Throughout May, posted through their letterboxes, and landing on their doormats’, POSK members will by now have received a lush, A5, glossy, mauve covered booklet, entitled: WIADOMOŚCI POSK 2013 – Inwestujemy w przyszłość. (POSK NEWS – Investing in the future). Well now, there’s something. POSK ‘news’, ‘investment’… and the ‘future’. And that is not all. Tucked away inside this mauve masterpiece – 112 pages, with 100 colour photos – is another gem. A 55-page white booklet containing the 48th AGM agenda, with audited, ‘updated accounts’.
The first query is, how many of the 3000 POSK members actually got this elegant information pack? Secondly, are the POSK AGMs (as other meetings), organized in a way that is unfairly weighted against the voice and interests’ of its (3000) members, and Poles generally? It is suggested, that much at POSK is engineered (‘gerrymandered’), in such a way so as to get the convenient results that the closed-shop, ruling dynasty seeks; a small recycled POSK elite with an alleged secretive monopoly on POSK’s funds, and riches, together with weird but lucrative rental, and building/development works based on nepotism, and vested self-interests? Strong stuff. But not it would seem too far-fetched. A growing number of simmering, disgruntled voices, belonging to Anglo-Polish POSK supporters and members are getting impatient, and feel “enough is enough.” These same “voices”, now keenly aware, and buoyed by the 73 year old Polish Hearth Club/Ognisko’s own success, its tremendous member-power, and revived fortunes, feel it is high time that POSK itself, (at 48 years), was more democratic, transparent, modernized, and most importantly financially accountable. Where’s the money they ask ? Why the alleged nepotism?
It is clear from this POSK 48th AGM mauve booklet, that the five storey Ośrodek (Institute), based in Hammersmith is undoubtedly a world of fun, culture, Polish folklore dance, Polish schooling, Polish theatre, talks, eateries, art gallery, meetings, and a jazz club… (…held in POSK’s notorious, and controversial, money-wandering basement). A quick flick through its pages, reveals POSK’s wide ranging repertoire of positive activities, all supported by numerous groups, clubs, and organizations. Page 4 carries an Opłatek photo of the current one year only POSK ‘Chairman’ – or rather Przewodnicząca (‘Head’) – Ms Joanna Młudzińska. In fact we learn from pages 3-6, of the same brochure that POSK was przeistoczony (radically overhauled?) by the presence in 2012 of the Polish Olympic Committee. The effects of this fruitfulness was:
Był to przykład jak instytucje POLSKIE mogą sobie pomagać – ZAMIAST płacić za wynajęcie jakiegoś hotelu… (This was a fine example of Polish institutions helping each other out – rather than pay for ‘some’ hotel…”).
Really? But POSK is not a ‘hotel’. Be that as it may, but why then the needless upheaval, indeed demolition of the unique, famous worldwide, vast Joseph Conrad Room and Museum? If POSK is good enough for a 3-week transient Polish Olympic Committee, then surely Poland’s greatest ever living writer in the English language, Joseph Conrad deserves far better than being dissipated, and thrown out, into some POSK hideway boxroom, or evicted. What about the cabinets, Conrad’s books, archives, letters, photos, paintings, medals, and other important mementoes? Why the needless break up of a unique collection, bequeathed not to POSK trustees/directors, but to POSK members, the Polonia milieu, and Polish generations. Is there an inventory? Are Conrad’s artefacts safe ? Safe from the hands of inexpert ‘curators’? Indeed safe from sale itself, given how often Polish museum pieces end up being commercially desecrated? In addition, did not the Polish Olympic Committee pay for its 3-week tenure? How much? How has this money been used? How does the important Ognisko, and POSK activist, the author Mr Jacek Korzeniowski (‘Jack Konrad’?), supposedly a direct descendant of the famous Polish author feel about these philistine POSK abominations, and the affront on his ‘family’?
Anyway, back to POSK’s mauve marvel, and the 55-page white ‘ accounts’ insert. By page 16 we have the esteemed words of Dr Olgierd Lalko, currently vice-chairman but who intends a comeback at the 1st June AGM as Chairman (oh no, not again..?). Why not give Dr Marek Laskiewicz a chance Dr Lalko quite starkly states: Od czasu powstania POSK-u największym problemem ZAWSZE był – brak funduszy, (“Since it’s beginnings the biggest problem for POSK, has been – lack of funds.” Is that right, so what’s new? Perhaps then, it would be worth examining the POSK trustees’ and its directors’
corpulent expenses, and allowance sheets, or the meeting of POSK’s alleged hugely (some say obscenely), inflated builders’ and plumbers’ bills.
One intriguing figure is revealed on page 53 of the white AGM 2013 booklet. It is contained within the section of two pages which “do not form part of the audited accounts”, and “have been prepared by management for information only.” It declares that for 2012, £502,922 was the “Costs of Generating donations and legacies.” In fact “donations”, and “legacies” totalled £1,533,371. Thus for every pound spent, three pounds was raised. One would have to survey the some 90,000 registered UK charities to get a mean. But POSK’s would appear ‘low’. What is the breakdown, and how was the £502,922 spent, on whom and on what? Was it value for money? As an aside, POSK staff ‘costs’ for 2012 totalled £367,977, while Jazz Café ‘expenses’ totalled £59,482. A deficit of £9,514 on the 2011 figure of £49,968. At the 2012 AGM, (page 15), Mr Łoziński (owner of Daquise) asked why income from the Jazz Café was ‘so small’. It was pointed out (by Mr R Wiśniowski), that ‘takings’ from the Jazz Café bar for 2011 were a ‘sizeable’, £10,000 per annum. Hardly ‘sizeable’. At ‘sixty’ shows per annum, one might expect bar revenue of circa £80,000 if not much more !).
Earlier on we learn that 9 Ravenscourt Avenue, a house round the corner, cost POSK £290,000 (!), to turn into flats. This yields £50,000 per annum. This is a lot of money. Talking of houses, how many have been donated as testamentary bequests over the last 40 odd years to POSK? Ten, twenty, thirty, perhaps forty houses? Has their upkeep, or disposal been properly accounted for? Are suitable audited accounts (embracing elusive, sizeable, tangible cash-flows), tracking the funds available for inspection? If not, why not? Equally worrying, despite holding out the prospect of investment on the mauve cover, Dr Lalko (page 17), suddenly erupts with: Nie ma żadnej gwarancji jakiejkolwiek inwestycji… (“There is no guarantee whatsoever of any investment…”). So there you have it. No ‘investments’ by POSK… presumably then no ‘future’… Well, that’s it then, no ‘news’.
An issue which is of great concern to members is the bequest to POSK of a large building at Frascati 4 ,Warsaw, ‘formally’ valued (by who?), at £1,200,000. Land belonging to POSK stretching to Ravenscourt Avenue, remains empty, and has development potential. Why then knock about the fourth floor, mess about with new fire escapes (where are they to go – in the middle of King Street?), for some supposed four new flats, whose future rental cannot be guaranteed, or realized until five years down the line ?
And so the monetary arithmetical gymnastics go on at POSK. There is no denying that in POSK’s cultural overworld, many fine people, volunteers, helpers, committee people, and staff do much valuable work. However, the POSK underworld leaves much to be desired. As a final twist, the 2013 AGM package contains a Formularz na jednorazowe lub regularne dotacje, (Form for making a one-off, or regular donations”). Maybe time to kick babcia’(grandma), out of the granny flat…? Time to attend that 2013 AGM. Watch this space, and possibly some fireworks.
Chairman, Fawley Court Old Boys/FCOB Ltd