The assassination of the very popular Mayor of Gdansk, Sunday, January 13, 2019, by an unknown assailant who stabbed him with a knife several times at a public event, ensured a reflexive scene of national unity in Poland. The shock is enormous. The event where he was due to speak was organised every January since being set up by rocker Jerzy Owsiak twenty five years ago to collect funds for hospitals. A type of telethon was assisted by hundreds of Gdansk citizens with WOSP now the most
important foundation in Poland.
Constantly re-elected over the last twenty years, most recently in October 2018, for his sixth mandate the head of this city which was the focus of Solidarity, Pawel Adamowicz, 53 years old, was a humanist and tolerated openness.
The UN High Commissionaire criticised Adamowicz for not integrating immigrants in his city. In this article the report stated: 'It is most important to follow Christian values and to provide humanitarian aid to those in need. We expect you to take the initiative.' This initiative was the idea of Pope Francis in 2016, who invited the mayors of the largest European cities to discuss immigration when the migrant crisis was at its height. The acceptance of migrants was opposed by the government in Warsaw.
Adamowicz, a friend of Lech Walesa and the President of the European Commission, Donald Tusk, both from Gdansk, quit the centrist party Civic Platform to become an independent mayor. The Right and Justice Party regards him as the opposition. Unfortunately, the atmosphere of hate and aggression in Poland and elsewhere ensured Adamowicz was a focus of false accusations, insults, menacing threats on social media and in real life.
Last autumn, before the municipal elections, a youth organisation published death certificates for eleven mayors, and judges favouring accepting migrants. Adamowicz was one of the eleven, the Minister for Justice refused to uphold his complaint suggesting this was an expression of opinion and not incitement to hatred.
The man who killed Adamowicz suffered from mental illness and had spent time in prison, blaming Adamowicz for his imprisonmemt. For the many who marched in the streets the knife attack was sympotomatic of the rising hatred in public life. Jerzy Owsiak blamed the fatal attack on Nazis and Fascists when WOSP was their focus and the police did not intervene.
'Hatred has damaged liberty to its core' wrote Adam Michnik in Gazeta Wyborcza, a historical opponent of communism. The split in Poland is so profound that Andrej Duda, President of the Polish Republic announced a march against this intolerance. The national television station broadcast hateful declarations by members of the opposition. Even the Church is not united, Pope Francis who inspired the mayor of Gdansk ensures the Church is not as benevolent as the Polish bishops.
If this murder was inevitable consider the UK MP Jo Cox murdered one week before the Brexit vote in 2016, the assassination of political figures are not novelties in democracies. The Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King, Indira Gandhi, Olaf Palme Yitzhak Rubin and Pim Fortuyn, the list is tragic and long. What is new is the depth of detestation, anger and rancour which extends from west to east. One finds rancour in Poland, UK, in the United States, in Italy, particularly in Hungary, the native country of George Soros, the liberal philanthropist, who dares not return. In France deputies discuss their latest death threats.
If one of them some fifty deputies is assassinated would French people march in the streets as they did for the Charlie Hebdo attack by jihadists in 2015? We would like to think so.
Nationalism and populism renders the head of the largest trading country neglectful in not attending the World Economic Forum.
Source: La mort d'un maire, Géopolitique, par Sylvie Kauffman, Le Monde, Janvier 17, 2019