The Soviet Union was accused of trying to cover up the extent of the disaster and little is still known about the full impact of the radioactive fallout on Europe. However, Magdalena Ines Kmiecik from Poland is sure her cancer, as well as her mother and brother’s must be related to the nuclear accident. Ms Kmiecik was born in Chelm, a small city in eastern Poland, and was around five years old when the Chernobyl disaster happened.
When she was 17 her mother suffered from a cancer that meant her uterus had to be removed.
Ms Kmiecik told Express.co.uk: “It was a very serious operation, with a small chance that my mum would survive it.
“I remember sitting with her every day, every night, begging doctors to let me stay with her in her room.”
Fortunately, her mother survived her ordeal, but just a few years later Ms Kmiecik was herself diagnosed with last-stage pre-invasive cervical cancer, and had to have part of her cervix removed.
READ MORE: Chernobyl explained: How many people died in Chernobyl?
Magdalena Ines Kmiecik (right) with her mother and brother
Then, three years ago, she was told her brother had a brain tumour “as big as an orange”.
She told Express.co.uk: “The tumour ate its way through his nose, cheek bone, pushed his brain to the back of his head.
“The worst part was they couldn’t find a neurosurgeon who would agree to even do the surgery, because the tumour was so big and the odds so small.
“Thankfully, my mama had a lot of connections within the health system in Poland.
Ms Kmiecik’s mother and brother
“She had a lot of friends who were doctors and after many conversations they agreed to help her.”
The surgery had an estimated 10-20 percent survival chance, but again her family pulled through and he survived the surgery.
But, three months later the tumour was back and he has since had multiple surgeries, some involving opening up parts of his skull.
In January this year, Ms Kmiecik again had to undergo surgery to remove tumours from her ovary, fallopian tube and part of her intestine, one “the size of a golf ball”.
Ms Kmiecik’s brother after his surgery
Ms Kmiecik explained that she believes the cancers are related to the Chernobyl disaster.
She said: “Why my family? Why are there so many people from my generation in Poland who have cancers?
“I started doing some research and found many theories on the internet.
“People who were having enormous health issues, just like my family.
Abandoned amusement park in the city center of Prypiat in Chornobyl exclusion zone
“This just wasn’t the case before Chernobyl happened.
“People weren’t dying of cancer and related issues in such big numbers. This must be related!”
Other than a linked increase in thyroid cancer among children in contaminated areas, it has not been determined whether the Chernobyl disaster caused an increase in other cancers.
That said, there are possible links between ionising radiation and various health issues including cancer, cataracts, cardiovascular disease and psychological effects.
The World Health Organisation’s report on the health effects of the Chernobyl incident reads: “Since it is currently impossible to determine which individual cancers were caused by radiation the number of such deaths can only be estimated statistically using information and projections from the studies of atomic bomb survivors and other highly exposed populations.
Chernobyl after the explosion
Memorial ceremony at the monument for Chernobyl victims in Slavutych
“It should be noted that the atomic bomb survivors recieved high radiation doses in a short time period, while Chernboyl caused low doses over a long period of time.”
However, Ms Kmiecik believes the true impact of the disaster has been covered up.
She said: “No one will admit that it’s because of the impact the Chernobyl disaster had on Poland and Polish people. And there’s no way I can prove that.
“No one will pay compensation for what we’ve been through. No one will care that we’ll be having countless surgeries for the rest of our life.
Abandoned town of Prypiat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
“The worst part is that no one will ever admit and apologise.”
The second episode of a historical drama mini series entitled ‘Chernobyl’ will air tonight on Sky Atlantic in the UK; it is available on HBO in the US.
The series is following the story of Valery Legasov, who was employed by the Soviets to investigate the disaster.
The show depicts the initial Soviet cover-up and denial of the scale of the explosion, as well as looking at some of the long-term impacts for those affected by the accident.