KyivPost

Great victories of invisible people

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Sept. 13, 2012, 10:48 p.m. | None — by Victoria Kliushyna

Ukrainian paralympians come back from London, greeted in Boryspil airport on Sept. 11
© Kostyantyn Chernichkin

Disabled people are commonly ignored in this part of the world. When people occasionally take notice of them, they often turn away and try to show indifference.

But luckily, some events are impossible to ignore. The London Paralympics, which ended on Sept. 9, was one of them. 

It was a remarkable event for the world. The athletes got recognition for their commitment, professionalism and talents.

Ukrainians received one more reason to be proud for their nation.

And millions of persons with disabilities, like me – with cerebral palsy – got a hugely inspiring event, showing that the seemingly impossible could be possible.

This Paralympics became a glory of Ukraine’s team that took fourth place in world ranking with 32 gold, 24 silver and 28 bronze medals. The only ones who scored higher are much bigger nations and traditional sports giants – China, Great Britain and Russia.

Swimmer Nataliia Prologaieva became the undisputed queen of this Paralympics. She brought home three gold and one silver medal, and two world records.

They are not handicapped. They are fighters worthy of admiration for their willpower and bravery.
Our government promises that every medal winner will receive a cash prize. While money comes in handy, it won’t help Paralympians to solve all of their problems.

Many things in Ukraine don’t allow people with disabilities to feel as equal members of society.
I imagine how life of disabled people would have changed if our government members had spent at least one day in a wheelchair. Then I think we would see how quickly handy and accessible ramps, toilets, elevators and rails would appear in the Ukrainian cities.

Our Paralympians are used to fighting – fighting for everything: for life, for the ability to travel around the city, for survival on a meager pension, for getting to the front of long lines…

The Paralympics were launched thanks to English neurosurgeon Ludwig Guttmann, who believed in sports as part of rehabilitation therapy for patients with spinal cord traumas. He proved that sport could help the disabled people to overcome their both physical and physiological problems.

In 1948 Guttmann organized an athletic day for the World War II veterans. These games became a prototype of the modern Paralympics.

Guttmann had a goal to create Olympic games for athletes with physical disabilities. Today, looking at the amazing success of Paralympics, there’s just one thing left to say: Bravo, bravo Mr. Guttmann!
Paralympians are certainly the pride of nation. But their medals were won long before the start of the games. They were won in the unglamorous struggles that millions of us, people with disabilities, conquer every day.

Kyiv Post staff writer Victoria Kliushyna can be reached at vicy13@meta.ua.

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