Wroclaw’s contribution to the 27th Finale of Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy (The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, aka WOSP) includes an open air concert on p. Nowy Targ.
Set up in 1993, Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy’s main objective at that time was 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 organisation 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 organisation, 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.
Not everybody is a fan of the organisation however – some circles of the Polish Catholic Church are believed to lament the popularity of the Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy compared to its own Caritas charity. In the run up to some previous editions of WOSP, a few priests have even encouraged people not to donate to the charity.
Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy’s quirky organiser Jerzy Owsiak is often the target of fierce criticism too. 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.
Two years ago the charity even had to change their television partner due to the dislike of Owsiak inside Poland’s conservative and catholic Government. For this first time in its history, the finale of the charity was shown on TVN instead of public stations TVP1 and TVP2. Despite this obstacle, in 2017 WOSP managed to raise more money than ever before.
In the face of more smear tactics last year the feat was repeated again – approximately 126.4 million złoty was raised. Over 38 million złoty has already been raised in the current campaign.
In their attack on WOSP and Owsiak in 2018, Gazeta Polska claimed the head of Poland’s biggest charity is friends with Russia’s secret Federal Security Service (which replaced the KGB).
Despite repeatedly being accused of stealing or wasting donations, Owsiak and WOSP have been proven innocent by the courts time and time again. The charity are still going strong and continuing to provide extra medical equipment for children and the elderly.
Every year more than 100,000 volunteers from Poland take to the streets to collect money for the charity, with around 1,000 of those roaming around Wrocław.
As part of the charity’s ‘finale’ on Sunday, when the vast majority of donations are made, there will be concerts from a variety of musicians on pl. Nowy Targ and Stary Klasztor. Wrocław-based rock band Strain will perform, as will Nadija – a folk/rock/funk/reggae group who sing songs in Polish, Ukrainian and Lemko.
Other interesting acts set to play are Szczecin rock band Chorzy, established singer-songwriter Tymon Tymański from Gdansk and Fanfara Transilvania, a Romanian outfit whose sound is a mix of dub reggae, jazz and Balkan.
Meanwhile at the indoor stage inside Stary Klasztor, Poznan thrash metal band the Acid Drinkers are the main attraction.
If you would like to make a donation to WOSP, you can simply put some money into the boxes the volunteers will be carrying around town on Sunday. Alternatively, you can donate online using the English version of the WOSP website.