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Reach for the Moon

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One afternoon, heading for a track and field practise, I did not make it to the other side of the street. A taxi cab came around the corner and hit me when I was walking across. I suffered some serious internal damage and a permanent spinal cord injury. It took away the life I had known. For months I cried myself to sleep. Nothing prepared me for what would happen next.

I had to learn everything from scratch - how to dress, how to go to the bathroom- but every day I discovered I could do more. In the spring of 1976, I qualified for the upcoming para Olympics. Like a typical 20 year old with a lot more confidence than experience, I made an immediate decision that would change my whole life. I’m staying in Canada.

That year, the big games were in Montreal, and the para Olympics were in Toronto. With the help from some quick thinking police officers and a Hungarian speaking taxi driver in no time I was in proper hands. The Canadian immigration officials hid me in a secret location and took me under their protective wing, somewhat like a spy novel. When I imagined defecting, I pictured myself alone, speaking no English and sleeping on park bench. Instead, everything turned out so much easier.

I quickly made new friends, learned English, and made a new home in downtown Toronto. I went to school, had jobs, and experienced all kinds of new adventures that new immigrants often have in the process of building a new life. My defection in 1976 set in motion a chain reaction that resulted in my whole family settling in the west. The last to leave Hungary was my grandmother, who lived to be 96 years old and passed away surrounded by her family. Today I have been in Canada for 37 years. I enjoy a simple, but good life. I am still trying to expand my horizons by reading a lot, doing volunteer work and interacting with folks from all kinds of cultures.

Nothing prepared me when I become disabled. And nothing prepared me when I immigrated But in a way, one new beginning prepared me for another new beginning. There are so many possibilities when starting a new life.

I was saved by my young healthy body, a supportive family and a strong will to live.

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