Voices from Russia

Thursday, 8 September 2016

“I’m Possible”… On the Anglo Rape of the 2016 Paralympics

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Recently, a good friend of mine called me. He told me that he broke his leg. My friend is very athletic and he was supposed to compete in a triathlon for which he trained for many months. We started talking; my friend started complaining about the situation:

Can you just IMAGINE, Aleksei, I trained for so long and now I won’t be able to run…

Right after saying that, I think he realised what that made me feel like, and there was an uncomfortable silence, that I broke by making some joke.

Friends, I can very well imagine what it’s like to not be able to run or jump. I’ll tell you something else… all my life I’ve tried to imagine the exact opposite. I tried to imagine what it’s like to do those things… to run, jump, and walk. I imagine that when I wake up I won’t have to look for my little cart next to my bed, but I can just stand up on my own legs. I imagine myself running, pushing my body of the ground with me legs, and for microseconds between the steps soaring above ground. I have to imagine these things, friends, because I was born without legs and with just one arm. However, in all my life I’ve not gotten to run or jump… in fact, I haven’t even walked a single step. Nevertheless, I don’t complain about my life… in fact, I love life!

My mentors at the Soviet Orphanage №2 in the city of Tsurupinsk taught me everything I needed to live. I also managed to find other disabled people and we started an organisation called CITY, which in Russian stands for Commonwealth of Working and Active Disabled People… an organisation for people who love life and want to live. I, as well as our organisation, used to help the Ukraine’s Paralympic Team. Many members of the team were also members of our organisation. Many Paralympic athletes, unlike me, were born “normal”… with arms and legs, without thinking that they could lose them… unfortunately, due to accidents or tragedies, these guys and girls lost their limbs and became disabled.

One of the goals of CITY was to teach people who became disabled to not just live and work, but to learn to LOVE LIFE again. Very often, sport helped people find new reasons to and spirit to live. I personally know a lot of people, who after becoming disabled, didn’t straight out kill themselves, only because they were able to discover (or rediscover) sports and joined the Paralympic movement. A lot of them came to us and said something like:

I lost my limbs two years ago, hated life, I just wanted to lie down and die. But then I saw the Paralympic Games on TV, I saw what people with injuries even worse than mine were doing, and I started to love life once again!

I personally know several hundred people like that. Around the world, millions of disabled people stopped waiting for death after seeing the Paralympic Games! That’s why, friends, when I started my Facebook page, I chose a picture from the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi. Then, at the 2014 opening ceremony, Tetris pieces spelled out the word “impossible”… then, they transformed into “I’M POSSIBLE”. That’s what Paralympians teach all of us… able-bodied or disabled. They teach us that all of us are possible, that we can be stronger than circumstances, pain, fate, and misery! Paralympians don’t get huge cash prizes. They don’t throw parties in Monaco. They don’t “pick up” girls in expensive cars. What they do though, is day in, and day out, ignoring pain and suffering, they overcome themselves. Every time these heroes compete, they inspire people around the world to discover new reasons to live.

Today, the Paralympic Games opening in Rio they will open without the Russian team… one of the strongest teams! Philip Craven (the head of Paralympic Committee) deprived the Russian team of a chance to compete at the Games. His actions were both illegal and vile! However, he didn’t just deprive Russian disabled athletes of a chance to compete… he deprived hundreds or maybe thousands of disabled people a chance to see these heroes, to find new meaning in life! So, there will be people who, without being inspired by our Russian Paralympic heroes, will start drinking or even climb into a warm bath to cut their wrists… all these rebroken lives of people who won’t rediscover the joy of life. People whose tragedies won’t have a happy end. Philip Craven’s illegal decision is the direct cause of their blood and suffering!

It’s too late for the Russian Paralympic team to compete in the Games… that’ll make the Games a parody of themselves. However, today, Russian winter Paralympic athletes are also in danger of not competing in the 2018 Games. I, Aleksei Zhuravko, a former activist for disabled people in the Ukraine, ask the Paralympic Committee to override Craven’s criminal decision. They should allow Russian Paralympians to compete and inspire millions around the world with their heroism!

7 September 2016

Aleksei Zhuravko

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