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31. Grand Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. 30 years ago, the first edition of the largest charity event in Poland took place

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On Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the first Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity strikes. It was assumed to be a one-time project already that day, and one day it grew to the rank of something special. A breath of the West, colorful people, bags filled with cash – this was a new quality on television and a harbinger of a better care system in Polish hospitals.

It is impossible to write about the first Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity without going back in time to the very beginning of the 1990s. At that time, Jurek Owsiak worked in Channel III of the Polish Radio and in his cyclical broadcast “Brum” he initiated the transfer of symbolic donations from listeners for the emerging pediatric cardiac surgery in Poland.

In 1991, Owsiak was brought to Polish television and it was then, around Christmas, that he used the name “Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy” for the first time in the “Do what you want” program. In addition to providing viewers with a musical and entertainment offer, the program attracted and developed the fundraising mission.

– Money began to come in huge amounts, in envelopes, in bags. We continued this for a number of episodes of the program, but one day we said “Director, we need to make a final” – recalls the director and co-host of the 1st Final of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity in the material “Dzień Dobry TVN”.

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At that time – in the spring of 1992 – the first charity concert was organized under the banner of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity in Ciechocinek, and a collection was organized during the summer festival in Jarocin. Music always went hand in hand with the “oatmeal” band. But the most important thing was yet to happen. This brings us to January 3, 1993.

It blew west

The TVP2 studio at Woronicza then turned into a helping machine, and 13 field centers were also involved. The theme of the Finale was heart disease of the youngest patients, all the money collected went to the Children’s Cardiac Surgery Department at the Children’s Health Center in Warsaw. The already mentioned Chełstowski and Owsiak, but also Agata Młynarska, as the trio of hosts, made the show.

– Finally, in gray Poland, in such a post-communist real color appeared – on the posters, in the manner of being, in the graphics that appeared in the program – recalled Młynarska years later.

More and more crowds began to arrive at the studio as the hours passed. People brought money in quantities far exceeding the capacity of those responsible for counting them.

– Television at one point simply announced organizational failure. I was all in money. Here, in the pockets, under the bra. Everywhere – adds Agata Młynarska.

Also then, the song “Karnawał” by the Voo Voo group, with a characteristic theme played by Mateusz Pospieszalski on the soprano saxophone, became the anthem of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity and is used in various arrangements in each subsequent Finale.

Over $1.5 million was raised

The success of the 1st Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity exceeded everyone’s expectations. A dizzying amount of over $ 1.5 million was collected for those times, for which, among others, cardiomonitors, incubators, defibrillators, syringe pumps, pulse oximeters and ventilators. But before that happened, all received payments had to be counted. 30 years ago there were no fast bank transfers. Live cash only.

– The final is over. It’s night, in the morning. There are bags full of money in the studio. How to count it? You can’t do it manually. Counters are needed for this, but the crumpled bills could not be put into them. Therefore, blankets were spread in the conference rooms and orderly ladies with irons ironed all these banknotes for several weeks – recalls Professor Bohdan Maruszewski, a pediatric heart surgeon and founder of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, in an interview with Dzien Dobry TVN.

By definition, a one-time action, after such a promising initiation, had to turn into something bigger. – Previously, we had not thought about setting up a foundation at all, and the first fundraiser was organized based on the needs of children’s cardiosurgery at the Children’s Health Center in Warsaw. It was there that a foundation existed that had been collecting money for the purchase of specialized medical equipment for some time – says Jurek Owsiak.

Finally, the Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy Foundation was registered in Warsaw on March 2, 1993. They are its founders Jerzy OwsiakLidia Niedźwiedzka-Owsiak, Bohdan Maruszewski, Piotr Burczyński, Paweł Januszewicz, Walter Chełstowski, Beata Bethke.

They have been playing with Jurek for 30 years

This unique story could not be continued if it were not for the field heroes collecting money every year in the sun and bad weather, in health and in sickness. Or in youth and seniority, like Mr. Marian Ptak, an 85-year-old scoutmaster from Kłodzko in Lower Silesia, who has been playing with the orchestra continuously from the very beginning.

– When in the autumn of 1992 it was said that Jurek Owsiak was organizing the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity under the slogan “Do what you want”, we were very impressed – he recalls. Mr. Marian was 55 years old at the time, he was a teacher and a keen scout. In fact, he has remained so to this day.

Mr. Marian has been playing with the Orchestra continuously for 30 yearsTVN24 Wroclaw

The previous edition was supposed to be his last. But, he says, it’s not so easy to get out of this venture. – We were supposed to withdraw, but the scouts cheered us on. We have been supporting Jurek for 30 years – says the scoutmaster.

Mr. Marian Ptak recalls his first time with the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. Back then, no uniform cans. Each had a sack in his hand. There was also no communication with the staff. – One could only dream of that. There were no cells. The wife had to go in the car to talk to someone, he recalls.

Anyway, it is Mr. Marian’s wife, Mrs. Barbara, who has had her hand over everything for 30 years.

Main photo source: WOŚP/Ireneusz Sobieszczuk

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