Polish town grants honorary citizenship to Ukrainian war hero

In 2018 Skakun had lived for six-months in the central Polish town of Leszno. Social media

Leszno, a town in western Poland, has awarded honorary citizenship to Vitali Skakun, a Ukrainian marine combat engineer who sacrificed his life on the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine by blowing up a bridge to slow the enemy’s offensive.

Skakun's unit was deployed to protect the town of Henichesk. As a Russian armoured column drew closer to the town, the Ukrainians decided to blow up the local bridge to slow down the Russians' advance. Skakun volunteered to mine the bridge.

Having placed the explosives, he found had insufficient time to withdraw and, after informing his fellow soldiers of his intentions, set off the mines, killing himself and destroying the bridge. His actions slowed the Russians sufficiently to allow the Ukrainians to regroup.

On Monday, the city council of Leszno, where Skakun had once lived and worked, made him an honorary citizen in recognition of his sacrifice.

"His actions slowed the enemy's onslaught and enabled (the Ukrainians - PAP) to organise their defence. In Ukraine, Vitali Volodymyrovich Skakun is a symbol of the Ukrainians' heroism and commitment," the council wrote.

In Leszno, "he is remembered as a good neighbour and friend as well as a hardworking, creative and committed person," it added.