Paweł Adamowicz.

text Roman Daszczyński  /

“I know what Poland and what Gdańsk I want”

He worked for Gdańsk almost all of his adult life. He began as a 24-year-old council member to become Chairman of the City Council by 1998. Then he was Mayor of Gdańsk for a continuous 20 years. One of the city’s best periods is linked to his name. Who was Paweł Adamowicz, a man whose tragic death shocked not only Poland, but all of Europe.

photo: Grzegorz Mehring /


In Gdańsk as a Community, a book published in the last months of his life, Paweł Adamowicz wrote:  

“The city, its identity and people affect its mayor’s personality and transform it. There is a feedback here: the leader’s personality somewhat affects the citizens’ thinking.”

Everyone who had the opportunity to work with Paweł Adamowicz noticed this: he changed and worked on self-improvement to become not only a distinctive leader in politics, but most of all a versatile city manager, sensitive to the social needs of its inhabitants. He wrote: “As a student of the novelist Stefan Żeromski [called “the conscience of Polish literature] and the Lineages of the Defiant [a collection of essays on distinguished members of nineteenth-century Polish intelligentsia], I believe that the individual can make the world a better place, which I try to practice myself. And I’m sure that each and every one of us local-government people can do a lot of good.”

  “At the time of his death, he was the best version of Paweł Adamowicz we knew,” say his associates. “It’s a devastating loss for Gdańsk and all of Poland. He was only 54 and could have had achieved much more in public life.”


The Adamowicz family would not have come to Gdańsk if they had not decided to leave their native Vilnius in 1946. Paweł’s grandfather Wincenty Adamowicz was a prosperous master carpenter whose clients included the Medical Department at Vilnius’ Stephen Bathory University. The family in Vilnius survived World War II and would have surely remained in their “little homeland” if it were not for Poland losing its Eastern Borderlands and its borders being moved to the west. The Soviets began to impose their new order in Vilnius. Just like for many other Polish families, this did not bode well for the Adamowiczs. They took the opportunity to legally leave as “repatriates.” Prof. Włodzimierz Mozołowski from Stephen Bathory University’s Medical Department who, in his youth in 1919, was the commander of Commander in Chief Józef Piłsudski’s personal bodyguard, and who became one of the founding fathers of the Gdańsk Medical Academy, persuaded Wincenty Adamowicz to settle in Gdańsk.


The Adamowicz family lived, studied and worked in Gdańsk. They had their home here, but the Vilnius they lost would always come back in their conversations. The parents would keep a picture with Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in a place of honour. With his older brother Piotr, Paweł hung a portrait of Marshal Piłsudski that dated back to the family’s time in Vilnius in their room. The family was Catholic but welcoming towards people of different creeds. The boys would go with their parents to St Nicholas [Catholic] Church but also to the Eastern Orthodox church in [Gdańsk’s district of] Wrzeszcz with their grandmother Pelagia. In the summer of 1976, their father took them on a trip to the Vilnius Region for the first time so they could get to know the city and their relatives. Years later, in his book Gdańsk as a Challenge, Mayor Paweł Adamowicz wrote: “The memories of the Vilnius Region were simultaneously an unplanned lesson in openness to other cultures and nationalities, respect for other religions and rituals. In these stories, my imagination would wander the streets of Trakai, around the households of Karaite Jews, meet grandmother Pelagia, my father’s Eastern Orthodox mother, and then her neighbours: Tatars, Jews, Russians and Belarusians. In my imagination, there was a miniature of the bygone Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of many nations, languages, tastes and smells. This home, this upbringing effectively immunised Piotr and me against deadly diseases, such as nationalism and other “isms.””

