Paweł Adamowicz, the mayor of Gdańsk (Danzig), Poland, who died on January 14 following a stabbing the day before, stood for openness and bucked the tide of xenophobia sweeping that country, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. The American Jewish Committee called him “a longtime friend of the Jewish community” and Admowicz was a staunch critic of Poland’s new law limiting public statements of blame for Holocaust crimes to non-Polish actors and institutions. The late mayor called the law “idiotic and evil.”
Part of the explanation for the mayor’s renowned multiculturalism, according to the Guardian, was the fact his parents were Poles from Vilnius (Wilno) who repatriated to Poland proper following World War II:
“Those who knew and worked with him say his worldview was profoundly shaped by the experiences of his parents, who moved to Gdańsk in the 1940s from Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania, as part of a wave of Polish people expelled from territory seized by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the Second World War. As Adamowicz would later recount, they brought with them an outlook rooted in the multicultural traditions of Poland’s eastern borderlands, which fitted perfectly with Gdańsk’s own history as a coastal trading city.
“’For most of its history, Gdańsk was a multinational city, a kind of united Europe in miniature, where different nationalities lived together in peace–a wonderful historical example of openness and understanding, a city prepared to accept immigrants,’ said Limon, whose own family is also from Lithuania. ‘When people came from eastern Poland and settled here, they somehow incorporated Gdańsk’s history into their own. Paweł’s family was from the east, and he inherited this love of openness.’
“Adamowicz worked closely with NGOs and civil society to establish mechanisms that would defend and uphold minority rights, with a particular focus on the integration of large numbers of migrants from the former Soviet Union, and his determination appeared to grow in the face of increasing anti-migrant sentiment associated with the rise to power of the Law and Justice party in 2015.
“A committed Catholic with a background in conservative politics, he frequently defended his robust stance on minority rights in religious terms, incensing many on the Polish right, including elements of the Polish Catholic church. ‘In this festive season, I will try to explain to my compatriots in Gdańsk that the arrival of Christ was the very example of migration,’ he told a meeting of the European Committee of the Regions in December of 2016.
“‘It is very rare to challenge the church but it is even more rare to challenge the church on the basis of its own social teachings,’ said Marta Abramowicz, an LGB activist and co-founder of Poland’s Campaign against Homophobia, who moved to Gdańsk from Warsaw in 2010. ‘He didn’t just support us, he supported us proudly and openly, he said that it was important that we were a part of Gdańsk.'”
Full story here.