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death grim reaper
Spring should bring flowers in bloom, birds, sunshine, and renewed hope after a long winter, not nuclear meltdown. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima Daiichi – all nuclear industry made disasters that started during springtime continue to forewarn us of the dangers of nuclear power. As Albert Einstein said, “The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking … the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker (1945).http://www.fairewinds.org/voices-from-chernobyl

While there are plenty of options with renewable energies, so that no one has to choose between electricity and safety, it is also true that most people didn’t have electricity less than 100 years ago, even in the developed world.
Boy with Candle 1681
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster is a 2005 book by Svetlana Alexievich. Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernobyl disaster. She interviewed more than 500 eyewitnesses, including firefighters, liquidators (members of the cleanup team), politicians, physicians, physicists, and ordinary citizens, over a period of 10 years. The book relates the psychological and personal tragedy of the Chernobyl accident, and explores the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives. Voices from Chernobyl was awarded the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction“.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voices_from_Chernobyl

Almost exactly two years before Chernobyl, a US nuclear expert told me that the Russian graphite reactors were better than US reactors, which should give pause.
candle
A play based on the book (emphasis our own):
Anyone may perform this play but you may not charge an admission fee. Donations to help cover expenses may be accepted. Dalkey Archive Press.

VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
(Adapted for performance by S. Spencer Smith)

THE WITNESSES, in order of speaking:

NARRATOR

LYUDMILLA IGNATENKO, wife of Fireman Vasily Ignatenko

VALENTIN BORISEVICH, Physicist, former Head, Laboratory of the Institute of Nuclear Energy, Belorussian Academy of Sciences

VASILY NESTORENKO, Former Director, Institute for Nuclear Energy, Belorussian Academy of Sciences

SERGEI SOBOLEV, Deputy Head, Executive Committee, Shield of Chernobyl

ANNA BADAEVA, a peasant who moved back to the contaminated Zone

LARYSA Z., a mother

Voices April 2008 2

NARRATOR:

Voices from Chernobyl.

From the book by Svetlana Alexievich, adapted by Spencer Smith.

On April twenty-sixth 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl, Ukraine, only 40 miles North of Kyiv, the capital and a city of three million people.

The Chernobyl disaster contaminated as much as three-quarters of Europe. We will never know how many people died prematurely or how many children were born deformed as a result of this tragedy. Only now [2008] is a leukemia epidemic being reported in New York City among Russian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian emigres – people who left their homeland after Chernobyl. Leukemia is a cancer that takes about 20 years to develop.

Fortunately for the population of Kyiv, but unfortunately for the people of Belarus, the wind that day blew mostly to the North. Over 485 villages had to be abandoned forever. Even today approximately 2.1 million people (including 700,000 children) live on contaminated land.

The voices you will hear are of people who lived through this disaster. The journalist who conducted these interviews and shaped their words into a book put her own life at risk to do so, and many of those whom you are about to hear have already died.

[PAUSE]

LYUDMILLA IGNATENKO, wife of fireman Vasily Ignatenko.

Voices April 2008 3

LYUDMILLA:

We were newlyweds. We still walked around holding hands, even if we were going to the store. I would say to him, “I love you.” But I didn’t know then how much. I had no idea….

We lived in Pripyat, the dormitory of the fire station where he worked. On the second floor.

There were three other young couples and we all shared a kitchen. On the first floor they kept the trucks. The red fire trucks.

One night I heard a noise. It was late, after midnight. I looked out he window. He saw me.

“Close the window and go back to sleep. There’s a fire at the reactor. I’ll be back soon.”

I didn’t see the explosion itself, just the flames. Everything was bright – the whole sky. A tall flame. And smoke. The heat was awful – even there at the firehouse.

The smoke was from the burning bitumen that covered the roof. Later he said it was like walking on tar. They tried to beat down the flames, kicked at the burning graphite with their feet.

They weren’t wearing protective clothing. No one told them. They’d been called for a fire. That was it.

Hours went by. Four o’clock. Five. Six. At six we were supposed to go to his parents house, twenty-five miles away from here, to help them plant potatoes.

