Pol­ish mayor stabbed at char­ity event

As­sailant shouted po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion for at­tack

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS | WORLD - VANESSA GERA

WAR­SAW, Poland — A con­victed crim­i­nal with a knife rushed onto the stage dur­ing the fi­nale of a char­ity event Sun­day night and stabbed a Pol­ish mayor in the heart and ab­domen be­fore shout­ing that he did it for po­lit­i­cal re­venge, in an at­tack that left doc­tors fight­ing to save the politi­cian’s life.

Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamow­icz grabbed his belly and col­lapsed in front of the au­di­ence at the Lights to Heaven fundraiser or­ga­nized by the Great Orches­tra of Christ­mas Char­ity, the coun­try’s most im­por­tant char­ity.

Doc­tors re­an­i­mated Adamow­icz on the spot and then trans­ported him to Med­i­cal Univer­sity of Gdansk, where he underwent five hours of surgery, said Dr. To­masz Ste­fa­niak, one of the doc­tors treat­ing Adamow­icz.

Al­most seven hours af­ter the as­sault, Ste­fa­niak told re­porters this morn­ing that “the pa­tient is alive,” trig­ger­ing ap­plause, but added that the mayor re­mained “in a very se­ri­ous con­di­tion.”

“The next hours will decide ev­ery­thing,” Ste­fa­niak said, ap­peal­ing for thoughts and prayers for the pop­u­lar mayor.

Pol­ish me­dia re­ported that a num­ber of po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cials and Gdansk Arch­bishop Sla­woj Leszek Glod went to the hos­pi­tal dur­ing the op­er­a­tion.

Af­ter the knife at­tack, the as­sailant shouted from the stage that he had been wrongly im­pris­oned un­der a pre­vi­ous na­tional 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 was a 27-year-old with a crim­i­nal record and had car­ried out bank rob­beries. A po­lice spokesman, Mar­iusz Ciarka, said the at­tacker ap­peared to have men­tal prob­lems and gained ac­cess to the area with a me­dia badge.

He was ar­rested and is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

TVN footage showed Adamow­icz on stage with a sparkler in hand telling the au­di­ence that it had been a “won­der­ful day” be­fore the at­tacker came to­ward him. The mayor had been on the streets of his Baltic port city ear­lier in the day col­lect­ing money for the char­ity, along with vol­un­teers around the coun­try.

European Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, a for­mer Pol­ish prime min­is­ter who co-founded Civil Plat­form and is from Gdansk, wrote on Twit­ter: “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. He blamed what he de­scribed as an at­mos­phere of hate un­der the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice party for the at­tack on the mayor.

Adamow­icz, 53, has been mayor of Gdansk since 1998. He was part of the demo­cratic op­po­si­tion born in that city 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 LGBTTQ* rights and tol­er­ance for mi­nori­ties. He marched in last year’s gay pride pa­rade, a rare ac­tion for a mayor in Poland.

He also showed sol­i­dar­ity with the Jewish com­mu­nity when the city’s syn­a­gogue had its win­dows bro­ken last year, strongly de­nounc­ing the van­dal­ism.

“Hor­ri­fied by the bru­tal at­tack on Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamow­icz,” said 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 Great Orches­tra of Christ­mas Char­ity raises money to buy state-ofthe-art med­i­cal equip­ment for Poland’s cash-strapped state hos­pi­tals, mostly for chil­dren.

The last at­tack on a politi­cian in Poland was in 2010 in Lódz. A man shout­ing that he wanted to kill Law and Jus­tice party leader Jarosław Kaczyn­ski fa­tally shot an aide to one of the party’s law­mak­ers to the European Parliament. A sec­ond man was stabbed and in­jured.

At the time, Law and Jus­tice was in the op­po­si­tion and Kaczyn­ski blamed the at­tack at an “at­mos­phere of hate” un­der the ri­val party, Civic Plat­form.

ANNA REZULAK / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamow­icz (right) speaks to an au­di­ence at a char­ity event shortly be­fore he was stabbed in Gdansk, Poland, on Sun­day.

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