Woman who survived Chernobyl disaster as a three-year-old opens up on what happened to her

Woman who survived Chernobyl disaster as a three-year-old opens up on what happened to her

A woman who was just four months shy of her third birthday when the 1986 Chernobyl disaster occurred, is opening up about the reality of surviving the worst nuclear reactor disaster in history.

Janina Scarlet was a toddler when the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up, ultimately claiming thousands of lives just 180 miles from her hometown in Ukraine.

Take a look at the trailer to HBO's hit show Chernobyl:

While the tragic ordeal was not a fatal one for the now-35-year-old, it did change her life irrevocably.

"I don't remember much about the event itself," she explains in a piece for Women's Health. "But I recall heightened feelings of confusion around the time of the explosion, which transformed into a flurry of worries once we finally found out what had actually happened nearly two weeks later."

"It was only after other countries started realising something was wrong that our government notified us of the situation and recommended iodine treatments as a way to counter the potential health complications of Chernobyl's radioactive iodine emissions.

"But by that point, we'd been exposed to the radiation for weeks, simply from going outside, drinking the water and eating raw fruit - all of which were poisoned. "About six months later, people began to get sick. I was one of those people."

The damage inflicted on Scarlet's immune system by the radiation was so considerable that she would have to be taken to hospital for illnesses as seemingly innocuous as a simple cold.

She also started experiencing seizures, migraines and nosebleeds whenever the weather changed. Even the blood vessels in her eyes started popping, causing them to turn red.

Eventually, her family decided to move to New York where Scarlet was bullied for being 'radioactive'. Her mental health had taken such a hit, as a result, that she even considered ending her life.

At the age of 16, however, Scarlet began to find solace in the first of X-Men movies  because she felt so "connected to the characters"

"I saw mutants who, like me, had been exposed to radiation," she explained. "I remember crying happy tears during that movie."

x-men Credit: Marvel Entertainment Group

"I felt like I was watching myself on the screen. I wanted to join them. I wanted to be a part of the X-Men. That was the first time I realised that instead of being a victim, I was a survivor.

After watching that movie, I took my first psychology class in high school. Now, I'm a psychologist who specialises in using superheroes and other fictional stories to help people manage their trauma."

It was only after Scarlet turned 31 that she was able to talk about the ordeal and still finds it a difficult subject to discuss.

"Watching HBO's Chernobyl mini-series is another thing - even viewing the pilot was difficult, painful and overwhelming," she said.

"Seeing some of the characters being dismissive of the seriousness of the situation while seeing others dying from radiation sickness reminded me of the horrors that many of our people went through."