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Michałowo wins Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award for helping refugees on the border with Belarus  

​​ Town and its inhabitants receive the award in recognition of their support for freedom, solidarity and equality

The municipality of Michałowo in Poland has been honoured with the Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award for the help it has provided refugees at the border with Belarus. The award, which was created to promote the legacy built up by Paweł Adamowicz during his 20 years as mayor of Gdańsk, was announced at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk on 13 January and will be presented to the Mayor of Michałowo Marek Nazarko at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 8 February.

The award was established by the European Committee of the Regions in partnership with the City of Gdańsk and the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) and is presented to local leaders – in politics or in civil society – who, like Paweł Adamowicz, act with courage and integrity to help those in need and who fight against intolerance, radicalisation, hate speech, oppression and xenophobia.

The award recognises the life-saving support that Michałowo and its population provided to migrants who found themselves stranded between Poland and Belarus after the Polish government in September 2021 imposed a state of emergency in response to Belarus's sponsorship of illegal migration. The local administration of Michałowo, which lies very close to Poland's border with Belarus, provided clothing, warm meals and overnight accommodation for those in need, with support also from non-governmental organisations. Temporary housing provided by the local administration in Bondary, a village near the border, has also served families from Ukraine since the outbreak of war.

The jury also decided to give a special mention to Oleksandr Babich, Mayor of Hola Prystan in the south of Ukraine, who has been held captive since March 2022 for trying to protect his local community. This special mention is given to Oleksandr Babich as a representative of all Ukrainian mayors who have been kidnapped or tortured since the start of the Russian invasion.

Mayor of Michalowo, Marek Nazarko said: " It is an amazing surprise because it was already a great honour for us just to be nominated for this award. To win the Paweł Adamowicz Award is a great privilege and source of pride for me as the head of the municipality. I would like to thank the award committee and the European Committee of the Regions. I would also like to congratulate all the nominees – we were in highly esteemed company. Above all, I am proud of our local people because we were able put into practice the values that the European Union brings, indeed, that humanity brings, and really bring them to life. As historian Marian Turski said – heed the 11th commandment: thou shalt not be indifferent! And in the words of Mayor Paweł Adamowicz: share the good – that is what's most important. "

The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, said: "Mayor Pawel Adamowicz lost his life for standing up for the values of freedom, solidarity and equality. Today we honour his memory by awarding the city of Michałowo with the Award that the Committee of the Regions created in his name. As thousands of people were pressed at the border between Poland and Belarus, fleeing oppression and dictatorship, Mayor Marek Nazarko and the people of Michałowo spared no effort to welcome them, especially women and children, providing them with shelter, help and hope. Their actions and courage embody the spirit of Pawel Adamowicz. This year, we also want to give special recognition to Oleksandr Babich, the Mayor of Hola Prystan in Ukraine, as a tribute to his courage and as a signal of hope and solidarity for all Ukrainian mayors and citizens fighting for our European values ."

The Mayor of Gdańsk, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, said : "The Paweł Adamowicz Award is to be a form of a living memorial showing that today, in the world of endangered values, it is worth to actively defend democracy, freedom, solidarity and human rights."

ICORN's board president, Christopher Gribble, said: ICORN depends on cities stepping up and taking decisive action for freedom of expression, human rights and international solidarity. We congratulate the Municipality of Michalowo with receiving the Mayor Pawel Adamowicz Award for 2022, for their tremendous efforts to support and protect a large amount of refugees, under very trying circumstances, at the Polish border with Belarus. We also stand in deep solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and appreciate that the Award Jury is designating a special mention of honour to Mayor of Hola Prystan Mr. Oleksandr Babich, who have been held captive for more than six months by the Russian aggressors for simply protecting his local community.

