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Blood Donors Come Forward for Stabbed Polish Mayor

Monday Jan 14, 2019
The mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz
The mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz   (Source:AP Photo/Wojciech Strozyk)

Polish blood donors were coming forward in their droves on Monday in a bid to save the life of the mayor of Gdansk, who was stabbed in the heart and the abdomen while on stage at a charity event.

Doctors operated for five hours on Pawel Adamowicz, who was attacked Sunday by an ex-convict who rushed onto the stage with a knife, shouting it was revenge against a political party Adamowicz had previously belonged to.

Adamowicz — who has been the city's mayor for more than 20 years — grabbed his belly and collapsed in front of the audience at the highly popular annual fundraiser organized by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.

Doctors resuscitated Adamowicz on the spot and then transported him to Medical University of Gdansk, where he underwent five hours of surgery.

One of the surgeons, Dr. Tomasz Stefaniak, said Adamowicz was in "very, very serious condition" after he suffered a "serious wound to the heart, a wound to the diaphragm and to the internal organs." He said Adamowicz needed massive blood transfusions.

Later Monday, the chief doctor for the Gdansk region, Jerzy Karpinski, said that Adamowicz is on life support and that "prognosis for his life and health is uncertain" after he lost a lot of blood that caused oxygen deprivation to his whole body.

Karpinski stressed, however, that the 53-year-old Adamowicz is a "relatively young, healthy person with no health issues" and that there is hope his body will cope and his condition will return to normal.

The situation should be clearer within the next 20 hours, Karpinski said.

Private TVN24 showed footage of people standing in line to donate blood in Gdansk on Monday. Some said they were given time off work to help save Adamowicz. Prayers and a rally against violence were also planned.

Gdansk Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz, who was at the hospital during the surgery, said he was praying for a miracle.

The assailant shouted from the stage that he had been wrongly imprisoned under a previous government led by Civic Platform, a party to which the mayor formerly belonged. He said his name was Stefan and that "I was jailed but innocent. ... Civic Platform tortured me. That's why Adamowicz just died."

Police said the suspect, a 27-year-old Gdansk resident who was recently released from prison where he had served a term for bank robberies, has been detained and is awaiting questioning by prosecutors.

A police spokesman, Mariusz Ciarka, said the attacker appeared to have mental problems and gained access to the area with a media badge. Police were checking if it was authentic and how he got hold of it.

Spokeswoman for the ruling Law and Justice party Beata Mazurek said the attack should be "absolutely condemned by all, regardless of what side of the political stage they are on."

She insisted politicians in Poland need "greater responsibility for words, for deeds" because "there is no shortage of madmen on both sides" of the political spectrum.

TVN footage showed Adamowicz on stage Sunday with a sparkler in hand telling the audience that it had been a "wonderful day" of the charity collecting money across Poland and abroad for cash-strapped hospitals. Then the attacker came toward him.

European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who co-founded Civil Platform and is from Gdansk, tweeted: "Let's all pray for Mayor Adamowicz. Pawel, we are with you."

The head of the charity, Jerzy Owsiak, is a liberal critic of Poland's current right-wing government. Owsiak and some opposition politicians blamed what they described as an atmosphere of hate under Law and Justice, which won power in 2015.

Adamowicz was part of the democratic opposition formed in Gdansk under the leadership of Lech Walesa during the 1980s. After leaving Civic Platform, he was re-elected to a sixth term as an independent candidate in the fall.

As mayor, he has been a progressive voice, supporting LGBT rights and tolerance for minorities. He showed solidarity with the Jewish community when Gdansk synagogue had its windows broken last year, strongly denouncing the vandalism.

"Horrified by the brutal attack on Gdansk mayor Pawel Adamowicz," tweeted Frans Timmermans, a Dutch politician and leading European Union official. "Hope and pray he will recover. A great leader of his city and a true humanitarian."

The last politically motivated attack in Poland was in 2010 in Lodz when a man shouting that he wanted to kill Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski fatally shot an aide to one of the party's European Parliament lawmakers.

Kaczynski, at the time an opposition leader, blamed the attack on an "atmosphere of hate" under Civic Platform.

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