One of my main reasons for joining New Europeans was the fact that this citizens’ rights organisation has embraced and adopted the spirit of Solidarity for which Poland and especially the city of Gdańsk are known worldwide, and which also happened to shape my way of thinking about society.
From its early days New Europeans stood by EU citizens, including Poles, and supported them in living their lives fully and with satisfaction taken from uninhibited participation in social, cultural and political aspects of modern European society.
However, that model of conscious and engaged citizenship is under threat right across the continent. Poland and the UK are sadly not exempt from that threat. Having moral leaders matters today as much as having beacons of light during the times of storm.
The late Paweł Adamowicz was certainly one of those bright lights and beacons of hope. We mourned his tragic death from distance, but the pain shared by all democrats and citizens of Europe was felt acutely in our hearts and minds.
The only moment I can compare to that feeling is the time when Jo Cox MP paid with her life for standing by her values of inclusion, tolerance and respect for human rights of all people.
Of course, we all remember that Jo lost her life during the vicious Brexit campaign in the UK. Similarly to Paweł Adamowicz, Jo was a victim of hate and politically motivated murder.
We are therefore relieved to learn that the work and spirit of Mr Adamowicz is alive and will be carried forward by his close collaborator and successor, the newly elected Mayor of Gdansk Aleksandra Dulkiewicz
We remain committed to offering her and the citizens of Gdansk our support and admiration for their open minded, generous and free spirit modern of Europeans and, indeed, New Europeans.
The Polish diaspora in the U.K. is deeply worried by Brexit and other symptoms of undermining citizens’ rights and coarseness of the narrative in social and political life.
Those worries and concerns extend to our native Poland which experienced the wave of hate speech and intolerance in recent months and perhaps years.
And that is precisely why we must reach out for symbols that used bring hope and freedom to the millions; the symbols capable of uniting and healing people and societies.
Those symbols and high ideals are embodied in the Ethics of Solidarity movement, as they were put in the form of beautiful, wise and moving essays of the late Jozef Tischner, the philosopher who gave Solidarity its theoretical framework in the 1980s.
His series of essays entitled The Ethics of Solidarity gave a direction for shaping up democracy in Poland and beyond, a democracy which respects dignity of each person, no matter what background that person has and where he or she comes from.
That message is as important now as it was during the time when the Polish nation stood up in the peaceful but powerful protest against the tyranny of the autocratic regime which trampled human rights and human dignity. Citizens’ rights are under threat again. Let’s not take them for granted.
We spoke about some of the dangers of Brexit and how it impinges on citizens’ rights on the pages of Tygodnik Powszechny, a widely respected Polish weekly which is, by the way, deeply indebted to the contributions and friendship of the late Jozef Tischner.
I believe that we are given this challenge of Brexit which is also linked with brutalisation of modern politics and the deeply worrying rise of far- right across Europe, in order to find ways of overcoming those challenges, and by doing so, shaping a fairer society which is built on the principles of solidarity and respect for citizens’ rights and human dignity.
© Tomasz Piotrowski