AS central Christchurch buildings came crashing down last February, Polish man Erwin Polczak rushed from the Colombo Street jewellery store where he worked to rescue those trapped by the rubble.
A year later and recognised as one of the heroes in the Christchurch Earthquake Awards, the ongoing aftershocks have done little to rattle Mr Polczak’s love of his adopted city.
He’s applied to become a New Zealand resident.
He had been repairing a ring at the Blue Pearl Gallery last February 22 when he heard the rumble of the magnitude 6.3 quake.
Rushing outside, he freed a man and three women trapped under rubble outside the nearby OK Gift Shop.
The man’s leg was trapped by concrete, which Mr Polczak says was too heavy to move.
“I came back to Blue Pearl Gallery – it was very dark, and I found a tool but I went back and it was still too heavy.
“There was an aftershock, and the police and other people came to help,” he told AAP.
Mr Polczak says he wasn’t scared at the time of the quake, and just wanted to help others.
“I could hear people crying for help. All I can do, I do for the people.”
In the weeks that followed, Mr Polczak joined the volunteer group Comfort Crusaders, delivering food and water to the city’s elderly and its hardest-hit suburbs.
Mr Polczak applied for New Zealand residency a fortnight ago, and is hopeful he will be able to stay in Christchurch, where he has lived for three years and met his now-pregnant wife Mitzi Arnott.
“It’s beautiful,” he said of the city.
“It’s not really quiet, because of the aftershocks, but there are very nice people, and Christchurch has a very beautiful view. I love Christchurch.”