Ukrainian man hailed as "hero" for saving lives gets Polish citizenship

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WARSAW, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Andrij Sirowacki, a Ukrainian man credited with saving several lives during a tragic highway accident back in June, has received Polish citizenship along with his family.

Sirowacki, a truck driver, saved several people by taking them out of burning cars during a tragic accident involving multiple vehicles, which took place near the northwestern Polish city of Szczecin on the A6 highway.

Following his heroic intervention, several Polish public officials congratulated Sirowacki and numerous media reports depicted his exemplary behaviour -- the man risked his own life to save others.

Yet, during the summer, Sirowacki published a bitter post on social media, saying that once the initial enthusiasm for his deed passed, he was back to his ordinary life as an immigrant, struggling to settle his legal status in Poland.

The 48-year-old man, originally from central Ukraine, has been living in Poland for four years. His family, including his wife and two school-aged children, joined him in Poland and the four are currently living in Strzelce Krajenskie, a small town in western Poland. But the family has been struggling to get long-term residency permits, which would allow them to stabilise their situation in Poland.

In his Facebook post from July 23, Sirowacki wrote that he was living in Poland on the basis of a short-term permit, which would expire in less than a year, while the waiting time for a new one was longer than that. Poland has made it easy for Ukrainian workers to move there on short term and take up jobs, but long-term residency permits are difficult to get.

"We received as an award from the marshall of Zachodniopomorskie region a one-week holiday ... but we cannot go because of a conflict with my employer. I could change jobs, but then I would have to start from scratch the procedure to get the residency permit. Without that, I cannot work as a driver in the EU. Then my family could not live in Poland. ... If something had happened to me during the accident, my family would have had to return to Ukraine," Sirowacki complained in his post.

On Wednesday, he finally received Polish citizenship together with his family, granted by the Polish President Andrzej Duda.

"Immediately after the citizenship ceremony, we went to submit the documents necessary for getting Polish national identity cards," Sirowacki told the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on Thursday.

"I cannot believe that my dream has come true. Poland means a better education for my children and a better future for them," he said. Enditem

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