Although he came back home on a wheelchair, he says he does not hold a grudge against anybody about what happened on a mission. “I went to Afghanistan (PMC, 7th rotation) as a soldier under the Polish flag. I heard the flag’s flutter over my head all the time”, he says. On July 27, 2010, we were on patrol over ten kilometers away from Warrior Base, and IED exploded under our IFV. Six soldiers were wounded.
“I was paralyzed from my chest down. I didn’t realize the scale of my wounds. When I saw my first scars, I thought »how am I to go to the beach with that?«”, he says. It turned out he had three spinal fractures, and he was diagnosed with paraplegia, but also with hearing impairment, and spleen and liver damage. He returned home, and started his journey of many months through the hospitals: in Bydgoszcz, Warsaw, Ciechocinek and sanatoriums. Gradually, he would regain his sensation of touch, and then he knew that only rehabilitation could help him.
He started to learn how to walk anew. The first distance he covered was with the help of two four-legged crutches, and was 20 meters. He would gradually increase the distance, and the next he did was to replace the four-leg crutches with the regular ones. Finally, he walked over 20 meters on his own. However, he still uses his wheelchair on longer distances.
“In the first year, I hoped my condition was temporary. However, it turned out I would never be as fit as before. I felt like taken hostage by my own body. It was very hard for me to reconcile with the thought I have to ask for help even in trivial situations. For a young man I was then it was tough to accept that”, he recalls. Today he says he came to terms with his new reality, but he has never really accepted it. He is aware he is doomed to rehabilitation treatment until the end of his life.
He decided not to lock himself within the four walls of his home, and go out to people. He engaged in activities for the wounded soldiers. “It is important that we speak as one in that matter”, he emphasizes. Mariusz’s personal passion has become old motorcycles, which he renovates. The first machine he restored was Komar motorbike from 1976 for his teenage son. “I give them their second life”, he says.
He is one of the most injured soldiers in the Polish team at Invictus Games. During trainings for the games, it turned out he has strong hands and easily manages the bow. He tried other competitions, too, but he has the best results in archery. “I went in sporting rivalry, because I want to prove myself and come out of the shadow”, he says.
Health impairment: 100%
Missions: PMC Afghanistan 7th rotation
Discipline: archery, light athletics (shot-put and discus throw)
autor zdjęć: Michał Niwicz