”We were drawn more to the [multinational] Poland of the Jagiellonian Dynasty than to any propagandist spells of a nationally homogenous country”


However, it was Gdańsk that became Paweł Adamowicz’s greatest passion, and the birth of Solidarity in August 1980 and the ensuing “Solidarity Carnival,” his most beautiful experience. He had not yet turned 15 when a wave of strikes against the communist regime swept through Poland. The historic events that changed the country took place nearby the Adamowicz family home in Mniszki St.: it was only 350 metres to Gdańsk Shipyard’s famous Gate No. 2, St Bridget’s Church was literally in their backyard. Paweł was proud that his older brother served as an altar boy at mass for the striking shipyard workers and later became a part of Lech Wałęsa’s office staff. And just when it seemed that Poland was straight on the road to freedom, the communists imposed martial law. Piotr Adamowicz was interned for several months. As a student at Gdańsk’s Secondary School No. 1, Paweł became involved in the opposition movement. He co-edited the Jedynka underground newsletter and was a member of a self-education club. He would also print and distribute underground papers that he and his brother would take on trains between Lublin, Kraków and Gdańsk. When studying law at the University of Gdańsk, he joined the Independent Students’ Union. Through his brother he became part of the Young Poland Movement led by Aleksander Hall. In May 1988, he became the leader of the students’ strike at the University of Gdańsk.

Later, Paweł Adamowicz reminisced, “In the eighties I felt I really became part of my Gdańsk. Gdańsk was not just another city; it was a special city. When I said, “I’m from Gdańsk,” I really felt the power of this pronouncement.”

“Gdańsk meant Solidarity and Lech Wałęsa. Gdańsk, the defiant and freedom-loving. The true capital of independent Poland

This was the beating heart of the underground Solidarity.” The deepening economic crisis meant that the regime began negotiations with the hitherto-persecuted Solidarity leaders through the Catholic Church. The Round Table negotiations, which led to a systemic breakthrough, began in February 1989.


The first local elections were held in May 1990. They became a lesson in democracy in cities, small towns and villages. They were a true systemic revolution that dismantled the system of governance inherited from communist Poland. In place of representatives nominated by the communist party, the people gained the right to choose their local representatives in democratic elections. Cities and municipalities were no longer dependent on money allocated by the central government but got their own budgets to develop.

The young generation, people with new ideas and new energy, voted in the local elections in droves

Paweł Adamowicz wasn’t yet 25 years old at the time. He became a candidate for the Gdańsk City Council upon the initiative of two ladies: “One day, when throwing out the trash, my mum met Ms Amelia Dolecka from Mniszki Street. The neighbour told her that, together with Zosia Rogoza, they nominated my mum’s son (meaning me) as a candidate for councillor from the Old Town. They reasoned that I should continue my social activism from when I was active in the political underground and building local government. It was those two ladies that effectively tugged both my heartstrings and sense of duty.” Initially, he combined being a councillor with his job at the University of Gdańsk, where he did scientific research on the issues of local government in the 2nd Polish Republic, and where he was also Vice-Rector (1990-1993), which generated a lot of publicity as he was the youngest university vice-chancellor in Europe. At the time, he became a founding member of the Liberal-Democratic Congress (KLD) party and then a member of its national and regional governing bodies. This was a time of turbulent change in political life. As a committed Catholic, Paweł Adamowicz left the KLD and joined the Conservative Party led by Aleksander Hall. In 1994 he was re-elected as Gdańsk City Councillor. He was trusted by different political circles, which led to a breakthrough in his local government career: in 1994, he became the Chairman of the Gdańsk City Council. He was less than 29 years old.


He was the Chairman of the Gdańsk City Council for four years and established himself as an architect and initiator of building the city’s brand. Even in communist Poland, Gdańsk entered into twinning agreements with foreign cities, but during Paweł Adamowicz’s tenure, international cooperation became an important feature of local government policy. Gdańsk renewed its contacts with Bremen (Gdańsk’s partner city since 1976) and established relationships with more cities. Typically for himself and clearly influenced by his roots in Vilnius, Paweł Adamowicz initiated many contacts with the East: in 1996, Ukraine’s Odessa and Kazakhstan’s Astana became Gdańsk’s sister cities, St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1997 and Vilnius in 1998. In May 1996, the Gdańsk City Council established two of the city’s highest honours: the Medal of Duke Mściwoj II and the Medal of St Adalbert. The former honours people and public institutions who have rendered distinguished services to Gdańsk. The latter is awarded for outstanding achievements and merits that transcend regional and national boundaries and work towards building tolerance and dialogue between various creeds and religions. The establishing of the Medal of St Adalbert was an introduction to the Gdańsk Millennium celebrations in 1997. The celebrations commemorated the first historical record of Gdańsk in the Life of St Adalbert, which describes the baptism of many Gdańskers by Bishop Adalbert in April 997. The millennium year commenced with a mass at the Vatican with representatives of the people of Gdańsk. Pope John Paul II remarked on the occasion with the words:

