Only Baby Born Inside Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Is Now 'Healthy Student'
The only baby to be born within the Chernobyl exclusion zone is now a healthy 19-year-old student.
Mariyka was born in 1999 deep inside the exclusion zone, which has been in place since the 1986 disaster.
Her parents, Mikhail and Lydia Sovenko refused to leave the 19-mile exclusion zone because they were not offered evacuation housing. Her father was one of the firefighters called to work on the night of the nuclear meltdown.
They remained in their family home near to reactor number four, which exploded in the catastrophic accident. Although Mariyka was born more than a decade after the nuclear explosion, experts still believe the highly-irradiated area poses massive health risks.
However, she was recently tracked down in Kiev and is now a healthy university student who works in a bar to help fund her studies.
She told a journalist: "I am doing well, I am working. I'm providing for myself.
"This is it."
A friend told the paper: "She really doesn't care about being unique through being born in Chernobyl.
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"In fact, knowing that she is the only child who was born here after the explosion, and who grew up in Chernobyl, is rather painful for her.
"She sees it as a stigma."
When she was born in 1999, authorities in Ukraine attempted to hide the fact - viewing the birth as 'an embarrassment'.
Her parents were accused of 'murdering' their daughter, who drank milk from cows which fed on Chernobyl pastures and swam in a river which sent Geiger counters bleeping wildly.
But her parents insisted their little girl was fine.
Speaking after Mariyka's birth, Lydia said: "If people think she is a mutant, or has two heads, they are quite wrong.
"She is a lovely child who is absolutely healthy as far as we can see."
When she wants to go back to visit her mother, Mariyka is able to obtain a special pass which allows her entry into Chernobyl.
Lydia, who is now 66, said: "People here believe that Mariyka is a symbol of Chernobyl's renaissance, a sign from God which they interpret as a blessing to live here, and that life is coming back to this blighted place."
Nature in the area is slowly getting back to how it was, with reports of wild boar, deer, birds, wolves and flowers in the area.
Featured Image Credit: East2West News