Remembering Paweł Adamowicz, mayor of Gdańsk and an open-minded man

, by Maria Popczyk, Translated by Michal Ekiert, Wojciech Zajączkowski

All the versions of this article: [English] [français] [italiano] [polski]

Remembering Paweł Adamowicz, mayor of Gdańsk and an open-minded man
Fot. A.IWANCZUK/REPORTER/East News

We received the news of Paweł Adamowicz’s passing with great sorrow and regret. Adamowicz, himself a mayor of Gdańsk, died on Monday (January 14th) at a local university hospital. It was in result of the injuries he suffered in a stabbing attack during the final of the 27th Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (the largest yearly Polish charity event.) The editorial team of Kurier Europejski expresses the deepest feelings of solidarity with his kith and kin – we devote this article to him, as well as his values, which we share.

“Christianity unites, not divides. Love can only unite.”

Paweł Adamowicz had been associated with the city of Gdańsk from the day of his birth. He studied law at the University of Gdańsk, where in the ‘80s he became widely engaged in student anti-government oppositional activities. After graduating he continued his academic career. In 1990 he entered politics on the local level, as a city councilor on behalf of the Solidarity Citizens’ Committee. In 1998 he was elected mayor of the city, in 2002 re-elected in the first direct vote that took place for that office. He had been holding the office continuously since 1998. From 2001 to 2015 he belonged to the Civic Platform Party. At his final ballot in October 2018 he was re-elected in the 2nd round with 64.8% of the vote.

He stepped into the world of politics as a conservative, gradually progressing into a liberal. In 2005 he tried to ban Gdańsk’s Meeting of Equality. In 2017, at his own wish, he commenced the 3rd Gdańsk Parade of Equality (Pride Parade) stating that:

“Sometimes man evolves in his stances. Mine, formerly conservative, also did evolve. However, despite us all being either liberals or conservatives, or, perhaps, socialists, we shall all remember to respect the other man, as well as the right to express the opinions and beliefs others held, even if we personally disagree.”

His commitment to Christianity was widely acknowledged, as it constituted the cornerstone of his devoutness to the need of love and tolerance for the fellow man.

“My presence at this march is compatible with my Christianity, my Catholicism. Because Christianity unites, not divides. Love can only unite.”

“Only by meeting the other, the stranger, we can enrich ourselves”

Mayor Adamowicz opposed all emanations of intolerance, including xenophobia and homophobia. He initiated the creation of the Council on Immigrants and Council on Equal Treatment in his city.

“Diversity is prosperity, not a problem! Only by meeting the other, the stranger we can enrich ourselves.”

He was a signatory to the Declaration of Mayors of 30th July 2017 on Cooperation of the Union of Polish Metropolises on the Issue of Migration. He was stalked and tormented for his brave championing of liberal values. The All-Polish Youth (an ultranationalist youth organisation in Poland) propagated his so-called ‘political death certificate.’ It stated ‘liberalism and multiculturalism’ as the cause of his death. On January 9th this year, Polish state prosecutors discontinued the inquiry, finding that the incentive of those death certificates wasn’t to spread hate, but merely to express dissatisfaction with the Mayor’s initiatives. “Those acts don’t contain any kind of threat that would have suggested committing crime against anyone,” stated Mrs. Grażyna Wawryniuk, persecutor. Mr Adamowicz had intended to appeal the decision.

Divisions over the Great Orchestra in Polish society

Paweł Adamowicz had been a serious supporter of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. This year the foundation will invest the money in equipment for Polish hospitals, focusing on pediatrics. All the previous editions made possible the purchase of sophisticated equipment which would be beyond the reach of many Polish hospitals. Every Pole has seen the big red heart logo of the Orchestra at the hospital ward in his life at least once.

The Orchestra, which is Jerzy Owsiak’s foundation, isn’t supported unanimously by the society. For many years it’s been a subject of mud-slinging. It’s been said Mr. Owsiak retains a big part of the pile for himself. Critics accuse him of spending on luxuries and real estate, as well as financing a yearly rock festival he also organises, the most popular of the kind in Poland. “By the way, he puts sticks-on red hearts on equipment he didn’t buy,” volunteers of the Orchestra may hear from the unfriendly commentators on the street.

Furthermore, the Orchestra is being mostly under the scrutiny of the right side of the political aisle, which illustrates the deep division on the subject. Mr. Owsiak has supported the pro-choice Black Protest from its very beginnings in 2016. Slogans like “you support the Orchestra and Owsiak, you support abortion and euthanasia” floated rapidly.

From the volunteers’ perspective, two stances could have been noticed. There were a great lot of generosity coming from families, but also a significant deal of people who viewed the action with contempt. Street protesters didn’t miss the opportunity to shout out loud words of hate. Despite all those, the Orchestra continues its mission. Volunteers are still being trained, but they are sometimes told to avoid the Church’s premises due to priests chasing out the volunteers.

This chapter closes. What will be next?

Some have added a presumptive co-responsibility for the attack on the Mayor – the Orchestra being accused of not safeguarding the stage enough. For Mr Owsiak, it was too much. After the tragic news of Adamowicz’s death had reached him, he resigned from his leadership post at the foundation, citing his inability to cope with that amount of hate as the cause. This chapter of the Orchestra’s life is being closed as a result.

Poland is doubly saddened at the moment, both due to Mayor Adamowicz’s tragic death and Jerzy Owsiak’s resignation. What will be next? Will the growing aggression born out of hatred make the society realize its division? On Sunday, many turned their backs to the volunteers. Their children didn’t understand that move, but they saw their peers wearing the leap-on hearts, while themselves being stripped of that national joy. For how long will the Polish people be hateful towards each other instead of making use of dialogue? Shortly after the attack, there were marches against hate and violence organised in almost all the Polish cities and towns. Let it be the start for a brighter future.

“Together, solidarity” – Paweł Adamowicz’s political last will

The condolences reached Gdańsk from all the corners of the World. Their respects paid, inter alia, the European Commission, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher. “Never one against the other, but together, solidarity. Let it be our inspiration, let’s build Gdańsk, Pomerania and Poland, free and solidary, excluding nobody, including everybody.” Those last words of Paweł Adamowicz should be a road-sign to us.

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