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Michałowo and its people honoured with the Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award for helping refugees on the border with Belarus  
​​ A special mention was given to Oleksandr Babych, mayor of the Ukrainian town of Hola Prystan, who has been held in Russian captivity for almost a year.

The municipality of Michałowo in Poland has been honoured with the Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award in recognition of their support for freedom, solidarity and equality. The award was presented by the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, in the presence of the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 8 February.

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

The Mayor of Michałowo, Marek Nazarko, received the Award from Vasco Alves Cordeiro, the President of the European Committee of the Regions, as a recognition of the life-saving support that Michałowo and its population provided to refugees who found themselves stranded between Poland and Belarus in September 2021, following attempts by Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka to use migrants and refugees as a means to apply pressure on the European Union.

On 27 September 2021, a group of about 20 Iraqi Yazidis, mostly women and children, found their way to the border guard post in Michałowo. As they were brought back to the border, the question of "Where are the children from Michałowo?" started to become a public debate. In response, the local administration of Michałowo provided clothing, warm meals and overnight accommodation for those in need, with support also from non-governmental organisations. The municipality of Michałowo continues to assist refugees – from all countries arriving at the border, while also organising or co-organising various debates and conferences to raise public and government awareness regarding migration issues and above all its human dimension. In 2021, the refugees principally came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; at present, most refugees are fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The jury also decided to give a special mention to Oleksandr Babych, Mayor of Hola Prystan in the south of Ukraine, who has been held captive by the Russian forces since March 2022, for trying to protect his local community. The jury decided to honour Oleksandr Babych to affirm solidarity, with all Ukrainian mayors who have been kidnapped or tortured since the start of the Russian invasion. Russia's occupying force are currently holding five Ukrainian local leaders in captivity.

As Mayor Babych is unable to communicate with the outside world and his lawyer is refused visits to see his client, the award was received on his behalf by the Association of Ukrainian Cities. The Association, together with the European Committee of the Regions, urges Russia to release Oleksandr Babych as well as all abducted mayors. Mayors are leading their municipalities in the delivery of services and they have been and still are an inspiration and support to local communities in Ukraine in this most difficult of times.

The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, said: "Paweł Adamowicz was one of us. Today we honour his legacy by awarding the courage of those in our regions and cities who stand for these same values: freedom, solidarity and equality. Michałowo and its people showed the entire world what these values mean by welcoming people trapped at the border with Belarus. The Committee of the Regions also wants to send a signal of hope and solidarity to all the mayors of Ukraine, by giving a special recognition to the Mayor of Hola Prystan, Oleksandr Babych. His courage is a symbol of the fight Ukrainians are carrying for our shared European values."

Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: "This award in Paweł Adamowicz’s name celebrates other European heroes. Those who stand for European values. And this year it is a whole town. The town of Michałowo in Poland. When Lukashenko tricked migrants to cross the border, in an attempt to provoke a refugee crisis, mayors, councillors and citizens acted with humanity. They saw people in the freezing forest. They did not see a stranger. An Iraqi. A Yezidi. They saw a human being."

Mayor of Michałowo, Marek Nazarko: "Congratulations to all the nominees. We found ourselves in illustrious company. I come from a small municipality on the border with Belarus, the most magnificent place, of which I have had the honour of being mayor since 2002. I come from a municipality that suddenly found itself facing a migration crisis. We will continue to help. The highest walls, the ones that are the most difficult to break down, are in ourselves. On this border, we will continue to show our humanity. Nobody can stop us from doing so, because there are no illegal people. There are still people there. The wall, the barrier on the border, has not disappeared, there are still mothers with children in the forest. I appeal for help. The picture that sticks in my memory the most is of a child from a group of 20 Yazidis who drew flowers on the fogged-up window of the bus with his finger. It showed how innocent the children were, unaware of the dangerous situation in which they found themselves. In this and in every other similar situation, it is worth recalling the words of Paweł Adamowicz: let us share the good!"