“Gdańsk is the city where the war began. Gdańsk is the city where peace began. If a year begins in Gdańsk, it’s going to be a good year.”

The official celebrations in Gdańsk began on 18 April at St Mary’s Basilica, where 20,000 people took part in a service concelebrated by Józef Cardinal Glemp, the Primate of Poland. After a reconstruction that took 50 years, Artus’ Court opened on 20 April, and a replica of a medieval boat that looked like the one which St Adalbert most likely sailed to Gdańsk in moored at the Great Crane. All told, there were several hundred celebrations and events. Representatives of 106 cities, members of the New Hanse, came to the meeting in Gdańsk on 26 June. The event was accompanied by a meeting between the Presidents of Poland and Germany, Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Roman Herzog. Four days later, at Artus’ Court, the former Presidents of the USA, George HW Bush, and Germany, Richard von Weizsaecker, came to Gdańsk and together with former Polish President Lech Wałęsa received honorary citizenship for “supporting the changes that began in Gdańsk and led to freedom.”


Paweł Adamowicz was a history buff. He realised that its complicated, turbulent history provided Gdańsk with dates and significances that were special in more than just a Polish context. For him, they were a symbolic asset that, if properly taken advantage of, could bring the city tangible benefits as a unique place in Europe and the world: a must-see, worth living and running a business in.

Beginning in 1999, together with the girl and boy scouts of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz began to hold remembrances of the outbreak of World War II in Westerplatte. They would go there each year at dawn on 1 September to commemorate when the first shots were fired. By a Resolution of the Gdańsk City Council, the defenders of Westerplatte in 1939 received the city’s honorary citizenship. In 2003, due to the efforts of the city authorities, Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski issued a decree whereby the site and building of the former Polish Military Transit Depot became the Westerplatte Battlefield historic monument. In a few years, what had initially been a small commemoration drew increasing interest from successive Polish administrations. This culminated in 2009, on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, with a government initiative developed in close collaboration with the local government. Thirty-one delegations from Europe and beyond and a thousand journalists came to Gdańsk. It was an unprecedented event, reported by the media worldwide.

Chancellor Angela Merkel unequivocally confirmed the Germans’ fault, “I commemorate all those who died due to the war unleashed by Germany. No nation suffered as much as Poland during the war. Whole villages were burned. Warsaw was completely destroyed. The scars remain, but awareness will help us shape the future.” Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denounced the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact: “Over 53,000 Red Army soldiers died to liberate Gdańsk, and 600,000 were killed in Poland. Mistakes should be acknowledged, and our country has done so; we have admitted the morally unacceptable nature of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.”

In 2008, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk presented the concept to create a Museum of the Second World War. From the beginning, the intent was to build a place of international importance, the likes of which Poland had never seen before: with emphasis placed on the fate and suffering of Polish civilians, and that of other nations, rather than on military history, which was to be just a background for the story of the consequences of the War. The City of Gdańsk provided the land for the construction, and the Museum of the Second World War opened to visitors in 2017.

The Museum was a complement to Gdańsk’s 20th-century story, whose focal points are: August 1980, Solidarity and the fall of communism in Poland; events that opened the door to systemic change in Europe.