Seven o’clock. At seven I was told he was in the hospital. I ran there, but the police weren’t letting anyone in. Other wives of husbands who’d gone to put out the fire were there too. But none of us could get in. Only ambulances. The police shouted, “The ambulances are radioactive!

Stay back!”

Finally I saw a friend who was a doctor in that hospital. “Get me inside!” I begged her.

“I can’t. He’s bad. They all are.”

Voices April 2008 4

I held on to her, wouldn’t let her go. “Just to see him!”

“All right,” she said, “But just for fifteen or twenty minutes.”

He was all swollen, puffed up. You could barely see his eyes.

“He needs milk. Lots of milk,” my friend the doctor said. “They should drink at least 3 liters a day.”

“But he hates milk.”

“He’ll drink it now.”

We didn’t know it then but many of the doctors and nurses in that hospital – especially the orderlies – would get sick themselves and die.

At ten in the morning, the cameraman Shishenok died. He was the first.

I said to my husband, “Vasya, what should I do?”

“Get out of here! Go! Leave! Save our baby!”

“First I need to bring you milk. Then we’ll decide what to do.”

My friend Tanya comes running in – her husband’s in the same room. We go in her father’s car to town, buy all the milk we can find and come back. But they all started throwing up as soon as they drank it. They passed out. They got put on IVs. The doctors told them they’d been poisoned by gas. Nobody said anything about radiation. Only the military people wore surgical masks. They were all over town, closed off roads, washed the streets with some white powder.

That night they wouldn’t let any of us in the hospital. There was a sea of people. Vasya came to the window and yelled something. I couldn’t hear what he said, but someone did. They were being taken to Moscow.

All us wives got together, decided we’d go with them. We punched, we clawed at the soldiers – now it was the army all around, not the police. A doctor came out, said they were

Voices April 2008 5

being flown to Moscow but we need to bring clothes. They clothes they wore at the reactor had been burned. When we came running back with clothes, the plane was already gone. They’d tricked us.

NARRATOR:

VALENTIN BORISEVICH. Physicist. Former head, Laboratory of the Institute of Nuclear

Energy, Belorussian Academy of Sciences.

VALENTIN:

On that day I came into work at the Institute which was in a forest outside of Minsk. It was wonderful weather, Spring! I opened the window. The air was fresh and clean, and I was surprised to see that for some reason the blue jays I’d been feeding all winter, hanging pieces of sausage out the window for them, weren’t around. Had they found a better meal somewhere?

In the meantime, there’s panic at the reactor at the Institute: the dosimeter readings are up 200 times in the air-cleaning filters. That’s very serious. That level is the highest allowable during work in radioactively dangerous zones – for a maximum of six hours. The first theory was that a hermetic seal had broken on one of the heat generating elements. We checked and it was fine.

At this point the internal radio announces that workers are advised not to leave the building.

The area between our separate buildings grows deserted. Not a single person. It was frightening and strange.

Voices April 2008 6

The dosimetrists check my office – the desk is glowing, my clothes are glowing, the walls are glowing. I get up. I don’t even want to sit in my chair.

Is it possible there’s an emergency at our institute? Some leak? And I was very proud of our reactor. I’d studied every millimeter of it.

We call up the nearby Ingalinsk nuclear plant. Their instruments are going crazy. They’re also panicking. Then we call Chernobyl. Nobody answers. By lunchtime we find out there’s a radioactive cloud over all of Minsk. We determined the activity was iodine in nature. That means the accident was at the reactor.

LYUDMILLA:

I told my parents I had to go to Vasya in Moscow. My mother was crying, “Where are you going, pregnant the way you are?” So I took my father with me. He went to the bank and took out all the savings they had.

I don’t remember anything about the trip.

In Moscow we asked the first policeman we saw, where did they put the Chernobyl firemen.

It was a state secret, but he told us. Hospital number six. It was a special hospital for radiology.

There, I had to bribe a woman at the door to get in.

Finally I get in the office of the head radiologist. Right away she asked, “Do you have kids?”

I can see already I need to hide that I’m pregnant. But I don’t show yet.

