The only child who was born and raised in Chernobyl's extremely polluted exclusion zone is now celebrating her 20th birthday. While Mariyka's amazing experience did not feature in the popular Sky network documentary about the disaster, her story is worth telling.
Mariyka grew up living very close to reactor number four and had made headlines when she survived the toxic radiation from the nuclear power station catastrophe. She was not seen again for several years but recently re-surfaced as she celebrated her 20th birthday. She is currently in Kiev, Ukraine, and was tracked down by the Sunday Express.
She shared, "I am doing well, I am working. I’m providing for myself. This is it." Mariyka was born in 1999 and Ukranian authorities had attempted to have her family move as they were Chernobyl workers living illegally in the 19-mile exclusion zone. However, her parents had refused to move as they were not offered any alternative housing. They were also harassed and accused of "murdering" their daughter. "Their main argument was to accuse us of murdering our baby daughter by living in this polluted region," said Mikhail, her father.
Mariyka grew up drinking milk from cows which fed on Chernobyl infected pastures which had high levels of radiation due to the nuclear accident. She would also swim in a river infected with radiation. Her mother Lydia Sovenko, however, had to squash rumors regarding her daughter's health. During an interview, Sovenko shared, "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," she continued. Mariyka does not like to highlight or glorify her past and funds her studies by working at a fashionable bar. A friend of hers shared, "She really doesn't care about being unique through being born in Chernobyl. 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."
Her good health and success has been confirmed by her family and friends and comes as nature in Chernobyl is fighting back against the devastation and destruction it experienced 43 years ago. Mariyka's mother who is now 66 years old 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."