The European Solidarity Centre (ECS) was the proverbial apple of Paweł Adamowicz’s eye. Already in March 1998, when he was still the Chairman of the Gdańsk City Council, together with historian Jerzy Kukliński, he developed the Polish Roads to Freedom Solidarity Museum. A year and a half later, on the initiative of Mayor Adamowicz, the Solidarity Centre Foundation was established with a mission to establish the European Solidarity Centre. In 2009, a two-day conference on Solidarity and the Fall of Communism was held in Gdańsk and Warsaw. The guests included President of the European Commission Manuel Barroso and former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who flew to Gdańsk in spite of his failing health. Lech Wałęsa and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the heroes of the Polish transformation, played the primary roles. Mikhail Gorbachev and former US President George HW Bush participated in the conference remotely. This raised the conference’s profile and resonated internationally. In 2010 Gdańsk celebrated the 30th anniversary of August 1980. The foundation stone for the ECS was laid in May 2011, and the opening ceremony took place on 30 August 2014, on the 34th anniversary of the victory of the Gdańsk shipyard workers’ strike. All this generated a very positive attitude towards Gdańsk. In January 2013, the world-famous French intellectual Guy Sorman proposed to make Gdańsk–the new capital of Europe. “The symbol of the new Union might be a new European capital. I propose Gdańsk, halfway between East and West, a city whose historical turns of fate will remind us of what it is that Europe protects us from. The old motto of the Gdańsk-born Solidarity movement – courage and moderation – might become the motto of the new federal Europe,” he wrote.


In April 2016, Mayor Paweł Adamowicz was named Local Government Leader of 2015 in a prestigious competition held by Rzeczpospolita daily. He received the award at a gala in Kraków. “We based our verdict on verified data, mainly economic and social statistics,” said Bogusław Chrabota, Rzeczpospolita’s editor-in-chief.

  Gdańsk turned out to be unrivalled. The award confirmed Gdańsk’s years-long winning streak; the city won awards and honourable mentions every year, which is why one of the gala hosts added, “Actually, he should have won Local Government Leader of the Decade.”

It was not immediately apparent that Gdańsk could be a spectacularly successful city.

2002-2003 brought an economic downturn because of a bear market in Europe and worldwide. The drop in revenues led to the limiting of current expenditures. The cost of bank loans rose too. A breakthrough came with Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004. Gdańsk quickly became a leader in obtaining UE funding.

In 2007-2013 Gdańsk and its city companies invested over 5 billion zloties while obtaining 3 billion zloties from the EU. The idea for Gdańsk to become a host city of the EURO 2012 European Football Championships became a driver of the city’s development. Preparations began already in 2007 when UEFA announced that Ukraine and Poland would be the co-hosts of this colossal event. Gdańsk was the first Polish city to volunteer its participation with the Polish Football Association.

EURO 2012 in Gdańsk not only led to the construction of the impressive football stadium in Letnica, but most of all led to gigantic infrastructural projects that allowed the city to catch up from the underdevelopment inherited from communist Poland. New Słowackiego St. (today’s Żołnierzy Wyklętych Avenue) was built to facilitate car traffic through Wrzeszcz to the airport; Lecha Wałęsa Airport got a new terminal and apron. The road between the airport and the seaport was supplemented with a tunnel under the River Martwa Wisła together with the extension of Sucharskiego Route all the way to Gdańsk’s southern ring road built for EURO 2012 by Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government. The East-West Route (today’s Armii Krajowej Ave.) to the Tri-City Ringroad, a project begun as early as in the 1990s, was also completed. The European Solidarity Centre and Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre were built. All this led to an economic domino effect: local, national and international capital became interested in investing in Gdańsk. Even in the 1990s, the Main Town, often erroneously referred to as the “old town,” was criticised as a place that went to sleep after eight o’clock, in contrast to other city centres. The investment projects brought by EURO 2012 changed this state of affairs. The number of pubs and restaurants grew from just 110 in 2006 to 475 in 2016. In 2006 there were 78 accommodation facilities of various types (including 16 hotels) with 9789 beds. Ten years later, in 2016, there were already 139 of them (including 46 hotels), with a total of 15,614 beds.