“I have two children,” I lie. “A boy and a girl.”

Voices April 2008 7

“Good. So you don’t need to have anymore. But listen. his central nervous system is completely compromised, and his skull. And listen. If you start crying I’ll kick you out. And absolutely no kissing or hugging. Don’t even get near him. You have half an hour.”

There are twenty-eight of them who came on the plane. They all want to know about their children or families in Pripyat. I tell them the whole town is being evacuated. One woman in their group who had worked at the plant that day began crying, worried about her children.

I met a lot of good people at that time. I remember one old woman janitor at the hospital.

She taught me, “There are sicknesses that can’t be cured. You just have to sit and watch them.”

Vasya started to change. Everyday I met a brand new person. The burns started to come to the surface. At first they were little lesions. Then they grew. His skin came off in layers. It’s impossible to talk about this!

I loved him so much!

They told me fourteen days. In fourteen days he will die.

NARRATOR:

VASILY NESTORENKO, former director, Institute for Nuclear Energy at the Belorussian

Academy of Sciences.

Voices April 2008 8

VASILY:

Someone’s going to have to answer for Chernobyl. They’re criminals! The time will come.

It might be in fifty years, everyone might be old, they might be dead. So we need to leave the facts behind us.

On that day, April 26, I was in Moscow on business. That’s where I learned about the accident.

I called Nikolai Slyunkov, General Secretary of the Belarussian Communist Party. They wouldn’t connect me to him. I reached his assistant who knew me well.

“I’m calling from Moscow. Get me Slyunkov. I have information he needs to hear right away. Emergency information.”

I’m calling over a government line and as soon as I start talking about the accident the line goes dead. Even I was blocked. So I only hope the appropriate agency is listening.

It took me two hours to reach Slyunkov.

“I’ve already received reports,” says Slyunkov. “There was a fire but they put it out.”

I can’t hold it in. “That’s a lie! Any physicist will tell you graphite burns at something like five tons per hour. Think of how long it’s going to burn!

I get on the first train to Minsk. In the morning I’m home. I measure my son’s thyroid – that was the ideal dosimeter then. It registered 180 micro-roentgen per hour. He needed potassium iodide. A child needed two to three drops in half a glass of solvent, and adult needed three to four. The reactor burned for ten days, and this should have been done for ten days.

But no one listened to us – the scientists, the doctors.

Voices April 2008 9

On April twenty-ninth I finally get in to Sylunkov’s office, the reception area. They don’t let me in. I’m trying to get in, keep trying. I sit there till half-past five. At half–past five, a famous poet walks out of Slyunkov’s office. I know him, He says to me, “Comrade Slyunkov and I discussed Belarussian culture.”

I explode: “There won’t be any Belorussian culture or anyone to read your books if we don’t evacuate everyone from Chernobyl right away!”

LYUDMILLA:

The hospital took away everything of mine, even my clothing and gave me a robe. All my things were radioactive.

My father, sister and brother came to Moscow and brought me things. On the ninth of May,

Victory day from the War, Vasya asked me to open the window so he could see the fireworks.

Then he pulled three red carnations from under his pillow and gave them to me. He’d given the nurse money and she bought them.

I ran over to him and kissed him.

Later I was in the hallway and I got dizzy. A doctor came by and took me by the arm. Then, suddenly, “Are you pregnant?”

“No, no!’ I was scared.

“Don’t lie,” he sighed.

The next morning the head doctor calls me to her office.

“Why did you lie to me?” she says.

“There was no other way. If I’d told you you’d send me home. It was a sacred lie!”

Voices April 2008 10

“What have you done?”

“I was with him.”

All my life I’ll be grateful to that head doctor that she let me in. Other wives came, but they weren’t let in. Only the mothers of the men. The were no longer fertile – wouldn’t give birth.

Volodya Pravik’s mother sat with him the whole time, kept begging God, “Take me instead!”

NARRATOR:

SERGEI SOBOLEV, Deputy Head, Executive Committee of the Shield of Chernobyl.

