In a bitterly divided Poland, the inhabitants of the port city of Gdansk were united: saddened by the assassination of their mayor, angered by the harmful political climate that his assassination had laid bare and by the solidarity that he It was time to change the country.
Even before the mayor, 53-year-old Pawel Adamowicz, was buried on Saturday, as thousands of people filled the cobblestone streets around the old brick church in the heart of the old city, it was clear that his death could have profound political consequences when voters prepare. for the national elections this autumn.
This contest is considered by many to be the most important of the young history of the Third Republic of Poland.
"The polarization in Poland is absolutely horrible," said Antoni Dudek, conservative political scientist at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. He added that the feelings were hardened on all sides.
"This is an extraordinary moment for all of us," said Aleksander Hall, an academic and a great friend of Adamowicz. "I think Pawel's death will change people more permanently – people are becoming increasingly aware of what hate speech can do and hope many will not tolerate such aggression anymore."
If the past is a prologue, however, the tragedy in Poland can be used to tear people apart as much as to bring them together.
The mayor of the left was stabbed to death on stage while he was speaking at a fundraiser organized by the Grand Orchester de la Charité Christmas on a Sunday evening.
The attacker, 27, shouted that he had been improperly jailed under a national government previously headed by Civic Platform, a centrist party whose mayor was once a member, the authorities said. But officials also described the man as a man suffering from mental disorders, with a history of violence, a criminal record for robbery and no clear political motive.
While the murderer's motives are still under discussion, the consequences have been a festival of accusations.
A sample of the titles of the country's biggest tabloid, Fakt, captured the atmosphere. "Killed with hatred," the paper said on Tuesday. Wednesday's title: "We will not forgive you for this death! The politicians!"
In Gdansk, where, like many cities, the stronghold of the opposition, most people blame the current climate in the hands of a party, the party for law and justice, and on its own, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
The night before the funeral, Krzysztof Szczepaniak, professor at the University of Gdansk, was one of the thousands of people lined up in front of the majestic Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, dating back to the 14th century, waiting to pay his respects the murdered leader of the city.
With his wife and their 8 year old twins, he was still waiting in the biting cold at the midnight approach.
Although it was a good time for a calm reflection, he said, he could not contain his anger at what he had described as contempt of the party in power since the murder.
"They do not feel sorry; they are sowers of hatred, "said Szczepaniak. "We really hope that after this murderous murder, the Polish nation will finally understand which side is the truth. And we can once again be proud of Poland and our solidarity, as we were in 1989. "
It was the year of Poland liberated from the communist regime. The spark in the struggle for freedom came from this city, where shipyard unions have banded together in a movement called Solidarity or Solidarnosc in Polish.
But the current political division has its roots at the time of the uprisings.
Mr. Kaczynski and his twin brother, Lech, fought alongside Lech Walesa to bring down communism. In 1990, he helped the Solidarity hero win the presidency and then served as the chief of staff of Walesa. But they collapsed after an intense struggle for power and have since become enemies.
Mr. Kaczynski soon came to believe that the revolution had never been completed. By accepting a bloodless transition that would allow some Communist personalities to remain in public life, he thought that political leaders had failed to eradicate the Soviet infection.
He formed the Center Agreement and finally Law and Justice, which had a brief turnaround in power from 2005 to 2007. But much of his program had been thwarted by the courts. The party lost early elections in favor of the liberal civic platform.
As his party sought to return, a tragedy occurred in 2010: a plane carrying dozens of the country's top political and military leaders crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk. Everyone on board was killed, including Lech Kaczynski, who was president of Poland at the time.
For a brief moment, the nation came together. But soon, Jaroslaw Kaczynski seizes tragedy, which places it at the center of the mythology of the party on martyrdom and wounded nationalism.
Instead of evoking a national tragedy, the word Smolensk is a marker of tribal identity.
Mr. Dudek, conservative political scientist, said: "I have friends, extremely intelligent and highly educated people, who sincerely wish Kaczynski's death."
He said the public television channel TVP, firmly controlled by the ruling party, was the main promoter of the bile thanks to its coverage of the massacre and the current climate; he blamed the latter at the feet of the opposition legislators.
Thousands of protesters gathered in front of TVP headquarters in Warsaw on Thursday night to demand that its director be sacked and "to stop hate propaganda".
The broadcaster has since trimmed his coverage, but Kaczynski has refused calls to dismiss the director.
Even if the assassination of Mr. Adamowicz proves the irrational act of a madman, it is feared that the increasingly inflamed speech will result in violence.
Since Monday, police have arrested nearly two dozen people who have either promoted violence or threatened public figures. A special team of 105 prosecutors was created to investigate hate crimes.
The mayor of Gdansk had often been targeted by right-wing journalists and politicians, who had portrayed him as an immoral criminal who would let terrorists enter Poland and pose a threat to the country.
Mr. Adamowicz, elected first mayor in 1998, dedicated himself to the fight against what he considered the forces of hatred and intolerance. During an interview at his office last spring, he said his goal was to show the world that Poland's Mr. Kaczynski was not the only Poland.
His city, he said, is a place of tolerance, where immigrants are welcomed and where gays and lesbians do not need to feel threatened, and who always respect the values at the base of liberal democracy.
At funerals, political leaders from other cities promised to continue his program.
"We, the mayors of Polish cities, we promise you to build a truly democratic and European Poland, just like your Gdansk," Jacek Karnowski, mayor of the nearby seaside resort of Sopot, told the crowd.
Saturday, across the country, in cities such as Warsaw and Poznan, public rallies were held, accompanied by a wave of grief. Families invaded the streets of Gdansk, many carrying the red flag of the city adorned with a black ribbon, and the words and music of the funeral mass echoed through the maze of streets and alleyways.
Slawoj Leszek Glodz, Archbishop of Gdansk, told the crowd that it was time for civility to return to public life.
"We must rid Polish politics and public life of linguistic hatred, condescension and humiliation," he said.