How businessman Victor Mizzi and Daily Express helped 56,000 children victims ...

chernobylThe destroyed nuclear reactor in Chernobyl (Image: Getty Images)

CHARITY DIRECTOR Victor Mizzi OBE always believed that if you wanted to get something done, you had to go to the top. When he was running a Scouts group in Malta in the 1950s, he wrote to Britain's then First Sea Lord, Lord Mountbatten, to ask if his 300 Scouts could travel from the island to the UK by warship. Mountbatten responded immediately, arranging for the Scouts to do just that and for them to return by aircraft carrier.

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It was an approach that Victor drew on 30 years later when in 1992 a beaming six-year-old child handed him a piece of bread in an orphanage in Belarus where Victor was delivering much needed medicines, and invited him to share it.

That boy was Igor Pavlovets, who had been born with one arm and tiny legs that turned out like a fishtail following the explosion at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear reactor on April 26, 1986, which had spewed radioactive contamination over the neighbouring country of Belarus affecting many thousands of pregnant women whose children were born with severe deformities and cancers.

At that time, Igor was the size of a three-year-old and living in a metal cot in a dormitory full of much younger children, but he never lost his belief that one day a man would arrive who would give him another arm. Victor was just that person, for his compassion ran as deep as his steely determination.

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When he was back in the UK, I was sent by executive editor Alan Frame, a trustee of the charity, to meetVictor in order to write about Igor's plight for the Daily Express.

chernobyl toy20,000 people had been evicted from their homes near the nuclear reactor (Image: Getty Images)

A few months later, and backed by the generosity of Express readers who raised more than £50,000 for his charity Chernobyl Children Life Line, Victor was ready to bring Igor to the UK to receive a prosthetic arm from the country's leading artificial limb manufacturer, Steepers, based at Queen Mary's Hospital in Roehampton. They were prepared to treat Igor for free.

Thus began my 26-year-long friendship with Victor, who died on 10 days ago at the age of 84. In 1996 I wrote a book about Chernobyl's legacy and Igor's story, following an unforgettable five-day visit I made with Victor to the contaminated area.

We ventured into the zone around the nuclear reactor where 20,000 people had been evicted from their homes. It was eerie and desolate; a forgotten landscape. But Victor was determined not to forget the children whose lives had been blighted by the tragedy.

igor childThe contamination affected pregnant women leading to severe deformities and cancers for the children (Image: Getty Images)

After he pulled strings to make all the necessary arrangements for Igor to come to the UK, the boy never went home.

Victor, who had run a travel company before taking early retirement at the age of 48, arranged for the Igor, who at that point spoke no English, to live with foster parents Barbara and Roy Bennett in Farncombe, Surrey.

As Victor continued to arrange respite holidays in the UK for more than 56,000 children affected by radiation poisoning, Igor was never far from his mind.

For the next decade, while working 18 hour days to contend with the paperwork this entailed, he battled doggedly against red tape to secure Igor's long term future in the UK.

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maskGas masks in Pripyat, Chernobyl (Image: Getty Images)

At his office at in his 15th century mansion in

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