SERGEI:

I’m actually a professional rocketeer. I specialize in rocket fuel, served at Baikonur, our space-launch center. It was a miraculous time – you give the people the sky, you give them space! Every person in the Soviet Union went into space with Yuri Gagarin.

For family reasons I moved to Belarus, finished my career here. When I came, I immersed myself into this Chernobylized space. It was a corrective to my sense of things. I’d always dealt with the most advanced technologies, but still it was impossible to imagine anything like this.

We collect donations, visit the sick and dying. We write chronicles, we’re creating a museum. Sometimes I think we have a funeral parlor here, not a museum. This morning I haven’t even taken off my coat when a woman comes in, she’s crying – not even crying, but yelling: “Take his medals and his certificates! Take all the benefits! Give me my husband!” She yelled a long time. And left his medals, his certificates. Well, they’ll be in the museum, on

Voices April 2008 11

display. People can look at them. But her cry – no one heard her cry but me, and when I put these certificates on display, I’ll remember it.

Colonel Yaroshuk is dying now. He’s a chemist-dosimetrist. He was healthy as a bull. Now he’s lying paralyzed. His wife turns him over like a pillow. She feeds him from a spoon. He has stones in his kidneys that need to be shattered, but we don’t have the money to pay for that kind of operation. We’re paupers, we survive on what people give us. And the government behaves like a money-lender. It has forgotten these people. When he dies they’ll name a street after him or a school or a military unit. But that’s only after he dies. Colonel Yaroshuk. He walked through the Zone and marked the maximum points of radiation. They exploited him in the fullest sense of the term, like he was a robot. And he understood this, but he went.

At the reactor, they tried using robots – machines – to put out the fire. But the radiation was too much for them. The robots couldn’t function. So they had to send in men, human beings.

Soldiers.

Two hundred ten military units were thrown at the liquidation of the fallout of the catastrophe. This equals about three hundred forty thousand men. The ones cleaning the roof had lead vests, but the radiation came from below and they wore cheap ordinary boots. They spent about two minutes on the roof each day and then were discharged, given a certificate and one hundred roubles.

They were all young guys. They’re dying now, but they understood that if it weren’t for them

They were a sacrifice. There was a moment when there existed the danger of a nuclear explosion and the explosion would have been between three and five megatons. That would

Voices April 2008 12

have meant not only Kyiv and Minsk, but a large part of Europe would have become uninhabitable. Can you imagine it? A European catastrophe.

LYUDMILLA:

Finally Vasya was in a special bio-chamber, all behind a transparent curtain. No one was allowed inside. Through the curtains they gave him shots and all. He got so bad I couldn’t leave the room. He called for me constantly. Finally the orderlies refused to work. They had soldiers wipe the walls, change the bedding.

Then every day, someone died. Tischura is dead. Titenok is dead. Each death was like a sledgehammer to my brain.

I remember someone saying, “You have to understand, this is not your husband anymore, but a radioactive object with a strong density of poisoning. You’re not suicidal. Get a hold of yourself.”

But I remembered how at home he always took my hand and held it all night while he slept.

So in the hospital I take his hand.

One night when we’re all alone, he says “I want to see our child so much.”

“What are we going to name our child?” I say.

“You decide,” he says.

“Why me? There are two of us.”

“In that case, if it’s a boy, he should be Vasya, and if it’s a girl, Natasha.”

One day I walk into the hallway and tell the nurse, “He’s dying.”

Voices April 2008 13

“What did you expect? He got sixteen hundred roentgen. Four hundred is a lethal dose.

He’s a nuclear reactor.”

When all the men had died they redid the whole hospital. Scraped the walls, dug up the parquet floors.

One day I leave Vasya to go to the cemetery with Tanya, for the burial of her man and another one. When I came back, the nurse said Vasya had died. “He called your name at the end, and I told him you’d be right back.”

At the morgue they dressed him in formal wear. But they had to cut up the shoes and uniform because they couldn’t get him into it. His body was all swollen, distorted. At the end, pieces of his lungs, his liver were coming out of his mouth.

In this formal wear they put him in a cellophane bag, then into a wooden coffin. They wrapped the coffin in another clear bag. They told all of us that it was impossible for us to take their bodies home.

