When she was 16 years old, Maja Kazazic’s life changed forever. In the summer of 1993, two years into the Bosnian War – a genocide that killed 250,000 people and injured millions – a rocket propelled grenade exploded in her courtyard destroying her home and killing five of her friends. Her legs were shattered in the blast, and her face and arm were peppered with shrapnel.
Maja was treated in a local makeshift basement hospital that lacked medical supplies and antibiotics. Her left leg became infected and over the next couple of months flesh was cut from her leg until she eventually underwent an amputation – all without the benefit of anesthesia.
Kazazic lay close to death when she was selected to be one of three children evacuated for treatment. She left her home and her family with only a teddy bear, a t-shirt and a rock. As people in Maja’s new hometown of Cumberland, Maryland learned of her story, the community volunteered their time, money, and effort to make her whole again.
Maja was determined to succeed; she had the will to overcome any obstacle. Despite the challenges presented to her as a below-the-knee amputee, she was able to build a new life beyond anyone’s expectations. She learned how to walk again, finished high school and college, and eventually started a very successful software company whose clients included Fortune 100 companies. She has since learned to windsurf, play tennis and golf, and even run. She completed her first 5K in 2009.
As a result of the tragedy she endured, Maja was left with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which left her living through constant panic attacks and night terrors, rendering her unable to function at times. On the recommendation of her clinician, Maja adopted Rosie, an amputee Great Dane, and they have been an inseparable pair ever since. With Rosie’s help, Kazazic’s PTSD symptoms have abated. Kazazic and Rosie have given hope and inspiration to countless people with limb loss and those struggling with the adjustment and depression.
Kazazic has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s World, the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, CTV, BBC News, and on the Discovery Health Network.
A screenplay is currently being written about her remarkable journey.
“Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate you willingness to join us for this special event. Your work to inspire people around the world is truly admirable. You should be very proud of all you have accomplished. Keep up the good work and know that we appreciate all that you do. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you.”
-Mike Fasano, Florida State Senator
“I was in the audience as Maja spoke to an audience of school business professionals and she had the room riveted with the tales of her life experience — and how those experiences relate to our current context while motivating us to do more as individuals. She emphasized that every one of us makes a big difference in the small things we do, decisions we make, and the way we treat each other. She tells a critical message in this time of political division.”
-Katy Anthes, Ph.D., Colorado Commissioner of Education
“Maja is not only great at speaking, but she is also a wonderful listener when it comes to preparing to speak to your group. She took the time to really understand my group and the message I wanted her to emphasize with them while telling her story. Her story was very down-to-earth, touching, and encouraging. I personally walked away with an inspirational message as well as a set of tools to follow in my own path to success.”
-Jessie Schneide, ABWA Chapter President
“She was absolutely amazing. I think Maja’s message of overcoming any hardship in life with a positive attitude was exactly what our team needed to hear, especially since she spoke to us only a few weeks after the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Even in the moments where she was facing the most terrifying reality, her choice to be positive made all the difference. I love that her message was one for all people, not focused on any particular business aspect. I would recommend her for any type of event, and will be recommending her for future events.”
-Sara Levinson, HR Director, Nevada Donor Network
Christa Haberstock Colson