This story is featured in Episode 50.
Since 1993 the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, a non-governmental charity in Poland, has been working tirelessly with one goal in mind “Health Protection and Saving Children’s Lives through Providing Medical Equipment to Public Hospitals”. It was created by Jurek Owsiak and had millions of followers all over the world.
This year for the 26th time, this huge annual campaign involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers
raising money in Poland and in other countries, has yielded yet another record amount (last year it was 105 mln Polish zlotys roughly equivalent to 30 mln US dollars.) – all this money goes into purchasing state of the art medical equipment for Polish hospitals, mostly for pediatric and geriatric care wards. The Orchestra “plays” through thousands of events, auctions, and all kinds of unconventional fundraising ideas.
This mass movement involves people from all walks of life – artists, intellectuals, politicians, sponsors, private and corporate donors and most importantly – youth and kids. The fundraising efforts end on the second Sunday of January with a huge Finale in the form of televised auctions, sporting events and spectacular concerts with fireworks.
The Orchestra plays in 20 countries, including Canada, where it started in 2004.
For three days dozens of volunteers ignored the extreme cold collecting money into sealed boxes sent from the Orchestra’s headquarters in Poland. They spent hours collecting money in front of churches, in stores, at shopping plazas.
Sunday January 14 was the day of the Great Finale. Ours was held at the Fregata Restaurant in Mississauga. It was time for opening the collection boxes and counting the money.
A silent auction was held with hundreds of donated items, as well as a beautiful concert with all the artists performing for free. And what a concert it was!!! Out of the trio Studio Merlot, two vocalists Ilona Kowalik and Anna Niewulis had been on stage at the very first grand finale ever held in Canada in 2004. The last performer of the evening – a dynamic group The Ukrainian Folk who came from Poland, playing and singing great Ukrainian folk music in modern arrangements, have been playing for the Orchestra for years. Other performers were: our own cabaret star Wojtek Gawenda and a folk group Polky Village established by a Polish ethnomusicologist Ewelina Ferenc and consisting of three other accomplished folk musicians of Finnish, Irish and Algerian roots, all in love with Polish folk music.
This was a time of joy and great satisfaction as the fundraising done on the street and at the concert, through direct bank deposits, the silent auction yielded the record amount of over 23.5 thousand dollars. The Orchestra played – which means that money was raised also in Ottawa Windsor, Calgary and Edmonton and altogether this year’s fundraising in Canada brought over 30.000 dollars plus over 5000 Polish zlotys collected in a virtual box organized by the previous head of the Orchestra’s Canadian contingent Anna Bochenska.
More on WOŚP (Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity – Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy) and Jurek Owsiak – in English