They said, “They are very radioactive and will be buried in a Moscow cemetery in sealed zinc caskets under cement tiles. All you need to do is sign this document here.”

VASILY:

Finally I get in to see Slyunkov and tell him we have to save these people. That in Ukraine they are already evacuating. He says, “Why are your men from the Institute running around with their dosimeters, scaring everybody? I’ve already consulted with Moscow, with Professor Ilyin, Chairman of the Soviet Radiological Protection Board. He says everything is normal. We’ve thrown the army, all our military equipment into the breach.”

Voices April 2008 14

Now you should know, at Chernobyl we had thousands of tons of cesium, iodine, lead, circonium, cadmium, berillium, borium, an unknown amount of plutonium – 450 types of radionucleides in all. It was the equivalent of 350 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima.

I said to Slyunkov who had been director of a tractor factory, “When they call people to account, you’re going to say you’re a tractor specialist, and that you didn’t understand what radiation could do. But I’m a physicist. I know what they consequences are.”

But from his point of view, what was this? A bunch of physicists, some professors, were going to tell the Central Committee what to do?

(PAUSE)

No, he and the others weren’t a gang of criminals. It was more like a conspiracy of ignorance and obedience. The principle of their lives was never to stick their necks out.

Their worst fear was a panic and the truth would come out and they’d lose their jobs. They just wanted to cover it all up. What had happened.

Believe me, If we were still the Soviet Union, still living in a closed system. People would still be living right next to Chernobyl.

NARRATOR:

ANNA BADAEVA, a peasant who moved back into the contaminated Zone after the disaster.

Voices April 2008 15

ANNA:

My first scare was, in the garden and yard we’d find these strangled moles. Who strangled them? Usually moles don’t come out from underground. And when my son calls from Gomel he asks if the black flies are out.

“No bugs, not even maggots.” I tell him. “No worms either.”

So he says, “That’s the first sign. If there aren’t any bugs or worms that means strong radiation.”

“What’s radiation,” I ask.

“Mom, that’s a kind of death. Mom, tell Grandma you need to leave. You’ll come stay with us.”

“But we haven’t planted the vegetable garden yet.”

Sometimes I turn on the radio and they scare us with radiation. But our lives have gotten better since the radiation came. Look around: they brought us oranges, three kinds of sausage, whatever you want. And here, to the village! My grandchildren have been all around the world – to see doctors.

And what is this, radiation? Have you seen it? Some people say it has no color, no smell and others that it’s black like the earth.

How they scare us! But the apples are hanging in the garden the leaves are on the trees, the potatoes are in the field. I don’t think there was any Chernobyl, they just made it up. They tricked people. My sister and her husband left.

But there are things that happened.

Voices April 2008 16

My Pa kept bees, five hives of them. They didn’t come out for two days. They just stayed in there. They were waiting. Pa didn’t know about the explosion, but he was running all over the yard saying what is this, what’s going on? The radio wasn’t saying anything then, but the bees knew.

And if I think about it – in every house someone has died. On that street, on the other side of the river – all the women are without men, all the men are dead. And, if you think about it, all of our women are empty. Their female parts are ruined in one in three of them. In the old and the young. Not all of them managed to give birth in time.

They scare us that even our water you can’t drink. But how can you do without water?

Every person has water inside her. Even rocks have water. All life comes from water.

What else will I say? Who can you ask? People pray to God, but they don’t ask him. You just have to live.

LYUDMILLA:

Two months later I went back to Moscow. To the cemetery. There I go into labor. They called an ambulance and took me to the same hospital, the radiological hospital. They showed her to me – she was a girl and I called out “Natasha! Your father named you!”

She looked healthy – arms, legs. But she had cirrhosis of the liver. Her liver had twenty-eight roentgen. And she had a damaged heart. Four hours later they told me she was dead. And, again, they wouldn’t give her body to me.

[Silence]

I’m not suppose to yell since I had my stroke.

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When they brought me the little wooden box and said she’s in there, I looked. She’d been cremated already. “Put her at his feet,” I requested.

