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A woman who survived the Chernobyl disaster has spoken out about her childhood and illnesses, saying that watching the Marvel movie X-Men at the age of 16 changed her life.
Janina Scarlet was almost three when the power plant exploded, just 180 miles from her home town in Ukraine.
"I don't remember much about the event itself," explained Janina, writing in Womens 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."
Janina's immune system was so damaged from the radiation that she would have to go to hospital with even the simplest cold. Other side effects included having seizures, migraines and nosebleeds when the weather changed - her eyes would turn red because her blood vessels would pop.
Her family decided to relocate to New York, where Janina found she was teased for being 'radioactive'. Things got so bad she considered suicide, but when she was 16, she found solace in an unlikely place - the first X-Men film.
She continued: "I saw mutants who, like me, had been exposed to radiation. I remember crying happy tears during that movie, because I felt so connected to the characters.
"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."
Janina was 31 before she felt able to talk about her experience, and still finds it a difficult subject.
She added: "Watching HBO's Chernobyl mini-series is another thing - even viewing the pilot was difficult, painful and overwhelming.
"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."
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