Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Comes to London

Under red neon lights, the smell of unfamiliar Polish food and imported beer hangs strong. If you walk a bit further down the room, you can just glimpse a stage three floors down where a heated auction is taking place. But just ten minutes earlier, British rockers Zepher was occupying the stage and making the audience scream for more.

This is not your ordinary charity event but Hurricane of Hearts is neither your ordinary charity. It’s been four years since Dagmara Chmielewska, the founder of Hurricane of Hearts, decided to join forces with one of the biggest charities in Poland: Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.

Together with countless Polish cities, London has become one of the places, which on the second Sunday of January comes together to raise money for children’s hospital equipment and money towards decent healthcare for the elderly.

 

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Hurricane of Hearts volunteers celebrating a job well done. Photo: Marcin Rochu Roszko

 

The music event at Scala in King’s Cross is heating up faster than expected. From the stage live rock music is blasting from the speakers, in the room next door there’re salsa dancers and it’s not even 7pm.

After a while the dancers take a break but people are quickly starting to move to the DJ tunes. It doesn’t take long before many of them are breakdancing to I Know You Want Me and the room becomes increasingly sweaty and humid.

People in black printed T-shirts and heavy make-up are running up and down the stairs and talking quickly to each other in Polish. The next minute they’re dancing in the main room and the next they’re raising money. It doesn’t take a genius to see that these are the volunteers from Hurricane of Hearts.

Patrycja Bialodrzewska is one of them and she’s been volunteering at this event since 2012. It was after the first event that she found out about Hurricane of Hearts and began to volunteer for the organisation.

“Today I have been coordinating the volunteers inside the venue so the make-up artists, fashion designers and more,” says the 23-year old. “I was just telling them what to do pretty much and kind of running around anyway, doing everything and nothing.”

 

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Hurricane of Hearts volunteers Patrycja Bialodrzewska and Ewa Orzechowska. Photo: Paffcio Plamersky.

 

But handling the volunteers is not only fun and games since it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. At about eight, three volunteers who have been working at the event the entire day go home and since another volunteer called in sick in the morning, Patrycja has to redo the schedule of who does what and where they’re supposed to be. Still she doesn’t think she has the most stressful tasks.

“I guess it’s collecting the money,” she says. “For me it’s a bit different because I’m only in the venue but for Daga, the other volunteers’ coordinator, she was really stressed out because volunteers came and said that some polish shops kicked them out.

“In Poland there’re two groups of people, one is really into the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity and the other group just hates it,” she continues. “You believe it or you don’t believe it. But most are pretty helpful and they give us some free food and other stuff.”

In the midst of the volunteers with the Polish word for love (milosc) on their stomachs is Ewa Orzechowska. She’s 18 and has already been involved with Hurricane of Hearts for three years. The Harrow College Arts and Design student has been a part of all three Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity events in London.

“It’s a lot better organised this year, the music is great and we’re raising more money,” she says. “The best part has been the music when everyone gathered around the stage as one big family.”

She was one of the volunteers who went to different Polish shops, trying to get sponsors, and she admits that getting everything ready in time was stressful. But this didn’t scare her off. When she’s asked if she would volunteer again she doesn’t hesitate.

“Well of course,” she says laughing. “I love helping people.”

Another British rock band has taken over the centre stage from tonight’s presenters. The guys in Neuronspoiler truly look like rockers and they have the audience on their side, making a Polish joke that foreigners (all non-Polish people) can only smile politely at while the rest are laughing loudly.

The air is quickly getting heavy with sweat from all the happy dancing people, beer and some kind of Polish stew but it’s definitely not as bad as it sounds. The sponsor banners on the walls are starting to tilt which must be a sign that people are having just the right amount of fun.

Kajsa Wall

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