AS looters swarmed below her, Monika Konczyk stood on the ledge of her flame- engulfed flat and thought: ”I’m going to die.”
A picture of her jumping from her first-floor flat into the arms of a hero policeman became the iconic image of the terrifying لندن riots in 2011.
In an exclusive interview to mark the ten-year anniversary, Monika told how she still carries a cutting of The Sun’s coverage of her amazing escape everywhere she goes, قول: “If I’m down, it reminds me how lucky I am to be alive.”
Polish-born Monika, 42, قالت: “Carrying The Sun’s photo of me jumping from the window in my purse helps remind me of what I survived.
“For the first few months after the riots I couldn’t sleep at night at all.
“I kept getting visions of the flames and the smoke all around me, trapping me in my flat. It left me depressed.
“I was scared to be on my own. If I walked down the street and saw a group of teenagers, I’d put my head down and avoid eye contact.
“But people in England and at work were so nice to me after the riots.
“I got cards and flowers and lots of people would come up to me and ask me how I was. It helped me get over it.”
اليوم, mum-of-two Monika told how she is desperate to be reunited with the brave copper who saved her life.
She has also forgiven the thug who burnt her flat in Croydon, جنوب لندن, to the ground.
The riots saw six days of chaos with looting, muggings and battles with police leading to 4,000 arrests.
تقريبا 700 people were found guilty and 331 given immediate jail sentences. Five people lost their lives.
It prompted then-Prime Minister David Cameron to make his famous “Wake Up Britain” speech, in which he vowed to fix the nation’s “broken society”.
The catalyst for carnage came on August 4 when suspected gangster Mark Duggan was shot dead by police during an arrest in Tottenham, North London.
They believed the father-of-four, who was a passenger in a car, was carrying a gun.
Two days later — following a peaceful protest march to Tottenham police station organised by Duggan’s family — violence, arson attacks and looting erupted which sparked anarchy on the streets across the capital.
Rioters set cars alight, torched buildings, hurled Molotov cocktails at police, broke into sports stores to steal goods and, in one instance, even ransacked a McDonald’s and started cooking their own food.
Monika, originally from the small Polish city of Koronowo, was watching the riots unfold on her television in her two-bedroom flat in Croydon on August 8, when she heard breaking glass and shouting outside.
When she rushed downstairs, she saw dozens of looters smashing windows, running down the road with plasma TVs and starting fires. She ran back to her flat.
Unbeknown to Monika, the 140-year-old Reeves furniture store, just metres from where she lived, had been set ablaze. She was trapped.
Recalling the horror clearly for the first time in ten years, قالت: “I saw the flames so I tried to run out of the flat but there was smoke billowing down the hallway and flames were over my head. I was terrified.
“I ran back into my flat and phoned my sister Beata to tell her I was trapped and, if I didn’t get out, to tell my son that I loved him.
“I thought, ‘This is it. I am going to die’. But I just wanted another chance to live.”
Beata’s husband raced to the scene.
People stood underneath the window screaming at Monika to open it as she became overwhelmed by panic and fumes.
واصلت: “I eventually undid the window and climbed on to the ledge.
“I didn’t have time to think. I saw the policeman there with his arms open and heard him say, ‘Jump, jump, I’ve got you!"
“I remember someone had put carpet on the floor to soften the blow in case I hit the ground.
“And I jumped and he caught me. I just remember saying ‘Thank you’ and then I ran away.
“There was no hug, no more interaction. I was probably in a bit of shock, but also I just wanted to get away from there.
“I think God was looking down on me that day.”
‘HAPPIEST I’VE BEEN’
Rioter Gordon Thompson, ومن بعد 34, was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years for starting the fire.
The cost of the damage to London Road, Croydon, was £14million.
It is estimated to have been £300 million for the capital.
Monika’s jump was captured by photographer Amy Weston and became the iconic image of the London riots, making front pages around the world.
قالت: “I didn’t know anyone had taken the photo, but I saw it the next day. I couldn’t believe it. I initially wanted to just forget about it but now I realise it is a reminder that I survived.”
Monika only moved to London in March 2011, and had been living in the flat for mere weeks before the riots.
In the immediate aftermath, she returned to Poland to be with her family.
قالت: “I saw my mum and dad and thought about staying there. It had taken a lot out of me.
“But I knew I wanted to come back to England. I’d made a new life for myself and was determined to make it work. Britain is a wonderful place to call home.”
While night terrors and paranoia affected her day-to-day life at first, she soon settled back into life here.
Monika now lives in Purley with her five-year-old son Nathan, just two miles from her former torched flat which has been rebuilt.
قالت: “I feel very lucky to say my life has not been affected by it.
“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I have a job I like, a son I love and a partner who takes good care of me.
“I live fairly near my old flat but I’ve stayed away from that area. I have moved on from the riots and don’t want to drag it all up again by seeing where it happened.”
Selflessly, she holds no anger towards those who triggered the horror that night.
قالت: “If some of the rioters looked back today, maybe they wouldn’t do it again. But I don’t hold any grudges against anyone.
الأكثر قراءة في الأخبار
“Every day is like a gift and I’m just grateful to be alive.”
But Monika does have one regret — not properly thanking the mystery officer who saved her life.
قالت: “I have never met the policeman who caught me. I can’t remember what he looked like as it was so dark. I would like to thank him properly. He’s a hero.”