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A year after Chernobyl, Igor Pavlovets was born. He only had one arm and stunted legs.

Three decades on from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the effects of the catastrophic accident still live on.

Since the events of the early morning hours of April 26, 1986, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of children have been born with severe mental and physical disabilities and general abnormalities as a result of the nuclear disaster.

In the Ukraine alone, there was a 200 per cent increase in birth defects and a 250 per cent increase in birth deformities in children born in the Chernobyl fallout area.

These children have a range of disabilities and illnesses – respiratory, eye diseases, blood diseases, digestive, musculoskeletal, cancer, congenital malformations and genetic abnormalities. But among these children, one thing is common – they were born after the Chernobyl accident.

The real story behind HBO’s Chernobyl. Post continues after podcast.

On March 3, 1987, almost a year after the Chernobyl disaster, Igor Pavlovets was born in a hospital in Belarus.

The young boy’s mother, who lived in a village near the power plant, was sick with radiation poisoning when she discovered she had fallen pregnant. As a direct result, Igor was born missing his right arm with stunted legs and turned out feet.

Almost immediately after he was born, Igor was forcibly taken from his parents and placed in Orphanage 1 in Minsk, Belarus.

Up until he was six years old, Igor lived his life in institutions with minimal socialisation. But when businessman Victor Mizzi visited Orphanage 1, Igor’s life changed forever.

Over the course of his life, Victor Mizzi helped 56,000 child victims of Chernobyl. Igor Pavlovets was just one of them.

In 1992, Victor met the six-year-old in the Belarus orphanage when the young boy handed him a piece of bread. At the time, Igor was just the size of a three-year-old and living in a metal cot in a room full of much younger children. But nevertheless, he was a happy, beaming child with a dream of one day getting another arm.

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Igor and his foster mother Barbara. Image: YouTube.
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A few months later, British newspaper Express ran a feature on Igor and Victor's mission and within weeks, readers of the publication had raised more than enough money for Igor to be sent to the United Kingdom to receive a prosthetic arm.

Once Igor arrived in the UK on January 4, 1994, he never wanted to return home.

Upon moving to the UK, Igor lived with his foster parents, Barbara and Roy Bennett, in Farncombe, Surrey.

“I can’t remember a lot of my early life,” Igor told Express. “I might have been in a hospital but I was lucky because I was really loved and cared for.”

On December 15, 2003, Igor was finally granted British citizenship and a UK passport.

“As soon as I was here I knew I didn’t want to go back. And if I want something I get it," he added.

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Igor wearing his first set of prosthetic limbs. Image: YouTube.
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After finishing school, Barbara helped Igor set up a bachelor pad. She never imagined that he would go on to have children of his own.

But now, in his early thirties, Igor is a happily married father-of-two with a third child on the way.

Igor moved in with his now-wife Alice Pavlovets after meeting her at an ice skating rink.

“When I first ever saw him I just accepted him immediately,” Alice told Express.

“He is such a character and he makes me laugh so much. One girl I knew said it would never last but we just get on. We don’t argue and we just bounce off each other.”

Over the years, Victor Mizzi remained an important part of Igor's life.

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Igor and his wife Alice. Image: Facebook.

Up until he was 12 years old, Igor assumed that his mother, unable to cope with her disabled baby, had given him up.

"As the years when by I felt that I should find out the truth, because to live with the fact that you have been abandoned is very difficult," Victor explained.

After 14 years of tireless searching, Victor traced down Igor's birth parents, who had gone on to have two more children – a boy and a girl. As Victor learned, Igor's mother didn't give up her child – he was taken from her as part of the Soviet cover up of the disaster.

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In 2003, when he was 16 years old, Igor met his parents, Elena and Andre Pavlovets.

"Igor had been taken from me when he was just a few seconds old," Elena explained, speaking to Express.

"I never even held him. Although it was an immediate and devastating emotion when I saw his handicap, I loved him immediately," she added.

"I didn't know if he was alive or dead. But there wasn't a day that I didn't think of him."

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Igor and Alice with their two children. Alice is currently pregnant with the couple's third child. Image: Facebook.

Before Victor Mizzi passed away from liver cancer earlier this year, Igor visited him one last time.

"Igor got the opportunity to tell him about our third bundle of joy and he was so excited for us," Alice said.

"He was an amazing man who helped Igor have a better life. I'm so glad Victor got the chance to meet our children and come to our wedding."

The five-part miniseries Chernobyl is available to watch now on Foxtel. 

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Tags: chernobyl , hbo , news-3 , news-stories , tv-2
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