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Viktor and Lydia Gaidak

The first time I met Viktor Gaidak, he stood up in the middle of lunch and peeled up his shirt to show me the scar on his chest. Viktor worked for 24 years at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, including 9 years after the 1986 catastrophe. In 2004 he had surgery for colon cancer.

A few weeks later, I went to interview Viktor and his wife Lydia in their apartment. I was thinking about Viktor's scar, one of the few visible signs left by the radiation he experienced as an engineer and liquidator. I was hoping he would be willing to show me the scar again for the camera. He agreed.

I find imagining a photo ahead of time helps me be prepared for it, as long as I'm not too attached to my preconceived image. In this case, the moment made a decent photo, but the composition didn't come together quite as I hoped; I actually prefer the shot I took a few minutes earlier, a very tender moment when Viktor reached over and grabbed Lydia's hand.

"When I was sick with cancer," says Viktor Gaidak, a retired engineer who worked for 24 years at Chernobyl, "we sold our car to pay for the surgery. We sold our TV, we sold our refrigerator, jewelry, everything we could. Now my wife Lydia has cancer and there's nothing left to sell."

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