Why Krakow will be full of ❤️s tomorrow

Jerzy Owsiak is the founder of WOŚ and, with his trademark red-rimmed glasses, is probably its second most recognizable symbol
Jerzy Owsiak is the founder of WOŚP and, with his trademark red-rimmed glasses, probably its second most recognizable symbol (phot. Ł. Widziszowski)

For one day in January every every year, all of Poland is blanketed with red, heart-shaped stickers.

If you’re new in town: No, it isn’t a cult, and it isn’t the one day that everyone else in the country decided to donate blood except for you. They’re the symbol of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy, WOŚP).

Founded in 1991 by journalist and social campaigner Jerzy Owsiak (pictured above), WOŚP is one of Poland’s largest and most trusted nonprofit organizations. Their fundraising efforts are focused on providing medical equipment and care, especially to child and geriatric wards.

Volunteers will be ubiquitous on the streets tomorrow, collecting donations and awarding the red heart stickers to people who contribute. You can donate there, at a collection center, or online.

Every year has a specific theme. 2018’s donations will be directed toward “the purchase of equipment in order to ensure that all babies born in Poland have equal access to medical care – regardless of where they are born.”

According to the official website, previous events with this focus have raised over 100 million PLN for neonatal care, resulting in the purchase of 1,160 incubators, 367 resuscitation units for newborns, and 334 heart monitors for medical care facilities around Poland.

Last year’s fundraiser, focused on “treatment of children in pediatric and oncology wards and dignified medical treatment of the elderly,” raised over 105 million PLN.

WOŚP is also famous for organizing Poland’s annual charity Woodstock Festival, which will be in August this year.

You can read more on their official website (much of it in English) or Facebook page.


Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly understated the amount of money raised by WOŚP last year.

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