Polish blood donors are coming forward in droves in a bid to save the life of Gdansk’s mayor after he was stabbed while on stage at a charity event.
Doctors operated for five hours on Mayor Pawel Adamowicz, who was stabbed in the heart and abdomen on Sunday by an ex-convict who rushed onto the stage with a knife.
The man shouted out that the attack was an act of revenge against a political party Mr Adamowicz had belonged to.
Mr Adamowicz grabbed his belly and collapsed in front of the audience at the 27th annual fundraiser organised by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.
Doctors resuscitated Mr Adamowicz on the spot and then transported him to the Medical University of Gdansk, where he underwent five hours of surgery.
One of the surgeons, Dr Tomasz Stefaniak, said Mr 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 Mr Adamowicz needed massive blood transfusions.
Dr Stefaniak said the coming hours would be decisive and asked for thoughts and prayers for the mayor, who has served since 1998.
TV footage showed people queueing up to donate blood in Gdansk. Some said they were given time off work to help save Mr Adamowicz. A rally against violence has also been planned.
Gdansk Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz, who was at the hospital during the surgery, said he was praying for a miracle.
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, the party which the mayor once belonged to.
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 who had been recently released from prison, where he had served a term for bank robberies.
A police spokesman, Mariusz Ciarka, said the attacker appeared to have mental health problems and gained access to the area with a media badge. It is unclear how he acquired the credential.
He was arrested and is under investigation.
TVN footage showed Mr Adamowicz on stage with a sparkler in hand, telling the audience that it had been a “wonderful day” before the attacker came towards him.
The mayor had been on the streets of his Baltic port city earlier in the day collecting money for the nationwide charity that supports Poland’s financially-strapped hospitals.
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. Mr Owsiak and some opposition politicians blamed what they described as an atmosphere of hate under the ruling Law and Justice party for the attack.
Mr Adamowicz, 53, 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 autumn.
As mayor, he has been a progressive voice, supporting LGBT 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.