The Polish city of Gdansk is saying farewell to its mayor, who was stabbed to death at a charity concert. The suspected attacker’s mother has told police she was concerned that her son was planning political revenge.
Residents of Gdansk have been mourning the killing of their mayor, Pawel Adamowicz, all this week. Around the city, people have appeared contemplative and teary-eyed. They’ve lit candles and have posted signs like one seen near the city’s European Solidarity Centre (ECS) that reads, “Pawel, thank you. The people of Gdansk won’t forget you.”
ECS was one of the murdered mayor’s major projects. It is a reminder of the city’s central role in the anti-Soviet Solidarity Movement in the 1980s. Now, it’s where the late mayor has been lying in state, accompanied by a condolence book. Mourners have waited for hours in long lines to give their personal farewells. Schools and public buildings have put out black-and-white photos of the mayor with black ribbons. They aren’t official photos, but images showing Adamowicz during less formal moments.
His staff has described him as “tireless” and always full of new ideas.
“Working with him was like combat exercise. There were long workdays, sometimes as long as 12 hours. He taught us all a lot. He was a feisty person, but his firm stance on values meant dealing with hateful attacks,” said Magdalena Skorupko-Kaczmarek, the Gdansk city hall spokeswoman.
“There can be no submission to hate speech, violence, or words that can harm and kill,” Gdansk’s deputy mayor, Piotr Kowalczuk, said. That applies to the suspect’s family, he added. “They, too, are going through their own trauma,” he wrote on Facebook.
The suspect’s mother went to police before the attack, Kowalczuk said based on speaking with her, to report her son’s unstable psychological condition. The 27-year-old man had been released from prison in December after serving more than five years for bank robbery. She said she was concerned her son posed a threat to others because he blamed politicians for his situation. The Gdansk police confirmed her report.
For the deputy mayor, who is concerned about the family suffering retribution for the murder, supporting them is a gesture of goodwill that Adamowicz would have wanted.
The mayor’s widow, Magdalena Adamowicz, spoke to a crowd of thousands gathered at the ECS. She called out the problem of hate speech and the country’s bitter divisions, accompanied by harsh verbal attacks on political opposition in the last few years. Many Poles have cited this caustic atmosphere as the deeper cause of the fatal attack.
“It’s hard to believe that there can be so much hate,” Magdalena Adamowicz said. “You remember him laughing with people on the street. Let’s approach each other in a friendly manner. Let’s love each other, like Pawel often said. His death will not be for nothing.”