On behalf of Oleksandr Babych, Mayor of Hola Prystan, Oleksandr Slobozhan, Executive Director of the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC): "It is a great honour for me to be awarded with Pawel Adamowicz Prize special mention on behalf of Oleksandr Babych, Mayor of Hola Prystan, who personifies all Ukrainian mayors that did not leave their municipalities and continued their activities even under occupation. Despite the war, mayors try to provide their municipalities with everything they need for living, ensure proper functioning of critical infrastructure and provision of utility services, which is a difficult task under the conditions of continuous shelling. At the same time, they often risk their lives. Russian military have abducted 59 local officials, including 35 mayors. Unfortunately, Mr Babych, as well as his 4 colleagues, has been in the Russian captivity for more than nine months. We hope that at the very least this award will save his life, as well as lives of other captured mayors. The examples of Pawel Adamowicz, Heniette Reker, Oleksandr Babych are the inspiration for a great number of mayors in Ukraine and all over the world, as they are people who serve their community, protect its interests and assert universal values."

The Mayor of Gdańsk, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, said: "The Paweł Adamowicz Award is not only to commemorate the values close to the Mayor of Gdansk, who was assassinated in 2019, but above all to showcase attitudes worth emulating, values on which the EU is founded. I am delighted that this year the jury of the award recognised the community and authorities of Michałowo for their civil courage, solidarity and integrity in standing up for others. Their attitude is one of courageously being with refugees, of genuinely helping those in need, of countering stereotypes, ignorance and racism. The people of Michałowo remind us what humanity is. Gratitude and respect to them!"

ICORN's board president, Christopher Gribble: “In our global work to protect the most persecuted and vulnerable freedom fighters, we know how crucial it is that individuals, cities, nations and transnational bodies do their utmost to transcend established boundaries and borders to create welcoming environments for those in the most urgent need. In this regard, the City of Michałowo has taught the entire world a lesson, and we cannot think of a worthier winner of the Mayor Pawel Adamowicz Award 2022.”

MEP Magdalena Adamowicz (PL/EPP), widow of Mayor Adamowicz, said: "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. These are the values that the Paweł Adamowicz Award promotes. Values which were at the core of Paweł's social and political activity from the very beginning until his tragic death. The winner of this year's award is a defender and promoter of these values – the municipality of Michałowo in Podlaskie. This small municipality with big-hearted residents 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. Oleksandr Babych also understands this: the mayor of Hola Prystan in southern Ukraine, who has been held captive since March 2022, was given a special mention. He, and the other Ukrainian mayors heroically fighting for their local communities against Russia's brutal aggression, is a symbol and an example for us all in the unwavering fight for freedom and democracy. I congratulate the winner and all the nominees of this year's Paweł Adamowicz Award with pride and hope that the highest of European values will always win."


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'. It is a model that has inspired other Polish cities.

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

The jury of this year’s edition was chaired by Vincenzo Bianco, Chair of the CIVEX commission of the CoR, represented by Patrick Molinoz, Vice-chair Chair of the CIVEX. Other members were: ; Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor, City of Gdańsk; MEP Magdalena Adamowicz, widow of Paweł Adamowicz; Jelena Drenjanin, Chair of the Governance committee of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities; Chris Gribble, Chair of the Board of ICORN; and Henriette Reker, Mayor of Cologne, First Laureate of the Paweł Adamowicz Award.

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 had shown over the previous 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 antipathy towards her commitment to helping migrant communities and their integration.

The European Committee of the Regions, as the political assembly of local and regional representatives in the EU and at 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, through an 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 80 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

Laudation to the winner of 2022 Mayor Pawel Adamowicz Award - Michałowo

Laudation to the winner of 2022 Mayor Pawel Adamowicz Award – Mayor Oleksandr Babych

The ceremony can be watched on:



European Committee of the Regions

Wioletta Wojewodzka

Tel. +32 (0)2 282 2289

Mobile: +32 (0)473 843 986

City of Gdańsk

Maciej Buczkowski

Tel.: + 48 58 323 62 84

International Cities of Refuge Network

Helge Lunde

Tel.: + 47 99582488

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