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Man Sets Self on Fire at Red Cross Office

March 10, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Polish man walked into an office of an international relief agency Thursday and committed suicide by setting himself on fire in front of two workers.

The man had been ranting in broken English about human rights violations in his homeland just before he poured gasoline on the floor and himself, and started the blaze.

``He screamed, and then became very quiet,″ said Eigil Petersen, director of the New York branch of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. ``The tragic thing is, he felt he had to commit suicide.″

Officer Jacqueline Jacknow, a police spokeswoman, said the man was going to be deported to Poland.

``He went in today and said if they didn’t assist him he would set himself on fire,″ Jacknow said.

The man rebuffed efforts to send him to the Polish consulate or the United Nations, said Debra Bunt, the other Red Cross worker who witnessed the immolation.

``He said he wouldn’t listen to us, and he wouldn’t leave the office,″ Petersen said.

The man threatened to blow up the office, and as in previous visits, complained about genocide and human rights violations in Poland, Petersen said. Because of his thick accent, the witnesses couldn’t tell whose rights the man thought were being violated.

The 45-year-old man was dead when paramedics arrived on the 21st floor of the midtown Manhattan office tower, EMS spokesman David Billig said. A single piece of paper with what is believed to be the man’s name was recovered after the fire.

Only a few staff members work in the office, which deals mostly with relief for disaster victims.

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