The Adamowicz murder has stunned and shaken Europe.
The Gdańsk mayor has been stabbed on the evening of 13 January. He died the next day. The immediate reactions of condolences are beautiful and filled with compassion and sympathy. Marches against violence take place across Poland and in many places in Europe, where Polish communities live. Minutes of silence extend to hours as the memory of late Gdańsk mayor is respected throughout the continent, city halls, the Polish Sejm and the European Parliament.
In the immediate aftermath a debate arises about the security of Polish elected officials. The Polish government underlining message for years is this: the terrorist attacks do not belong to Poland, a country of few Muslim migrants. At the same time, the high degree of polarisation of the society, the vicious language used in the Sejm and on the public TV against the opponent political forces creates an atmosphere in which unbalanced individuals take to violence.
This was not the first time. In October 2010, six months after the Smoleńsk tragedy in which 96 Polish state officials perished, including the president Lech Kaczyński and a former head of state Ryszard Kaczorowski, another attack took place. An employee of a local Law and Justice office in Łódź was killed and another wounded.
Many people draw parallels between killing of mayor Adamowicz with the murder of the first president of Poland Gabriel Narutowicz in 1922, just a few days after he took office. The Warsaw march against violence after the Adamowicz killing led to the Zachęta Gallery, where Narutowicz ended his life.
Back to 2019: there are new life threats discovered. Apparently safety of Donald Tusk and liberal mayors of Poznań and Wrocław is threatened by unbalanced individuals. For now, the police takes action.
The Great Orchestra Charity cries
The murder of the grand finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, Poland’s biggest charity event is screaming big: “security”. WOŚP, as the event is known, is controversial with the certain right wing circles, such as PiS MP Krystyna Pawłowicz.
Following the Adamowicz death, the charismatic leader of WOŚP Jurek Owsiak resigns from leading the organisation. In an emotional press conference he condemns the hate language of the right-wingers calling it a Nazi language. Owsiak: “I resign from being WOŚP boss. The hate speech is on for 25 years; maybe it will ease out a little bit. The police just arrested someone who threatened the mayors of Poznań and Wrocław. Until now threats like this were considered a criticism, not a threat. I’ll work for WOŚP not as its boss. Does anyone on the right has been convicted for the hate speech? I have a court conviction. I will appeal, but I have a court conviction. It was decided I use hate speech towards one certain MP. We’ve collected 1 billion zł over all those years. They say: the mayor died because of us.”
WOŚP is about saving lives. Every life is worth saving. A life was taken, and they say, it is because of us – Owsiak
Owsiak’s resignation is met with a protest. People continue to call on him not to give up. After all, the WOŚP tag line is: “The Orchestra will play until the end of the world and one day more”.
Mayors of Warsaw, Toruń and Wrocław announce there will be classes in schools dedicated to fight against hate speech. As an echo to the Owsiak words, the right-wing organisation Ordo Iuris and far right activist Kaja Gajek call on parents to object their kids attending those classes, because “under the cover of hate speech prevention instead we will have LGBT indoctrination in schools”. OKO.press has the whole story (in Polish).
Owsiak remains very popular. For the third year in a row he is already nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for what he has done for charity and for the children in Poland. This time he has been nominated by the right-wing MP of Kukiz’15 Andrzej Kobylarz.
Gdańsk is a special place. A port city of 500,000 people and a part of a larger conurbation of about 1 million is the city of freedom, where the Second World War started in Europe and the Solidarność took down the European Communism.
Yesterday the people of Gdańsk took to the streets and created a massive heart of candle lights. A heart for Paweł Adamowicz, for a heart is a symbol of WOŚP. The action was called “The Biggest Heart of the World”. Watch it here.
Widow of the mayor, Magdalena Adamowicz, appeals to Owsiak: “stay”. Magdalena Adamowicz: “Please remember my husband as a smiling, talkative person. He always wanted this city to be for all. Your skin colour, whom you love never mattered for Paweł. Please, continue this atmosphere in Gdańsk” and continues “today we grief. It will pass. Paweł frequently said we should love one another. I know Paweł is here with us today, he will be a good spirit protector of the city. His death will not go for vain. I know this because there are so many of you here today, and you are here for him – people of all ages, not only from Gdańsk. Thank you very much”.
The politics of it all
For now, the government respects the moment. Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, a vice-mayor, is appointed acting mayor. What may seem as a standard gesture, it is not abnormal in Poland for a government to install a PiS-friendly acting mayor when a siting mayor is removed. In the last local elections PiS candidates lost all elections to mayorships of cities with population of 100,000 people or more.
This time, Law and Justice behaves with the utmost respect. Ms Dulkiewicz, an Adamowicz’ partisan in opposition to PiS, has been appointed acting mayor. PiS says there will be no PiS candidate in the by-elections later this year.
My opinion is that other political forces should follow PiS: the best option that could happen is for Ms Dulkiewicz to be elected by acclamation, without any counter-candidate.
There is also a major outcry against the hate speech promoted on TVP, especially its information channel TVP Info. Leader of PSL Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, wrote a petition online to the leader of PiS to have the TVP boss, Jacek Kurski, removed. The criticism of TVP is massive for the television did not respect the calls for non-political behaviour in the hours following attacks on Adamowicz. On Monday night, by when Adamowicz has died, in the evening news, on the TVP right wing commentators and journalists have accused the liberal media, the opposition politicians and Jurek Owsiak of hate speech.
The TVP, which is known for its partisanship, had many journalists and commentators stunned. Krzysztof Berenda, a popular RMF radio journalist is “speechless”. Even right wing journalists, like Łukasz Warzecha, were “ashamed” for what they saw. Apparently the Monday programmes were not welcomed also among the Law and Justice politicians. The media are reporting that among the critics of TVP is the prime minister Morawiecki.
For now, however, Jacek Kurski stays. Decision is with Jarosław Kaczyński.
Maciej Kisilowski of CEU published on Politico that “Poland’s ruling party will exploit Gdańsk murder“. I am sorry, but I cannot agree.
Poland is not Hungary. Yes, Poland is under siege from far-right propaganda and a quasi-totalitarian regime. Yes, Poland has its puppet master. Yes, Poles rights are threatened and in many situations have been compromised. Yes, the rule of law is questioned. Yes, there are more threats to come. Yes, the liberal values have been challenged and frequently compromised.
Just imagine this: a real-life situation in which the future of the president and CEO of ZDF, Fred Burcksen, depended on the will of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of Germany’s ruling party. Well, 80 km east of Berlin there is a country in which the future of the president of TVP, Jacek Kurski, fully depends on the will of one individual Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s ruling party. AKK and Jarosław Kaczyński are not head of government.
But it is not the time to do politics. This is the time of grief.
Poland is not Hungary. There is the opposition capable of winning. There is the society that Law and Justice reads and interprets, for better or worse, but PiS tries to influence it and not take it for granted – they know their future depends on the nation’s will. There are some independent massive media. Yes, there are dictatorial aspirations and hate speech, but there is hope.
Just take the WOŚP message: Mourning turns into empathy. The spirit of WOŚP continues. Love trumps hate. Unity wins over divisions.
For all the politicking and future fights for our future, let us talk about it later.
The funeral of Paweł Adamowicz will take place on Saturday, 19 January 2019, in Gdańsk.