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Gdansk's Mayor Pawel Adamowicz speaks during the 27th Grand Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity in Gdansk Gdansk's Mayor Pawel Adamowicz speaks during the 27th Grand Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity in Gdansk  (foto-kraj)

Poland's popular Gdansk Mayor dies after attack during charity event

Poland’s government says Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz has died from stab wounds a day after being attacked onstage by an ex-convict at a charity event. He was 53. His death has shocked Poland as Adamowicz played a crucial role in the pro-democracy movement during the late 1980s and became a popular leader.

By Stefan J. Bos

The mayor of Gdansk was attending a charity concert raising money for equipment to treat children in Poland's state-run hospitals. But as some fireworks brightened up the sky, this colorful event turned into tragedy. A man rushed onto the stage stabbing Mayor Adamowicz in front of thousands of people, many holding white lights.

Before being arrested, the attacker waved his knife in the air and spoke through a microphone: ‘Hello! Hello! My name is Stefan. I sat innocently in prison; I sat innocently in prison. Civic Platform tortured me, and that’s why Adamowicz is dead."

He referred to Mayor Adamowicz's past. The mayor was a member of Poland’s pro-European Civic Platform, which governed Poland between 2007 and 2015. But he left the party to participate in local elections as an independent.

The mayor was resuscitated at the scene and rushed to a nearby hospital. There, he underwent five hours of surgery, and hundreds of people visit health clinics to donate blood.

But doctors soon warned they had little hope as he had lost a lot of blood and suffered oxygen deprivation in the knife attack. Gdansk Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz, who was at the hospital during the surgery, said he was praying for a miracle.

But by Monday afternoon doctors had lost their battle to save his life.

Mayor Adamowicz is a native of Gdansk, the birthplace of the pro-democracy movement Solidarity in the 1980s that eventually helped topple the Communist government.

in his self-written online biography he says he helped to organize student strikes in 1988 - a year of nationwide mass strikes against the communist government. Poland would declare a new democratic republic a year later.

In 1990, he became a city councilor for Gdansk, rising to the mayor of the city in 1998. He has held the office ever since. The popular mayor was a strong liberal voice, known for his pro-immigration stance and support for the rights of minorities.

A graduate of Gdansk university's law school, he married a professor there. The couple has two daughters - one a teenager and one under ten years old.

Family members were among the many mourning his death. In the words of Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki: "The attack on the life and health of [Mayor] Adamowicz is worthy of the highest condemnation."

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos
14 January 2019, 17:40