Expert trip to the Ukraine and Belarus
Short report on the trip to regions in the Ukraine and Belarus affected by the Chernobyl nuclear power accident (September 6th till September 15th 1998)
Our group of travellers in front of the fire brigade's monument
in the city of Chernobyl/Ukraine. "To save the world",
the inscription, next to the names of the firemen who lost their lives during
their fight against the disaster.
The trip's aim:
We wanted to get a general idea of the real situation in the Ukraine and Belarus
12 years after the Chernobyl Disaster?
The reason for our questions is the decreasing interest in Chernobyl. Some foreign
organisations, that - in the past - generously supported children who suffered from
thyroid gland cancer, are planning to reduce their assistance now. One reason for
their decision is the fact that medical institutions have been built up in Belarus
that are able to offer some of the necessary treatments themselves.
- by collecting and transmitting information and figures about the consequences
of the disaster on the lives of man and nature in the Ukraine and Belarus.
- by informing ourselves in places with different radiation exposures and with
the help of affected people, as we presumed that much information about life after
Chernobyl was wrong or presented unreasonably, so that a wrong impression originated
in people's heads.
- by joining together different views and perspectives in order to develop an
impression neither playing down nor exaggerating the facts.
- by visiting different medical, social, educational, religious and economic
institutions in the Ukraine and Belarus in order to understand the social and
economic structure of the affected countries.
- by trying to refurbish the common grievous past with the Ukraine and Belarus.
The previous concentration on diseases of the thyroid gland don't do justice to
the real plight, as there are other serious problems concerning health in the
Ukraine and Belarus resulting from the Chernobyl accident.
With our trip we wanted to investigate that problem since we presumed that
assistance was still necessary in those regions.
In the following you can read about the most important stops during our trip:
Moreover we visited the following institutions:
1st Stop: National center for radiation medicine in Kiew, Ukraine
Prof. Dr. Romanenko (secretary for public health at the time of the nuclear
power accident) is the senior physician and manager of the center for radiation
medicine in Kiew.
He reported that the disaster of 1986 implied enormous problems. He and
his employees occupy themselves with the consequences of radiation and with
help for the concerned people, especially with radiation linked diseases of
those who worked at the reactor. The center also houses a hospital and a station
for animal testing. Another institute for leukaemia, which will be able to carry
out bone marrow transplantations, is planned. Romanenko also reported that the
increased frequency of many diseases and the mortality is not only due to the direct
radiation. The center's aim is to be prepared for the actual increase of cancer
diseases expected in the future.
Our group of travellers with Belarussian and Ukrainian hosts in
Kiew/Ukraine in front of a church that had been destroyed in the 2nd World War.
After the Chernobyl disaster people began to rebuild the church as a symbol
that life goes on.
2nd Stop: Prohibited area around the nuclear power plant Lenin near Chernobyl
The city of Chernobyl is about 12 km away from the power plant and about
1.100 years old. Before the accident 18.000 people lived there. After the
evacuation 700 mostly old people moved back into the prohibited area, 200
of them into Chernobyl. A surprisingly high number of people still work in
that area going back to their home towns on the weekends. Those workers are
occupied with clearing-up operations and forestry work in the area. In Chernobyl
we also saw the monument for the firemen who died while they fought the fire at
the power plant or soon afterwards as a result of radiation. A smaller monument
is to remind of a helicopter pilot who brushed a crane above the reactor and
fell into it.
Pripjat, a town that was built for the employees of the power plant, is
about 2 km away. It was a town with high-rise buildings, shopping malls and
an amusement park. Its 55.000 citizens were evacuated immediately within 27
hours after the accident. Today, you don't meet anybody in this town except
the police. On the outskirts they have built up another roadblock which is
strictly guarded. The sight of that dead ghost town made us pensive and very
depressed. A new town, Slawutitsch, has been founded very quickly for the
present employees of the power plant. Today, the number of its citizens has
reached 28.000. In the new international institute for radiation protection
we were received by the director Nosowskij. The institute's aim is to keep
a watch on the health of the town citizens and the power plant's employees.
Driving on through the prohibited area we could see more deserted and
"buried" villages where only small hills reminded of former houses.
The power plant Lenin itself employs about 5.000 workers. 600 of them work
at the sarcophagus. Blocks I and II are out of work, while block III (connected
to the destroyed block IV) is the only one producing current. The construction
of blocks V and VI hasn't been completed.
The sarcophagus of the destroyed block IV can be seen from the adjacent building.
Here, the devastating consequences of the explosion in block IV are presented in
an exhibition. Visitors can also watch a film showing live recordings of the
situation immediately after the explosion. This film makes aware of the accident's
dramatic extent and the difficulties during the clearing-up and safeguarding operations.
