Poland protesters take weekend off for fundraiser

International

A child in a red costume collects money for Poland’s most popular nationwide fundraiser for health purposes, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, that was postponed by two weeks due to the pandemic, in downtown Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. Anti-government protesters angry about a near-total abortion ban suspended their marches for the weekend to show solidarity and ensure that they didn’t steal the spotlight from the event. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — From soccer star Robert Lewandowski to opposition politicians, Polish citizens on Sunday donated at least 71 million zlotys ($19 million) to a charity’s fundraiser for health causes that has been criticized by the conservative government for its liberal agenda.

Anti-government protesters angry about a near-total abortion ban suspended their marches for the weekend to show solidarity and ensure that they didn’t steal the spotlight from the event.

The annual Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity is held to support the chronically strapped health care system, and its main event is always held on a Sunday in mid-January. This is the 29th edition and it was postponed by two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 71 million zlotys ($19 million) collected is significantly less than over 180 million zlotys collected last year, but the event was to continue until midnight, and making donations was also possible later. This year, the money is going toward laryngology, or disorders of the ears and the voice box, and for equipment for testing head issues.

The fundraiser, which has traditionally backed a message of tolerance and support for minorities’ rights, has been criticized by the government of the Law and Justice party, which promotes traditional family and conservative values.

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