Monday, May 01, 2006

Pripyat Pictures

This website offers a very cool gallery of pictures taken in and around the abandoned city of Pripyat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

April 26, 1986: Nuclear Nightmare

They carried red carnations and candles as bells tolled and sirens sounded around them. At 1:23 AM today Ukraine marked the 20-year anniversary of the explosion of Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear station. For the facts, go here or here, but today I think I want to talk about the feelings.

At the time of the explosion, Mykola Malyshev was working in Reactor No. 1's control room. When the explosion happened, the lights flickered, the room shook and he and his co-workers were told to go to Reaction No. 4. When they reached the destroyed reactor, however, the workers there told them to leave:
"They told us, 'We are already dead. Go away,"'

And, for the most part, it was the truth. Konstantyn Sokolov, who now suffers from throat and lip cancer, said, "My friends were dying in front of my eyes."

Twenty years later, the victims of Chernobyl - the hundreds of thousands who lost family, friends, land, livestock....everything - are told that they need to stop considering themselves victims. They're told that they need to stop being so "fatalistic" and "radiophobic." Mothers who knowingly feed their children radioactive food are told not to give up, that they need to stop waiting to be rescued. Perhaps this is the truth, but how? When you have nothing left how do you help yourself? And does it really help if the government that told you not to worry, that you counted on to help you out is gone? And the new government is telling you that your problem isn't physical, it's psychological?

As global citizens we need to recognize that this accident could have happened anywhere. I know there are different types of reactors, different people running them and different governments who would have to deal with consequences in different ways. But the basic truth is that nuclear power has the potential to quickly make our entire planet unliveable. How can we possibly call ourselves an advanced society when we rely on such an unstable form of energy? I will leave you with a prayer from Valentyna Mashina, 55:
"Let God not allow this to be repeated. Let God not make our grandsons relive this."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Remembering Chernobyl

As we speak, Victor Yushchenko is attending a candlelight vigil marking the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Around the web, there are several interesting stories. Try and for starters.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chernobyl Voices

Oh God, how they tricked us! They said they were taking us away for three days and they took us to the end of the earth. We handed over everything to the authorities, cows, calves, pigs. We left everything behind. We took nothing with us but our souls.

The BBC is running a series of articles online under the theme Chernobyl Voices. The excerpt above is from the piece about Hanna Semenenko, a 78-year-old resident of the Exclusion Zone. Hanna was evacuated to Yahotin, but returned to her home in the village of Ilyintsi the following Winter. Her story, and the others in the series, are definitely worth taking a look at.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Chernobyl Victims Hunger Strike

I read this blurb at Interfax this morning:
ST. PETERSBURG. April 20 (Interfax) - Six people have joined hunger striker Sergei Kulish, a Chernobyl first-responder who is now disabled. They are demanding changes in the mechanism and amount of compensation Kulish and his peers receive. The strike is in its third week.

Kulish told Interfax on Thursday that the strike is being held in the apartment of one of the hunger-strikers.

Money is not the only reason for the hunger strike. Kulish wants the media to stop insulting the honor and dignity of Chernobyl cleanup veterans and demands a correction of the inscription on the Chernobyl monument near his house.

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