Dr. Michail Malko submits to a medical examination during his visit
in the hospital of Wjetka/Belarus. His radiological results are normal as he
has been in the contaminated zone for only a few days.
3rd Stop: District of Gomel/Belarus
Belarus was stroke very heavily by the Chernobyl disaster. The village
Bartholomäi in the region of Wjetka is one of the most heavily contaminated
regions in the country. It had also been evacuated. Many houses were razed to
the ground and agriculture is now prohibited. In the hospitals of Wjetka and Korma
and in the clinic of Gomel we heard about an increase of many different diseases.
The medical care is influenced negatively by the shortage of medicaments.
Nevertheless, Prof. Sokolowski, vice director of the medical institute of Gomel,
welcomed us with the words: " Gomel is alive!"
4th Stop: Minsk/Belarus
1,8 million people live in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Here, you can find
numerous medical centers, some of them working out statistics about the
population's state of health. Patients who cannot be treated in other hospitals
come to Minsk. We saw clinics that had been renovated and equipped with foreign
(mostly German) aid. We were received by leading professors and senior consultants.
They took their time for conversations with us and showed us their institutions,
the equipment and operating rooms. We got the same information everywhere: there
are more and more sick persons, but not enough medicaments to treat them all. That
fact also goes for hospitals built up with foreign assistance.
We also visited Belarussian organisations trying hard to give medical and
humanitarian aid. They help families that have fallen into social and psychological
difficulties. For instance, we met a group of mostly elderly women who came from
contaminated regions and cannot move back now. They told us in tears how they lost
their husbands in consequence of radiation and how they were evacuated from their
villages in 1991. Moreover they described their present situation in Minsk. They get
an apartment and a pension of 720.000 roubles (that's about 12 US$).
Raisa Malikowa, resettler and head of the self-help organisation "Help
for Resettlers" told us about resettled families with up to 11 children
who have to live under conditions beneath human dignity. She takes care of those
families. As she wanted to spare those people, she gave us a video tape showing
their living conditions instead of visiting them with us. Irina Arinowitsch, member
of the organisation "Confidence", looks after children fallen ill due
to radiation and their families. She's supported by a group of psychologists and
social workers working in an honorary capacity. They seek interchange of information
with foreign colleagues, since that work is also new ground for them. In that domain
as well there's a lack of general and public assistance.
We have to stress the outstanding role of the Belarussian association of the visually
handicapted. It was thanks to its director Anatolij Netylkin that our trip was possible.
On his behalf, Wjatscheslaw Pleskatsch organised our trip very carefully - as usual.
He took care of our group in an excellent way all the time and coordinated our appointments.
In this place we'd like to thank the Belarussian and the Ukrainian Federation for the Blind
for their hospitality.
- School no. 16 in Babrysk, partner school of the EXPO school Schoeppenstedt
- The Lutheran parish "Rescue" in Minsk.
Chairwoman: Olga Stockmann (about 50 members)
- Nadesha, rehabilitation center for children fallen ill due to radiation
- A firm of the Belarussian association of visually
handicapted in Minsk, with 50% of the employees being blind or visually impaired
- The farm of Alexander Swiridow (150 hectares ground)
- Chatyn, commemorative monument for the Belarussian victims of World War 2
It was great luck that Dr. Michail Malko, leading scientist at the Institute for
Physical and Chemical Radiation Problems of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus,
accompanied us and let us profit from his enormous knowledge. In detail, he explained to
us everything to know about the facts and problems and introduced us to well known institute
leaders in Belarus and the Ukraine. Dr. Malko is also committed to the Social-Ecological
Union Chernobyl whose chairman, the writer Wasil Jakowenko, received us as well. He told
us about the aims of his organisation and about their problems.
The trip's result:
The damages in Belarus and the Ukraine caused by the Chernobyl disaster are, even
now, 12 years after the accident, still bigger than people know in general. We'd like
to fight that ignorance. Though it is necessary to show the detailed complicated
interrelations, this is not possible within such a short report. After all we have
seen and got to know, we feel obliged to call for further aid for Belarus and the Ukraine.
- Dr. med Dr. rer. nat. Horst Wohlfarth, Winnigstedt
- Friedrich Krüger (Vicar), Erkerode
- Paul Koch (Diacon), Watzum
The initiators and organizers of the expert trip in front of the sarcophagus.
- Ingeborg Bechstedt, Kassel
- Karl-Siegfried Bottke, Schöppenstedt
- Dr. Volker Crystalla, Braunschweig
- Dr. Gerd Hensel, Wetzleben
- Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Manfred Kwiran, Schellerten
- Ute Kwiran, Börßum
- Ingeborg Schindler, Braunschweig
- Dr. Heinrich Schrader, Braunschweig
Structur of the organisation
Donation and assistance