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June 26, 2022



Romani community members rescue children from apartment fire on Czech housing estate

9.7.2021 8:04
Milan Hanko (left) and Daniel Baran (right); a photo of the blaze at the Janov housing estate is in the background. (2021) (Photos provided by Milan Hanko)
Milan Hanko (left) and Daniel Baran (right); a photo of the blaze at the Janov housing estate is in the background. (2021) (Photos provided by Milan Hanko)

On Saturday, 3 July at 13:00 a fire broke out on the Janov housing estate on Luční Street in Litvínov, Czech Republic. Milan Hanko, who had brought his family to visit relatives there, noticed the smoke pouring out of the balcony of one of the units.

Hanko did not hesitate to help the family in that unit. "As I was parking my car on the housing estate I saw smoke pouring out of one of the apartments. An older woman with a child in her arms shouted to me that it was on fire. I ran over to help them right away," the 24-year-old describes his spontaneous decision, which resulted in the rescue of a four-year-old boy from the burning unit. 

Hanko told the terrified lady to let her child drop from the balcony so he could catch him. That is exactly what happened.

The little boy was rescued from the hellish fire. Together with other Romani community members on the scene a 15-year-old girl was rescued next who jumped from the first floor just a moment after the other child was dropped.

"I was determined to rescue even more people from the apartment fire. I shouted up to the lady on the balcony that the girl should jump from the window too and that we would try to catch her. Another young Romani guy and I joined hands and more people followed suit. The girl really did jump from the balcomy. It was crazy, but we managed to save her," Hanko told news server

In the meantime Hanko's girlfriend had called the fire department. Because the blaze was quickly spreading, Hanko and his 15-year-old cousin Daniel Baran decided to rescue others from the building.

"The entrance was closed, we had to quickly ask the neighbors for the access code. Once we opened the door, Daniel and I ran into the building immediately, there was thick black smoke in all the corridors already. People from the lower floors began running out in front of the building. While my cousin helped evacuate older people to safety, I decided to go into the apartment above the one with the balcony on fire so I could pull the family members up one floor. The tenant who lives there shouted at me that I wouldn't be able to get in because the flames were already at an unreal height," Hanko recalled, adding that he eventually returned to where dozens of tenants were standing in front of the burning building.

"The lady who was still on the balcony had suffocated from the smoke and the man who was there with her didn't react. He was evidently in shock," said Hanko, who works in construction in his hometown of Postoloprty.

At that moment all of the emergency response units, including those with ladders, were already on the scene. The emergency medical services provided immediate assistance to those who had inhaled smoke. 

Firefighters managed to get the blaze under control quite quickly and fortunately it did not spread into any other apartments or floors of the building. The unit that caught fire is completely burned out and the city has offered substitute accommodation to the family. 

"Once the firefighters arrived I got out of their way. However, I returned a bit later to ask how the four-year-old boy was doing, whether he was all right," said Hanko, who also told he did not know whether the firefighters know about the heroic actions of the Romani community members who did not hesitate to help the family whose unit was on fire.

Rena Horvátová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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