It was 1996. He was a sniper during the first rotation of IFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He served in the 16th Air Assault Battalion of the 6th Air Assault Brigade.
“Unfortunately, I had no luck that day. The explosion was on my duty”, he says. He lost his leg in the explosion of anti-personnel mine, and spent a year in hospital. Today, he uses prosthesis to walk.
At first, he was ashamed of his disability. He would cover his artificial leg with long, loose pants. He’s been feeling like that for years. “The breakthrough came in 2014, when I went to the seaside with my family. It was then that I had put short pants for the first time”, he recalls. He became a member of the Association of Soldiers Wounded and Injured in the Missions Abroad. Meeting other wounded in missions veterans and talking to them helped him to come back to normal. He felt he was not alone. Today, he thinks his artificial leg is nothing abnormal. “Presently, I have a prosthesis which allows me to move around very well, I can even run. The social reception of the injured soldiers has also changed: they used to be »military invalids«, and today they’re simply »veterans«. There’s a difference”, he emphasizes.
„If I had not become a soldier, I would have been a sportsman”, he says. Jan likes to talk about his passion. Such as, for example, his playing in the Amp Futbol Szombierki Bytom in the team of people with disabilities. In Poland, this is a niche sport discipline. The rules are practically the same as in regular football: there is one ball and two goals. In order to move freely and dynamically, the players must use specialist elbow crutches.
In the Amp Futbol Szombierki Bytom, he played with the Kuloodporni Bielsko-Biała team in 2017, and they won a brown medal in the Polish championship in this discipline. The medal was an award for all the effort, but equally important was the rivalry, breaking barriers, and the feeling of the fighting spirit. “Unfortunately, I had to withdraw, because this discipline is extremely exhausting in addition to fast running with my crutches, which is very bad for my healthy leg as it weighs it down too much”, says Jan.
His eye of a military sniper comes in useful today, because Jan trains archery. He does not think it an easy activity. His 13-year-old daughter, Weronika, who also shoots a bow, accompanies him at the shooting range. His wife Agnieszka also supports him, and goes to trainings with him. Jan is joking that her task is to hand him discuses, as this is another discipline he trains. His commandant of the Military Recruitment Command in Rybnik, where Jan works, also is favorably disposed to his sporting passions.
Jan concludes: “I train hard to try and score the best possible result in the Invictus Games. I don’t know if I’m successful and get a medal, but, really, is this what the victory is about?”
Health impairment: 85%
Missions: IFOR Bosnia and Herzegovina
Discipline: sitting volleyball, archery, light athletics (shot-put and discus throw)
autor zdjęć: Michał Niwicz