Roxana Dobrica (35) has been a renowned athlete for many years, despite the many adversities life keeps throwing at her. Now she is about to publish a painfully honest book about her all but boresome life. YouLife met the sympathetic sportsgirl who by the way also works as a professional model.
Corona spoils many plans. Which are yours at the moment? Are there actually any contests you are training for?
Corona spoils everything, not just plans! My path in sports has been suspended due to health problems since last summer. Until then, I had a clear goal and that was to participate in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Due to this pandemic, it has as, all other events, been postponed to 2021, but I can no longer participate because of lack of preparation. I still hope to be able to return to the race one day, participating in numerous para-cycling competitions as I did. But the pandemic limits me a lot more, I suffer especially from the restrictions for travel which mean that I cannot travel to Romania to visit my family. It’s really hard to be so long away from family and this makes me lose my mind a little.
How did you fall for hand-biking and what do you love so much about it?
I got in touch with this awesome sport in early 2017 when a group of para-cycling athletes from Brescia gave me the opportunity to try out one of their bikes. I fell in love as soon as I started pedalling, I fell in love with the feeling of freedom that the bike offers you. And then, the bike gives me the possibility to know a new world, to travel and meet a lot of amazing people.
Your second branch is modelling for the famous agency of Iulia Barton, e.g. taking part in the Milan Fashion Week. What did you have to learn to become a professional wheelchair model? Thinking of models, we all think of this special stroll. Is there a special roll, too, or what is it all about?
I met Giulia Bartoccioni, the owner of this great inclusive modeling agency in Romenia many years ago and in the fall of 2016, after a long period of depression and after a year full of the worst events, I accepted her proposal to join the agency and take part in the event they organized for the next fashion week. I accepted because I wanted a positive change in my life and I wanted to meet girls in my condition and learn from them but also because the Iulia Barton agency participates in the financing of the Vertical Foundation which aims to advance scientific research towards the treatment of paralysis caused by trauma to the spinal cord. That was when I opened up to the world of disability, looking at my body with different eyes, and started to accept the wheelchair as part of my life. They make castings for those who want to join, but the principles they choose models according to, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t consider myself a supermodel, at least not in fashion.
Are you personally choosing your clothes differently now with the knowledge of a wheelchair model? Do you have tips for being dressed comfortably and attractively as a wheelchair user?
I choose my clothes according to my taste and I usually do not ask for advice, but yes, it is true, as a wheelchair user, even the clothes are not fit anymore. There are some outfits that I can’t wear as much as I would like. But no matter the situation, I try to keep up with fashion and at the same time feel as comfortable as possible.
Italy is known as very wheelchair-friendly. As someone who travels a lot: What do you miss in other countries, what can other countries learn from Italy concerning accessibility? Is it just about buildings or is it about people, too?
Italy is by no means a “very” wheelchair accessible country but it is a country where, with a little help, you can manage having a normal life. Architectural barriers are quite common in Italy but people are kind and open-minded, many of them jump to your aid when needed.
The most accessible place I travelled was California – I can say that there you can walk freely anywhere without worrying too much about barriers, be it architectural or mental.
You bravely came out of seven years of depression after your accident. What helped you most? Did you seek professional help?
– The pain, the fatigue and all the other bad things made me understand I must change something in my life. I was tired of living that way. I lived through a pretty long time when depression took me to the darkest places, and after another trial of life, a pretty serious health problem which got me back to the hospital and to the operating room, I felt it was the time to start to fight for my life, to give myself a chance to be happy, no matter if I walk or I roll around. And look at me now, I did well to make that decision! My mistake as many others I made was that I didn’t accept professional help. They tried to convince me when I was in the hospital for a rehabilitation session that was better for me to accept talking with the psychologist there, but I said no. Now I think that my situation would have been different if I had accepted professional help.
Besides being a sports champion and a model, you support others by visiting hospitals and giving speeches at schools about traffic security. How do you manage to sufficiently care for yourself? What gives you strength?
Going to schools in Brescia and the province of Brescia with my friends from the Active Sport Leonessa Association and getting involved in their activities was a wonderful experience. Telling to the people what living with a disability means – it’s necessary! Many of them don’t know what it means and they think we are sick and limited to live our life. Talking to the children about traffic security is very important, too. Given that I’m using a wheelchair because of a car accident I can well give my testimonial, but it is also about telling them it’s good to accept other kids who have a disability, to not marginalize them, and many other things. It’s so nice to talk to the children, respond to their curiosity … Unfortunately, I can’t do these things now, not only because of the virus, but also because I’m in Germany and I cannot speak the language so well. I like to be able to help and I would love to get more involved in Paralympic sports and volunteer, helping people with disabilities enjoy their lives!
Giving hope to others is also the reason why you wrote your amazing story down. What can you tell us about your book and when will it be released?
This autobiographical book, “Jungle of the Soul”, is the latest thing I have been doing, using the time that Covid gives us, and am really proud of it. Writing this book was a pretty difficult process. I had to go back in time, relive the sufferings of my childhood, relive the day of my car accident, go through the ordeal of depression once again, but I also relived my triumph – regaining my life, starting living the dreams I had kept locked in a dusty drawer, giving me a chance to fall in love and be loved. I believe this book can help a lot of people. They can find inspiration in my words – I hope so! It will be released in April on Amazon in e-book format and paperback. I’m so excited!
Good luck, Roxana, with this book and all your amazing projects! Thanks for taking the time, and keep on rolling!
Meet Roxana on her social media accounts: @roxanad.official
Watch the trailer of “Jungle of the soul”:
Get your copy:
Interview in German on YouLife.Rocks