Second Letter from Alex

Dear friends,

In October 2011, my life changed dramatically. As a law student at Columbia University in New York, I was starting my second year and finalizing job offers. Then, during a celebratory road trip to Vermont, a driving mistake caused another car to collide with ours, exactly into my passenger seat. The miracles started early – I survived, I retained control of my lungs, I regained my ability to speak. Still, I am now paralyzed from the chest down. A very high (C5), complete cervical spine fracture means that, after more than a year of intensive physical therapy, I remain wheelchair-bound and unable to use or feel my wrists and hands.

My new life, my new body, is not easy to accept. I need complete assistance with eating, bathing, setting up a computer, and the countless other activities of daily living. Constantly, I redefine the words independence, control, adulthood. I struggle, knowing that I demand more of my loved ones than ever before, and in some ways can help them the least.

Amidst all that pain, this has been an amazing time in my life. I have witnessed such kindness and generosity, such boundless friendship and unflinching faith, that life has never been more worth living. The Polish community, in Chicago and beyond, has humbled me with its collective charity. Our first fundraisers made me believe that my long-standing dreams of working in international politics were still achievable. The accessible minivan we then purchased allowed me to focus my energy on getting back to school, rather than arranging rides. Of course, it is not only my fellow Poles who have helped – it’s the students and teachers at my elementary and middle schools, my fellow law students, friends from high school, Georgetown, and NYU. It’s absolute strangers who have dropped a few quarters into a box at the grocery store: at every turn, people have believed in my ambition, helping me return to the life path I had chosen, long before I checked if it was wheelchair accessible.

To offer a “thank you” when faced with magnanimity so overwhelming and gratitude so complete, seems too small. Instead, I will tell you this: I’m on the way! I am back in New York, happily welcomed at Columbia, terrified but thrilled to be a law student again.

Still, at least financially, the most difficult part of my journey is far from over. In New York, I pay out of pocket for full-time hired caregiving, an accessible apartment, and additional physical therapy. Even though I’m back at school, I reconsider my budget monthly, to see if I can stay. At least for the next two years, before I enter the legal profession, I will continue relying on the financial assistance of others to meet my expenses. I am infinitely grateful to those who have made my return to New York possible, and infinitely hopeful that I can find the continued assistance I need to reach my goals. I am devoted to honoring every contribution with my work ethic and determination to one day pay it forward.


Alex Blaszczuk


To read the original letter from Alex, please click here.