.
The negativity towards the charity has also spread to Poland's national tv broadcaster TVP, who yesterday, for the first time in history, did not broadcast anything from the event. Last summer WOSP claimed that TVP continually failed to talk about cooperation for 2017, and after getting the cold shoulder for so long they stated they had no choice but to cooperate with private tv channel TVN instead.
Despite the fact that there were over 120,000 volunteers all over the country (and abroad) helping to rake in 62 million zl for vital medicines and equipment, TVP's main bulletin only contained 14 seconds about WOSP. TVP's rolling news channel TVP Info is also said to have blanked out the event almost entirely. On top of that, TVP3 Bydgoszcz even went to the length of digitally removing a WOSP sticker from a politician who was being interviewed for a local news bulletin. That said, some other branches of the TVP's regional channel TVP3 did at least give the charity a mention on their social media pages and websites.
The TVP snub fuelled fears that WOSP would not have enough exposure to break their record haul from 2016. However the funds currently recorded (62.4 million zl) are considerably higher than the 44 million zl that had been recorded at the same time last year. Therefore there is a good chance that the total from 2017 will eclipse the 72 million that was achieved last year.
The aforementioned ill-feeling towards WOSP, as well as the TVP snub, has also brought unsought political connotations to the organisation in recent times. The opinion that all PiS members and voters are against the charity is nonetheless an over-generalisation. For example, President Andrzej Duda, who was elected as a PiS candidate, donated some items to be auctioned for the charity. It is also worth noting that Caritas recently came out in support of WOSP and donated some items to the charity.