Another handful of data, this time from Gdańsk Airport: in 2006, Lech Wałęsa Airport handled 1.2 million passengers, by 2017, it was as much as 4.6 million. Gdańsk acquired flight connections to over 70 cities in Poland and Europe. When in 2016, Paweł Adamowicz again received Rzeczpospolita’s award for first place in the most demanding Best City-County Local Government Category, this time in Warsaw, Gdańsk was presented as a “City of big investment projects, business and financial responsibility.” Gdańsk’s mayor then said, “Most of all, I want to thank the people of Gdańsk that they still put their bets on me, which enables us to work for the city together and achieve success after success. Gdańsk is a great team. I want to thank all our civic organisations, businesspeople and residents, with whom Gdańsk is becoming a better and better place to live.


Another deliberate project was to make Gdańsk a civic-minded and welcoming city. To make it a space where living is good and comfortable, and where everyone can find a place for themselves, including newcomers from far away. The aura of a modern and open city began to bring tangible effects. Gdańsk became one of the few cities in Poland from which people don’t flee, but where they come to look for their dreamplace on Earth. In Paweł Adamowicz’s eyes, the city’s residents were its biggest asset. It was they who became involved in building Gdańsk’s modern identity, who enriched the city with their talents, diligence and yearning for a better future. In Gdańsk as a Community, he wrote, “There is not a jot of separatism here, there is no desire to hide from the challenges of the modern world. There is a desire to work towards the common good. The city is a basic territorial unit that can quickly notice problems and solve them together with its ever more diverse and characteristic communities. It can work more efficiently than the government.”

The activeness of the people was the key to success. Paweł Adamowicz was happy to see the number of NGOs in Gdańsk increase. He was thrilled with the growth of the city’s volunteer sector. He set a good example by collecting for years for the Father Dutkiewicz Hospice at cemeteries or in the streets of the Main Town with a box for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. He regularly donated blood and loved to say so. A lesser-known aspect of his private activity was his financial support of poor large families and scholarships for gifted students who could not count on sup[port from their own families. Paweł Adamowicz was very interested in the indicators of civic activity in Gdańsk. Among the ways to stimulate it were city initiatives, such as the annual Civic Budget and the Civic Panels, a form of consultation between the local government and Gdańskers about important city matters. The Mayor demanded that the Gdańsk Statistical Office include a chapter called “Social Capital” in its annual compendium on the city’s social and economic situation. This data first appeared in 2012. In 2016, Gdańsku had 1523 official associations and 670 foundations; 217 had the status of public benefit organisations; 10 new non-governmental entities were formed; 191 public benefit organisations received 1% personal income tax donations.

The Mayor was very happy to see the community’s generosity towards the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity grow: 861,000 zloties were collected in 2017, while a year later, it was over 1.1 million. This happened when the government media did all they could to dissuade people from supporting this one of a kind charity drive.


In July 2016, Paweł Adamowicz visited the mosque in Gdańsk’s Oliwa district. The Muslim community hosted an eid dinner to mark the end of Ramadan. “We want to thank you because you are good to us,” said Khalid from Palestine, a large man in his forties. “By showing respect to the mayor of Gdańsk, we want to thank all the Gdańskers who have been good to us and are not afraid of us because they see us as ordinary people, as neighbours.”
“All religions have a way of bringing out the best in some people and leading others to commit terrible things,” replied Mayor Adamowicz.

This was right after Gdańsk’s authorities, spearheaded by Paweł Adamowicz, developed and adopted the Immigrant Integration Model. This pioneering document resulted from the joint effort of city officials, experts and the new inhabitants of Gdańsk that had come from abroad. It contains procedures to make it easier for people who do not speak Polish but want to live and work in the city to find their feet in their new environment. Aid and acceptance were what was to await them in Gdańsk, not marginalisation and exclusion.

This came at a price, for it also brought harsh criticism. The attacks from right-wing circles were a difficult experience for the Mayor. He wondered why so many people were reluctant to remember the plight of Polish emigres in the 1980s when martial law was imposed and how most of them were taken in by their new homelands.

