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Polish mayor dies of stab wounds after attack

Updated January 15, 2019

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Picture taken on April 21, 2018 shows the Mayor of Gdansk Pawel Adamowicz as he gives a speech in front of people taking part in an antifascist demonstration in Gdansk, Poland. — AFP
Picture taken on April 21, 2018 shows the Mayor of Gdansk Pawel Adamowicz as he gives a speech in front of people taking part in an antifascist demonstration in Gdansk, Poland. — AFP

GDANSK: The centrist mayor of the Polish port city of Gdansk died on Monday, a day after a man stabbed him in the heart in front of hundreds of people at a charity event.

“Despite all our efforts, we failed to save him,” Doctor Tomasz Stefaniak, director of Gdansk University hospital, told Polish media.

Anti-violence rallies are being planned nationwide after Sunday’s attack on Mayor Pawel Adamowicz, known for his liberal views and opposition to Poland’s governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

European Council President Donald Tusk, tweeted that Adamowicz, “a man of solidarity and freedom, a European, my good friend, has been murdered. May he rest in peace.” Tusk, a fellow Pole born in Gdansk, was the late mayor’s political ally.

“Goodbye Pawel, we’ll remember you,” Lech Walesa, Poland’s legendary anti-communist leader and another native of Gdansk, said on Twitter.

And Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also offered his condolences via Twitter. It was a “devastating loss” for all “who value public service, progressive policy and open, accessible to all democracy”, he wrote.

The 53-year-old Adamowicz had been in a critical condition with a serious wound to the heart and cuts to his diaphragm and abdominal organs, said the surgeons who operated on him for five hours.

Video footage showed the attacker, who police said was wearing a press badge, bursting on to the stage and launching himself at Adamowicz, as the mayor stood with others waving sparklers towards the end of Sunday evening’s fundraiser.

After knifing the mayor several times, the man turned to the crowd with his arms raised triumphantly before being tackled to the ground by security guards and arrested.

Paramedics resuscitated Adamowicz at the scene before rushing him to the hospital in Gdansk.

Gdansk residents had flooded blood donation centres earlier on Monday following news that Adamowicz had received 15 litres of blood and required more of the rare O Rh bloody type.

In a video recording of the attack posted on YouTube, the suspect was seen seizing the microphone and claiming he had been wrongly jailed by the previous centrist government of the Civic Platform (PO) party and tortured. “That’s why Adamowicz dies,” he said.

One witness told broadcaster TVN that the man appeared “happy with what he had done”.

Adamowicz had been mayor of Gdansk for two decades. The Baltic coastal city with a population of around half a million people was the cradle of Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s.

Sunday’s fundraising event was part of a popular annual nationwide drive to purchase medical equipment for children and featured a colourful stage set-up including lights, smoke and pyrotechnics.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2019