Regardless of this year’s honorary title of Youth Capital of Europe, Novi Sad is one of the few European capitals that confirms the truth of the popular saying that the world remains to young people.

The best representative of youth empowerment in society, considered by many to be the heroine of Serbian sport, is the Paralympic national team of Serbia in tequondo, world champion in paratecondo and the student of painting at the Academy of Classical Painting in Novi Sad, Dejana Backo. This 20-year-old above-average girl is a native of Backa Palanka and moved to Serbian Athens four years ago.

I came to Novi Sad in 2015 when I enrolled for the second year at the Academy, but at that time my family moved to Novi Sad so I did not live alone. I am currently living with an assistant.

Dejana is the first Serbian Paralympic athlete to become world champion in Tekvondo when she won a gold medal this year at the World Paralympic Championship in Tekvondo in Turkey, and we were interested in what a training of an athlete with disabilities in Novi Sad looks like and whether in a short period of time it is tiring to become a professional from beginner:

Training athletes with disabilities is not much different from training other athletes. The only difference is that there is no head-to-head contact in the parathekwondo. I have training sessions every day, and before the competition twice a day. It is not easy to achieve the result, it does not come overnight and is not harvested from the tree, it takes a lot of effort and investment, a lot of training and sweat.

Thanks to his sporting success, which has already enrolled her in the history of Serbian sports, as well as her artistic talent and work despite her disability, she has publicly praised, Mayor of Novi Sad Milos Vucevic publicly praised the importance of Dejan’s social engagement, saying that every encounter with Dejan Backo he encourages her to do her job better, and the way in which she encourages Dejan to be publicly supported by the mayor of the city from which she has achieved success so far, describes us in the following words: First of all, I have to thank Mayor Vucevic for having repeatedly supported me in various ways. It’s great when someone recognizes your work and effort and rewards you for it. Mayor Vucevic is one of those individuals, he recognized my work and helped me and supported me to improve it and to achieve new successes, both in my private life and in sports.

When she speaks to the media, she calls herself a “girl with wings” although as a world champion in sports she is more suited to the epithet of a golden girl, however, not everyone knew by now how Dejana became a “girl with wings”:

I got the nickname “girl with wings” in the show “Life of stories” by Tatjana Vojtehovski, and since then everyone calls me a girl with wings, although I have no hands, everyone sees that I have wings.

Dejana is a person who has a rare form of disability, which is in fact a global phenomenon because the person is born without hands, and because of a congenital disability, she first encountered childhood discrimination. From our perspective, Dejana speaks from her perspective about how Novi Sad residents treat persons with disabilities, since the very goal of the state policy is the fight against discrimination, and Dejana also faced discrimination in Novi Sad city transport when she, as a disabled person, has priority , but no one wanted to get up so she would sit down.

As new times come, so do better times for people with disabilities. Society is slowly but surely changing, ignoring the problems of people with disabilities as before. Discrimination is decreasing, architectural barriers are being largely removed, personal assistance is consolidating and expanding, people’s awareness is changing, and the rights of persons with disabilities are being improved and put into practice. It is true that discrimination and inequality will never be eradicated and will always exist, but we must strive and strive to manifest them as little as possible.

Out of the Novi Sad districts, which in the breaks between training and commitments in the faculty, it most likes to visit the following locations:

In addition to the Fortress, my favorite are Kej and Štrand, I visit them often, relax, rest and sometimes take pictures. I also have paragliding training at the Fortress that I started training from this year.

Towards the end of the interview, Dejana, as Paralympic World Champion in Tequondo and a student of painting who was not prevented by disability in her life and work, sent a motivational message to all young people with disabilities with strong elements of anti-discrimination measures:

What I want to say to all young people with disabilities is to fight for themselves and their rights, to fight discrimination, because if we do not start with ourselves and our problems, we will never improve our condition and we will never overcome the problem that concerns everyone us, which is discrimination.

Anđela Zec

Photos courtesy of Dejan Backo from the private archive

* The story was created within the project “The most beautiful stories about Novi Sad”, which is realized by the Remix Association, which is financed by Omladinski savez udruženja „Novi Sad omladinska prestonica Evrope – OPENS 2019“