Poland midfielder and captain Jakub Blaszczykowski has lived with the horror for more than 16 years.
"This was something I wanted to forget about. But there are things that you can't escape from," the player, known as Kuba, told public TV in a rare interview aired again this week.
Born in a small village in southern Poland, Kuba almost gave up football after the tragedy but thanks to the encouragement of his uncle, former Poland captain Jerzy Brzeczek, he resumed training three months later.
For years he was stuck playing in youth teams in Poland's lower leagues before then champions Wisla Krakow plucked him from obscurity at the age of 19. Within a year he had won his first international cap.
"I lost my reason for living. But I returned to the right path because of my uncle and my grandmother," Blaszczykowski said.
Blaszczykowski has often referred to the role of his grandmother Felicja who raised him after his father was imprisoned and he dedicates every goal he scores to his mother's memory.
That was evident when he fell to his knees and raised his eyes and hands to the sky after smashing in a superb equalising goal for the co-hosts in their politically-charged Group A match against Russia on Tuesday.
"I am perfectly certain that my mother is watching over me up there," he said.
Kuba's father Zygmunt was released from prison a couple of years ago but died shortly before Euro 2012.
The Borussia Dortmund player, along with his older brother Dawid, attended the funeral even though they did not keep in touch with him after the tragedy.
Blaszczykowski is an unusual footballer in many ways, dipping in and out of the celebrity lifestyle.
The handsome 27-year-old was the recent face of a Hugo Boss advertising campaign in Poland and at the same time is involved in Polish popular Catholic movement "I am not ashamed of Jesus."
His stunning strike earned Poland a vital point against the Russians and kept them on course for a place in the quarter-finals but he was keen to play down his role.
"I really do approach this with some distance. Every single game has its hero," he told the broadcaster TVN24.
"What happened yesterday, it is already insignificant. Saturday's game (against the Czech Republic) - that's what counts now."
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