He runs, he swims, he rides a bike. He also does kick-boxing and Thai boxing. He proves that physical disability does not mean lack of active life. He participated in the Spitsbergen expedition and in international bike marathons organized by US Army Command in Europe, and he has also learned how to scuba dive.
He comes from a family of military traditions. His grandfather fought in the Battle of Monte Casino, his father was a parachutist. For himself, military service was fulfilling his child’s dream. In 2011, he went for his first mission – to Afghanistan. “I wanted to test myself. I would go again”, he ensures.
This was the day when they had the infamous “IEDs Strasse” scheduled on their patrol route – this was how soldiers called the road where the Taliban often hid their improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The IFV, where Tomasz was a gunner, drove onto an explosive, turned upside down and crushed his left hand. When he woke up several days later in Bagram hospital he learnt his hand had been amputated. He went through another operations in Ramstein.
“Some veterans say it’s better to die than come back as an invalid. I never thought that,” he says. His accident turned his life upside down. During rehabilitation he met other veterans, also very much injured on missions. It was not easy at the time, but older and more experienced colleagues helped him. He understood he wanted to continue his military service. After his medical treatment, he was one of the first soldiers with an NCO course to have got the category of “capable for military service, with limitations”. Today he works in the Operational Command of the Branches of the Armed Forces as a junior NCO. He claims that he has a debt of gratitude to pay off. He is still looking for new challenges. He is boxing with boxers medically fit. “Sport gives me the feeling that you can be fit despite your disability. It has given me strength and helped to become a better man,” he emphasizes. He posts short films on his trainings online. But he also instructs on how to tie your shoe. Tomasz wants other injured soldiers to see that if you really want something, you can do it.
He wrote and produced a song with a rapper Dominik “Doniu” Grabowski: “Walkę mamy we krwi” (“Fight is in our blood” – video is available on YouTube). The title relates to contemporary veterans, the former guardians of peace in the most dangerous places in the world. Their fight did not end upon their return home. This song is dedicated to all those who every day fight with their hardships, and as long as they fight, they are heroes.
Tomasz will soon face another challenge in the Invictus Games. “I would like to win a medal not to fail all those who are counting on me,” he says.
Health impairment: 65%
Missions: PMC Afghanistan 9th rotation
Discipline: swimming, light athletics (running), indoor rowing, sitting volleyball
autor zdjęć: Michał Niwicz