On the morning of 9 December 2016, Paweł Adamowicz and his daughter Antonina entered the Vatican through St Anne’s Gate. Wandering about somewhat, they reached a small hill with a beautiful 16th-century building, the Casina Pio IV, home to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Just like 73 other European mayors, he came at the invitation of Pope Francis. The meeting’s goal was a two-day conference: Refugees are Our Brothers and Sisters. Among Polish cities, next to Gdańsk, only Warsaw was invited. Those at the meeting were shocked by an emotional address of the Mayor of Lampedusa, Giusiu Nicolini, who told of how she received 366 coffins with the bodies of refugees who had perished off the island’s coasts. The coffins also had bodies of children, including that of an infant and its mother with an uncut umbilical cord.

With a Gdańsk flag in hand, Paweł Adamowicz joined a demonstration of the LGBT community in the summer of 2017 and spoke from the stage, “When you hear that someone is perverted, that someone is rotten, let me say that it is the one who incites hate that is perverted, the one who is hostile to others is the rotten one, the one who extends their arm in hate, who wants to cast a stone, who want to beat with a club, the one who speaks ill, who sends evil energy to another human being, is the one who is, forgive me, perverted.” Work began on the Gdańsk Equal Treatment Model in September. A 111-person team of experts diagnosed the situation of six groups singled out in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, creed or atheism, and disability. Then the team, in collaboration with city officials, used these diagnoses to recommend changes in city policy. The councillors from the Civic Coalition and All for Gdańsk Parties adopted the document in 2018 in the face of opposition from the councillors that belonged to the Law and Justice Party (PiS).


After 2015, Paweł Adamowicz became a major target for political abuse. Both real and imagined missteps were exaggerated and used against him. The fact that he took part in an OLT Airlines promotional stunt (the famous scene of several dozen people dragging an aeroplane on the tarmac) was enough for some to try to turn him into the perpetrator of the infamous Amber Gold racket. Furthermore, it was alleged that Paweł Adamowicz was responsible for creating a “republic of housing developers” in Gdańsk, where construction companies could run amok, complete with insinuations of corruption. He was also accused of wanting to re-establish German influence in the city.

However, what excited public opinion the most was the prosecutor-like questions from the media about how the Mayor of Gdańsk got rich. It is worth mentioning that, from the beginning of his term as mayor, Paweł Adamowicz never hid, in fact, prided himself on his real estate investments in town. At the time of the deep stagnation in which Gdańsk had found itself in the late 90s, he treated them as a form of city promotion and an expression of local patriotism. However, when it turned out that there had been several apartments, some of which were bought on credit, some of the public opinion began to see something wrong with this. Various inspections ensued, and the prosecutor indeed found irregularities in the Mayor’s property statements. Despite the explanations he submitted, the cases were drawn-out and began to multiply. A number of prosecutorial and judicial proceedings were made against Paweł Adamowicz in 2015-2019. He was never convicted of anything, which did not prevent the media from regularly writing and speaking of him as someone guilty. Everything seemed suspicious, even the number of bank accounts to service the housing loans. “I’ve never done anything to Gdańsk’s detriment,” he said. “If I had really been guilty of something, they would have put me away to “Siberia” a long time ago. They’re grilling me so that I lose the election.”

Paweł Adamowicz ran for another term as mayor by leading his own electoral committee called All for Gdańsk. His main opponents were Kacper Płażyński from PiS and Jarosław Wałęsa from the Civic Coalition Party, who did not want to endorse Adamowicz due to the controversy that surrounded him.

The electoral campaign was even more difficult because, in May 2018, there was a malfunction of the sewage pumping station in Ołowianka Island, which led to accusations of the Mayor being responsible for polluting the River Motława and Gdańsk’s beaches right before the tourist season. In spite of it all, Paweł Adamowicz won. In the first round, he beat Jarosław Wałęsa, and in the second, defeated Kacper Płażyński, winning 64.8 % of the vote.