I always go to the cemetery with two bouquets. One for him and another for her.

I killed her! My little girl saved me. She took the whole radiation shock into herself, was like a lightning rod for it.

I found a husband eventually. I told him everything – the whole truth. Even that I have only one love for my whole life.

I gave birth to a boy. Andrei. My friends tried to stop me and the doctors tried to scare me.

“You can’t have a baby. Your body can’t handle it.” They threatened that he’d be born without arms. But he came out fine. He’s in school now. He gets good grades.

I had my first stroke when Andrei and I were out walking together. I don’t remember anything, woke up in the hospital.

Andrei is also sick. He’s two weeks in school, then two weeks at home with a doctor. That’s how we live.

There are many of us here in this new place – a whole street. They call it Chernobylskaya. A lot of them still go to work, part time. Nobody lives near the reactor anymore. But they go to work there. They’re scared of the reactor closing down. Who wants them anywhere else? Often they die. They just drop dead.

No one asks us what we’ve been through. Nobody wants to hear about death. About what scares them.

But I told you about love, about my love….

Voices April 2008 18

VALENTIN:

At three-thirty – fourteen hours later! – we were informed there had been an accident at the Chernobyl reactor.

That evening on the way back to Minsk on the Institute bus we rode for half an hour in silence, or talking of other things. Everyone was afraid to talk about what had happened. Nobody wanted to jeopardize his career, his family – be called an enemy of the state.

There was a wet rag in front of my apartment door – so my wife had understood my cryptic phone call. Suddenly this fury took hold of me. The hell with this secrecy! I took my daughter’s address book and my wife’s and began calling everyone, one by one. I said there’s a radioactive cloud over all of Minsk. I’d tell them what they needed to do: wash their hair, close their windows, take the laundry off the balcony, drink iodine – and how to do it correctly.

People’s reaction was, “Thank you.”

I think they didn’t believe me, or maybe they didn’t understand the importance of what was taking place.

That evening a friend calls, another nuclear physicist. He says he’s hoping to spend the May holidays at his in-law’s in Gomel. It’s a stone’s throw from Chernobyl – and he’s bringing his little kids!

“Great idea!” I yell at him. “You’ve lost your mind!”

He probably doesn’t remember that I saved his children.

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NARRATOR:

LARYSA. A mother.

LARYSA:

Soon afterward, after the accident they wanted to evacuate our village. Then they crossed it off their lists – the government didn’t have enough money. And right away I fell in love. I got married. I didn’t know we weren’t allowed to love here.

Many years ago, my grandmother read in the Bible that there will be a time when everything is thriving, everything blossoming and fruitful, and there will be many fish in the rivers and animals in the forest, but man won’t be able to use any of it. And he won’t be able to propagate himself in his likeness, to continue his line. I listened to the old prophecies like they were scary fairy tales. I didn’t believe them.

My little daughter – Katya – she’s different. She’s not like the others. She’s going to grow up and ask me: “Why aren’t I like the others?”

When she was born she wasn’t a baby, she was a little sack, sewed up everywhere, not a single opening, just the eyes. The medical card says: “Girl, born with multiple complex pathologies: aplasia of the anus, aplasia of the vagina, aplasia of the left kidney.” That’s how it sounds in medical talk. But it just means, no pee-pee, no butt, one kidney.

On the second day I watched her get operated on, on the second day of her life. She opened her eyes and smiled, and I thought she was about to start crying. But, God! She smiled!

The ones like her don’t live. They die right away. But she didn’t die because I loved her.

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In four years she’s had four operations. She’s the only child in Belarus to have survived being born with such complex pathologies.

[Stops for a moment]

I won’t be able to give birth again. I wouldn’t dare. I came back from the maternity ward, my husband would start kissing me at night. I would lie there and tremble.

I heard the doctors talking: “That girl wasn’t born in a shirt, she was born in a suit of armor.

If we showed it on television, not a single mother would give birth.”

I went to church and told the priest that I was there, nearby when it happened. He said I should pray for my sins. But no one in my family ever killed anyone. What am I guilty of?

