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Should the city of Pripyat be saved?:

Girl reunited with mother

An 11-year-old Bordon girl who was born in Chernobyl with only one arm and separated from her family a few hours after her birth, has had an emotional reunion with her birth mother this week.

After searching for her with the support of her adopted parents Julie and Alan, Ola Morgan finally tracked down her mother, Iryna Kohnenko, who flew from Russia to be reunited with the daughter she thought she would never see again.

Ola was adopted by Julie and Alan when she was just over two years old and living in a Belarus hospital after she was born with upper limb defects.

This was a result of the Chernobyl nuclear explosions in April 1986, when Iryna was contaminated with the resulting widespread radioactive fallout.

When Ola was born lacking one arm and with the other deformed, Iryna was persuaded to give her up by the former Soviet Union hospital authorities, who said she wouldn't survive.

She was sent to live in a Belarus hospital with other Chernobyl victims, but was finally spotted by Julie and Alan from a book of photographs provided by the charity, Chernobyl Children Lifeline (CCL), which has its headquarters in Haslemere.

Julie explained: "At the time, I had been told I couldn't have children of my own and Alan and I were looking to adopt. I took one look at Ola and fell instantly in love with her."

It took a long time to overcome red tape and bureaucracy, but finally the couple brought Ola home to Bordon and eventually formally adopted her in July 2003.

The couple went on to have three children of their own – Tyler (8), Ben (6) and Kiera (3) – but they were determined that Ola would not forget her roots.

When she started asking questions about her birth mum, they actively supported her in the search to find Iryna.

Their successful quest was made possible by the mammoth efforts of the CCL, and in particular its founder, Victor Mizzi, who eventually found Iryna and her 14-year-old son Pavel and arranged for them to fly to Gatwick Airport with an English translator where he took them to his home last week.

The tearful reunion took place the next day and Ola was overwhelmed not to have just found her mother, but to discover she had an older brother as well.

Ola said: "I am so happy that we've tracked down my mum and to find I have Pavel as well."

Although Iryna can't speak English, the two of them have been making up for their years apart by going on family trips to London and the south coast.

Julie said: "Ola went really quiet when we first told her we had found her mum, but then she started jumping up and down for joy. It's been an absolute pleasure having Iryna and Pavel with us, and Ola has been ecstatic."

However, she is not looking forward to Friday morning when they have to return to Belarus. "We are going to miss them so much," Julie said.

A trust fund in Ola's name has been opened, to save up money so she can go to Russia to visit them in the future.
Julie is also organising a number of car boot sales to help pay for the trip.

If you would like to donate to Ola’s fund, give Julie a call on 01420 479638.

Chernobyl Children Lifeline has brought more than 46,000 child victims of the disaster to the UK for recuperative breaks of one month to stay with host families since it was formed in 1992.


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