Sunday, 13 January 2019, was rather warm for the middle of winter. Adamowicz put on a light coat. He was to return home to Jelitkowo late in the evening, after the finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. Before noon he went to the nearby Church of SS. Peter and Paul. Then he paid a visit to his parents at the family home in Mniszki St. It was a block of flats dating back to the late 60s: stairs, first floor, door, all of which he had known forever. He said that he didn’t feel well, that he had slept badly, that he had nightmares. His parents replied that he should take a nap. His 90-year-old father laid him to bed and covered him with a duvet. When he woke up, the Mayor had lunch. Then he said goodbye. Around 13:45, he went in front of the house, where an assistant joined him on the street. Together, they went to the Long Market by the Fountain of Neptune. Almost a kilometre by foot. There, the Mayor was to be interviewed about Prelate Jankowski for German television. They asked what would become of the priest’s statue, what was the atmosphere in the city in light of the accusations that the priest, who had been dead for years, was a paedophile, a cause of human tragedies. Right after that came another interview on a more pleasant subject, about the finale of the 27th Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. The Mayor began collecting later than he had announced, not at noon but about at 14:10. He carried his collection box with a red lanyard labelled “I’m From Gdańsk” on his neck with a volunteer’s ID. People were eager to put money in the Mayor’s box. Every now and then, someone would want to talk to him, shake his hand, take a selfie with him. They said they had voted for him in the recent election and were happy because he governed the city well. Right after 16:00, Paweł Adamowicz entered the Armoury building, which was the usual HQ of the Gdańsk finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. The assistant asked the Mayor whether he would like a roll to eat. With his typical sense of humour, Paweł Adamowicz replied, “No, it’s too fattening,” and then asked for a jelly doughnut and ate it. A moment later, the counting of the money from the Mayor’s box began. There were 5613 zloties and 11 groszy in it. Adamowicz beamed with delight; he had made a new personal record in collecting for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. Just before 17:00, the Mayor took a slice of pizza and went for some pierogis at the restaurant of city councillor Piotr Dzik in Piwna St. By about 17:45; he was at the District Court building, where there was to be a demonstration in defence of the constitution and the independence of the Polish judiciary. Fifty of the most tenacious opponents of the methods used by the governing PiS Party were gathered there. Adamowicz spoke about the need to protect the courts and democratic values.

In parting, he heard, “See you on Monday, Mr Mayor,” because the next day he was to read parts of “On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder at a public meeting at Oliwa Culture City Hall.

At 18:30, the Mayor of Gdańsk returned to the Coal Market, the square where the events that accompanied the Gdańsk finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity were held. With three associates, he went into a bar next to Wybrzeże Theatre to get warm and get on stage before 20:00, when the closing ceremony was to begin. The Mayor insisted that they all read more newspapers to know where the country was going. At 19:50, they went on stage. Everyone awaited the Light to Heaven, the celebration to end the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity finale. The Mayor’s assistant took a souvenir photograph of him with a sparkler in hand. A moment later, Paweł Adamowicz was handed a microphone. “Gdańsk is generous, Gdańsk shares, Gdańsk wants to be a city of solidarity,” said the Mayor. “I thank you so much for all of this, because you gave your money on the streets and squares of Gdańsk, for being volunteers. This is a wonderful time to share. I love you. Gdańsk is the most wonderful city on Earth. Thank you all!” 

When he spoke his last words, there were 64 seconds left to the first stab of the knife. It was almost 20:00 hrs. The countdown to the Light began. Thousands of smiling people about, with hands up in the air, with sparklers or mobile phone lights. Hundreds and thousands of voices:


The countdown came with blazes and smoke from the fireworks onstage.


Some of those who were there saw a silhouette of a man who quickly came across the stage. He looked like a stagehand hurrying to fix something.


The mayor stood happy, holding a sparkler in his hand. And then this man ran into Paweł Adamowicz and knocked him over. That’s what it looked like at first.