Tuesday, 26 April 2011

25 years

It’s 25 years ago. Time flies when you’re having fun. April 26 in 1986 was nice in Kiev. It was sunny and warm and I was playing with some other girls outside. I was wearing a red and yellow chequered dress with short sleeves. We were eating (or drinking?) nectar of the cherry blossom. It’s funny a day can stay so crisp in my memory for 25 years.

The days after are shredded to pieces by time. Sudden smell of concern in the air after the 1st of May celebrations. Endless updates on security measures on TV, rolled up carpets and removed curtains, closed windows, collecting dust with a moist cloth three times a day, no school, rumours of panic on railway stations, radiological control of all flights coming from Ukraine at the Saratov airport.

I don’t know anyone who died because of the Chernobyl catastrophe. I’m not even sure I know anyone who got seriously ill after ‘consuming’ too much radiation. It’s not the physical threat that left a bleeding scar in my heart. Rather, Chernobyl catastrophe was a betrayal of such a great scale my mind has difficulty to conceive.

Millions of people were relying on the state and the state controlled media for their safety and were lied to. My country has sent fathers of my school friends to shovel cement in deadly radiation without any protection whatsoever and without informing them about the risks. My country has tried to prevent my parents from bringing me and my baby sister to a safer place. My country has lied to me about the true consequences of the catastrophe. And if my country is my home, what’s left for me?

I am sure I’m not the only one feeling angry and powerless even 25 years after the accident. Loads of research has been done to determine the actual damage of the catastrophe, but the main focus is death and illness. Has anyone ever tried to measure how many people lost trust? Wouldn’t that change the figures drastically?

And as for people that were actually confronted with death and destruction and who had to leave their homes – I guess the tragedy is much bigger for them. I wonder how they cope.

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