They made an anus for her. They made a vagina. But from here on they advised us to seek medical help abroad. Where are we going to get tens of thousands of dollars if my husband makes 120 dollars a month? One professor told us quietly, “With her pathologies your child is of great interest to science. You should write to hospitals in other countries. They should be interested.”

So I write. [Tries not to cry] I write that every half hour we have to squeeze out her urine manually. How much longer can it go on? Take my girl, even if it’s to experiment. I don’t want her to die. I’m alright with her becoming a lab frog, a lab rabbit, just so long as she lives.

[cries]

Tell everyone about my daughter. Write it down. She’s four years old and can sing, dance, she knows poetry by heart. Her mental development is normal. But we’ve been living in the hospital with her for four years. We can’t leave her here alone. When we go home for a month or two she asks me, “When are we going back to the hospital?” That’s where her friends are, where these children are growing up.

Voices April 2008 21

I wanted to get papers – she’d know when she grows up that it’s not our fault, my husband and I. I fought for four years with the doctors, the bureaucrats. I knocked on the doors of important people. It took me four years to get a paper from the doctors that confirmed the connection between ionized radiation and her terrible condition. They refused me for four years, kept telling me, “Your child is a victim of a congenital handicap.” They refused me for four years. I studied my family tree – every one lived till they were eighty or ninety. My grandfather only died at 94.

The doctors said, “We have instructions. We are supposed to call incidents of this type general sicknesses. In twenty or thirty years, when we have a database about Chernobyl, we’ll begin connecting these cases to ionized radiation.”

One bureaucrat yelled at me: “You want Chernobyl privileges! Chernobyl vicitim funds!”

Why I didn’t faint in his office I’ll never know.

Now I give pregnant women the strangest looks. I don’t look – I glance at them real quick. I have all these mixed feelings – surprise and horror, jealousy and joy. Even a feeling of vengeance. One time I caught myself thinking that I look the same way at the neighbor’s pregnant dog – at the bird in it’s nest.

Oh, my girl! My Katya!

Voices April 2008 22

NARRATOR:

The fourth reactor, now known as the Cover, still holds about twenty tons of nuclear fuel in its lead-and-metal core. No on knows what is happening with it.

The sarcophagus was well made, uniquely constructed, and the design engineers from St.Petersburg should probably be proud.

But it was constructed in absentia, the plates were put together with the aid of helicopters and robots, and as a result, there are fissures. According to some figures, there are now over 200 square meters of spaces and cracks, and radioactive particles continue to escape through them

Might the sarcophagus collapse? No one can answer that question, since it’s still impossible to reach many of the connections and constructions in order to see if they’re sturdy. But everyone knows that if the Cover were to collapse, the consequences would be even more dire than they were in 1986.
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https://www.scribd.com/document_downloads/direct/262622324?extension=pdf&ft=1430016003&lt=1430019613&source=embed&uahk=1iV5XL6QEpM50zsIcVUHCWcUSaQ Embedded at: http://www.fairewinds.org/voices-from-chernobyl
candles in room
See part of the book at the author web site: http://www.alexievich.info/knigi/VOICES_FROM_CHERNOBYL.pdf

ANALYSIS: Roof collapse at Chernobyl: What does it mean for Russia’s aged Chernobyl-type reactors? Published on March 3, 2013 by Bellona
MOSCOW/ SLAVUTCH, Ukraine – A “combination of negative factors” rather than excessive snowfall was the cause of the February 12 partial wall and roof collapse at Chernobyl’s infamous Reactor Unit 4, recent findings of two commissions that investigated the incident revealed. Notably, the risk of concrete slabs collapsing over the reactor halls of the defunct nuclear plant’s three other units had been discussed just one day earlier, on February 11, in Ukraine’s Slavutich. And Russia has three stations running Chernobyl-type reactors, RBMK-1000s – all three of similar or older ages and still in operation. How badly should Russia be concerned about its old stations’ safety?
” Article here: http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/nuclear-russia/2013-03-analysis-roof-collapse-at-chernobyl-what-does-it-mean-for-russias-aged-chernobyl-type-reactors