“We are all moving forward; you have to learn to live with what you have. ”
For Stefania, happiness is to be found in small things, and her family brings her the greatest satisfaction. She is the mother of four children – the eldest daughter is 22 years old and the youngest son is 11.
She believes that we can learn from all of the situations we go through, from the good things that happen to us, as well as from the bad things. She is a nurse by profession, so she is used to managing difficult situations. Stefania does not like to complain, and she would rather find the good parts of everything that happens to her. She considers that we are responsible for our choices.
In October 2011, Stefania had an accident: she was hit by a cart, and her spine was fractured at the level of the L1 vertebra, in the lumbar area. Since then, she has been using a wheelchair to move around. Her little son was 1 year old, at the time of the accident. Strong and confident, with her husband and children supporting her, Stefania learned to do everything again, this time in a different way. She goes through all the days and does not give up anything she likes: having walks and enjoying the nature, travelling, preparing delicious desserts or handicrafts, which decorate almost every corner of their house.
The lack of accessibility for people in wheelchairs bothers her and she writes complaints when things do not go as they should. In the past, she used to work and live in Spain and she remembers that accessibility was not an issue there. It was natural to see wheelchair users everywhere in the community. At the time of the accident, it was difficult for Stefania and her husband. They lived with four small children in the city, on the second floor, in a block of flats. Over time, they managed to build a house in Maramureș County, outside the city, with the help of their families and friends. This way, everything became easier. The two spouses adapted the new home for Stefania’s needs. They enjoy the proximity of nature and for them nothing is tastier than the vegetables and fruits picked from their own garden.
Last year, in June, Stefania and her husband walked 700 kilometers on the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, one of the oldest such routes in Europe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the way, Stefania used a handbike received from Motivation, which attaches to the wheelchair and helps her to travel on long roads, on different types of terrain. They traveled between Romania and Spain for two days by bus, because the flights were canceled due to the pandemic. “On the first day on the Camino, in Pamplona, it was very difficult, a bad stone road and we were caught in the rain. It was difficult to find accommodation, most of them closed. We walked for days and did not meet other pilgrims. It’s very difficult, mentally, not only physically, to go that far, but it’s worth it. ”
Next year they plan to continue their journey, this time on the Camino de Portugal, a route of about 1,000 kilometers. Until then, the two spouses explore beautiful places in Romania and write about their experiences on their blog Travelling with wheels, and also on Instagram and Facebook. “I want to show people that isolation is just a choice/ personal conditioning for people with disabilities, and that, if you really want something, you can do it: you can travel, you can go to the seaside or the mountains, you can do anything,” says Stefania.
In recent years, Stefania has served as a volunteer mentor at Motivation and has provided independent living guidance over the phone for other women who have recently started using wheelchairs.
Take a look below, at some pictures showing a day from Stefania’s life.
The story of Stefania was written within the project “Advocacy for community access for wheelchair users”, implemented by Motivation Romania Foundation in partnership with Segoia Association, with financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, a program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the SEE Grants 2014-2021. The project aims to support the social inclusion of people with disabilities by improving the mobility and health of wheelchair users.
More information about the project can be found by accessing the link https://motivation.ro/en/abilities-and-rights-matter/.
Working together for an inclusive Europe.
Story written by: Bogdan Dinca, Erika Garnier
Pictures: Bogdan Dinca