MEP Magdalena Adamowicz said: " The Paweł Adamowicz Award promotes human rights and European values, which were at the heart of Paweł's social and political activity from the very beginning until his tragic death. For Paweł, human rights, unconditional equality, respect for the dignity of every person, openness and help for all people in need, including immigrants and refugees, were the unquestionable foundation of democracy and a benchmark for Europe's future. The winner of this year's award is a defender and promoter of these values. The municipality of Michałowo in Podlaskie offered help to refugees in need at the border between Poland and Belarus. This small municipality with a big heart stood as the first line of defence for democracy and European values against an attack on democracy. If we want to save democracy, we must clearly, strongly and without compromise defend the right of every person to equality, dignity and to live in freedom. The municipality of Michałowo understands this. "

The Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award Ceremony will take place on the 8 February 2023, during a Plenary Session of the European Committee of the Regions.

The other shortlisted nominees were (in alphabetical order):

  • Vadym Boichenko , Mayor of Mariupol, for his support for displaced persons after the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and his ongoing work in supporting the residents of Mariupol who have left the city following the most recent Russian invasion;
  • Mayors of Ukraine (represented by the Association of Ukrainian cities). The nomination is for all courageous mayors of Ukraine who during the brutal and unjustified military aggression by Russia have promoted freedom, democratic values, solidarity and fight against intolerance and against hate speech;
  • ​​SOS Méditerranée : European humanitarian organisation, nominated for helping to protect lives of migrants in the Mediterranean, the world's most dangerous migration route.

Background:

Paweł Adamowicz was stabbed on 13 January 2019 while speaking at a charity event. He died from his injuries the following day. He was 53 years old. His murder was preceded by a rise in hate speech directed at him. His last words, uttered just before he was attacked, were: "Gdańsk is generous, Gdańsk shares its good, Gdańsk wants to be a city of solidarity. This is a wonderful time to share the good. You are loved. Gdańsk is the most wonderful city in the world. Thank you!"

Mr Adamowicz was committed to promoting the EU's fundamental values, and was an active member of the European Committee of the Regions. In 2016, Mayor Adamowicz launched the Gdańsk 'Immigrant Integration Model' after meeting Pope Francis. It has served as a model that has inspired other Polish cities.

The Paweł Adamowicz Award Evaluation Committee includes representatives of UCLG - United Cities and Local Governments, Eurocities, GPM - Global Parliament of Mayors, The Council of European Municipalities and Regions, AER - Assembly of European Regions, CALRE - Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies, CPMR - the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions, COE - Council of Europe, City of Gdansk, ICORN, COR European Committee of the Regions.

The first winner of the Paweł Adamowicz Award was Henriette Reker, mayor of Cologne. She was recognised in 2022 for the courage and determination that she has shown over the past 20 years in promoting diversity, solidarity and integration as an integral part of Cologne's identity. In 2015, Mayor Reker survived a knife attack motivated by her commitment for helping migrant communities and their integration.

The European Committee of the Regions, as the political assembly of local and regional politicians in the EU and on the initiative of the Polish delegation, unanimously adopted a resolution on 7 February 2019 condemning hate speech and threats of all kinds against political leaders. The CoR, at its plenary session on 30 November 2022, adopted recommendations in support of the European Commission's proposals to add hate speech and hate crimes to the list of offences recognised in EU policy via opinion on " Extending the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crimes " – drafted by Aleksandra Dulkiewicz , who succeeded Paweł Adamowicz as Mayor of Gdańsk.

The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is an international organisation of 75 cities and regions in Europe and beyond, offering safe haven to persecuted writers and artists, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidarity. More than 250 writers and artists have been offered residency in an ICORN city. In a safe environment, they continue to play a vital role, both in highlighting violations of human rights and free speech in their home countries, and in supporting colleagues in their country of origin. Mayor Pawel Adamowicz brought the City of Gdańsk into ICORN on 30 August 2017.

Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award - website : #AdamowiczAward

Rules and regulations of the award, Eligibility Criteria, Selection Criteria

Website with information about Paweł Adamowicz and the anniversary of his assassination​
​​​​

Contact:

​European Committee of the Regions
Wioletta Wojewodzka
Tel. +32 (0)2 282 2289
Mobile: +32 (0)473 843 986
wioletta.wojewodzka@cor.europa.eu

City of Gdańsk
Maciej Buczkowski
Tel.: + 48 58 323 62 84
maciej.buczkowski@gdansk.gda.pl

International Cities of Refuge Network
Helge Lunde
Tel.: + 47 99582488
helge@icorn.org

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