When Little Vica Called Me Papa I Knew I Couldn't Leave Her to Die; When Alan Porter Opened His Heart to Children Left to Suffer in a Radioactive Hell, His Life Changed Forever, He Tells JAN PATIENCE
Patience, Jan, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Big-hearted Scot Alan Porter is a man with a mission.
He's leading a crusade to rescue the tragic children of Chernobyl.
The former mounted policeman is a white knight in the black hell of Belarus.
There thousands of innocent children have been struck down with cancers in the aftermath of the biggest nuclear disaster the world has known.
Alan and his wife Susan have already given a foster home to leukaemia victim Vica.
The beautiful three-year-old has tumbling dark curls and a bubbly personality, and if Alan has his way, he'll bring more children like her to Britain.
Belarus was decimated by the fall-out from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The entire food chain is contaminated by radiation. Since 1986, 800,000 children are thought to have been affected by cancers.
Little Vica has already suffered horrors few in the west can imagine in her short life.
Abandoned by her alcoholic parents when she was just 11 months old, she was left in a Minsk orphanage.
But this tiny bundle of energy has one secret weapon which helped her survive - charm.
When Alan first saw Vica two years ago, she held out her arms and said "papa".
Laughing as he recalls that encounter, Alan said: "How could I resist her after that?"
Now she is a cherished part of the family, joining Alan and Susan's own children, Gemma, 9. and Jonathan, 8, in their home at Milton of Campsie, near Glasgow.
And the couple are keen to give her a permanent home. Alan, 40, had been forced to quit the police force because of diabetes and related health problems.
However, he refused to give in to his own troubles and instead got involved in charity work.
While on an aid mission to Children's Cancer Hospital Number 1 in the Belarussian capital of Minsk in August 1995, he first met Vica.
Then two, she had been shunted back and forth between the hospital and an orphanage for months after her penniless, alcoholic parents had abandoned her.
With four older children, they couldn't cope when she developed lymphoblastic leukaemia - a direct result of the Chernobyl fall- out. Although she was unconscious when abandoned, Vica rallied and was given limited cancer treatment. To survive, though, she needed treatment only available in the affluent west.
Vica's endearing ways made her a firm favourite in the hospital and orphanage.
A British charity worker who had been to Belarus before Alan's visit told him to seek her out.
Alan said: "Susan and I had seen a picture of her and we knew her parents had abandoned her at the hospital in May 1994.
"We discussed bringing her back to Scotland for treatment she couldn't get in Belarus but nothing was firm. Then I met Vica.
"She held her arms up to me and said `papa'. Now I know her better, I maintain she knew exactly what she was doing.
"She had the biggest brown eyes I'd ever seen.
"During my three-hour visit, she clung to me and ate sweets I'd brought.
`` When the time came to leave, it was awful. That night, I called Susan and said we had to try and get Vica to Britain.
"I think she'd been expecting it because she knows how soft I am. We had been talking about having another baby but we put the plans on indefinite hold."
Back in Scotland, Alan showed a video he'd taken on the trip to Susan, Gemma, sand Jonathan.
Tragically, several of the other children he'd filmed in the hospital had already died by the time he returned to Scotland.
He said: "We discussed Vica with the children and they agreed we should bring her over. Gemma couldn't wait and kept asking when her new sister was coming."
There followed a nerve-wracking four-month wait for the Porters. Alan made another trip to Belarus in October and met Vica's parents.
He said: "They were happy we had taken Vica for treatment. …