A survivor of the Chernobyl disaster has revealed how Marvel’s X-Men changed her life, helping her deal with the illnesses caused by radiation poisoning.
The catastrophic accident which happened in April 1986 at the No. 4 nuclear reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, northern Ukraine, is one of the deadliest nuclear accidents ever.
Janina Scarlet was just three years old when the horrifying explosion took place at a distance of 180 miles from her home in Ukraine.
“I don’t remember much about the event itself 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,” Janina wrote in Women’s Health.
“It was only after other countries started realizing 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.”
Her immune system got so weak from the nuclear radiation that Janina had to visit the hospital even if she suffered a simple cold.
She also suffered from migraines, nosebleeds, and seizures. Worst of all, her blood vessels used to pop whenever the weather changed, making her eyes red.
After her family relocated to New York, Janina was bullied for being ‘radioactive.’ Things took a downward turn for Janina and, at one point in her life, she even considered suicide.
However, everything changed with the release of the first X-Men movie. Janina was 16 years old at the time.
She said: “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 realized 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 specializes in using superheroes and other fictional stories to help people manage their trauma.”
Janina, who spoke out about her childhood experience for the first time when she was 31, still considers it a difficult thing to do.
She said: “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.”