Circulation of kindness

What can be better than April’s warmth and sunshine? It brings us a joyful inner glow. However, this spring month also has other associations.I remember wandering Minsk’s streets, like many others, on a perfect sunny day on April 26th, 26 years ago, in 1986. As soon as news of the Chernobyl disaster hit, everyone departed the streets, since the invisible radiation cloud brought a real threat to our health. Years have passed but Chernobyl remains in our thoughts. We remember those who died on that ill-fated day. Not only did the nuclear accident affect our residents, it damaged the Earth; life altered drastically for many, bringing long-term health problems and the necessity of relocating from beloved homes. Nuclear safety has come a long way since then, allowing us to minimise the risk of a similar catastrophe. Time heals to some extent, as life continues. Of course, we can never forget the kindness shown over these decades by people from around the world, who felt our trouble as their own.
What can be better than April’s warmth and sunshine? It brings us a joyful inner glow. However, this spring month also has other associations.
I remember wandering Minsk’s streets, like many others, on a perfect sunny day on April 26th, 26 years ago, in 1986. As soon as news of the Chernobyl disaster hit, everyone departed the streets, since the invisible radiation cloud brought a real threat to our health. Years have passed but Chernobyl remains in our thoughts. We remember those who died on that ill-fated day. Not only did the nuclear accident affect our residents, it damaged the Earth; life altered drastically for many, bringing long-term health problems and the necessity of relocating from beloved homes.
Nuclear safety has come a long way since then, allowing us to minimise the risk of a similar catastrophe. Time heals to some extent, as life continues. Of course, we can never forget the kindness shown over these decades by people from around the world, who felt our trouble as their own. Assistance came immediately from various corners of the planet and dozens of charities were established worldwide to support those affected. It was a time of true human solidarity — definite and tangible. Belarusian children were welcomed on recuperative trips to the USA and Europe. I recollect with gratitude the Italian Petrucci family, with whom our daughter would stay in summer. Our friendship remains strong and these tender-hearted Italians have even visited Minsk. We’ll be grateful to them forever.
As a student, our daughter accompanied children’s groups on several similar recuperative trips to Spain, meeting kind and benevolent people, who considered it their duty to help anyone facing trouble. We met Rafael, who once a year flew to Minsk from Spanish Seville, then went to Gomel by train before travelling to one of the most Chernobyl-affected districts in the region. He wanted to visit young Vika, who stayed with his family each summer for several years. We all became relatives spiritually.
It’s common knowledge that grief brings people closer. The Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster of April 1986 has been a terrible affliction but also an opportunity to realise the best in human nature. The heartfelt kindness of others towards those in difficult circumstances has been a revelation.
Memories of Chernobyl may be gradually fading, since time cures all wounds, even the heaviest, but the renewed optimism of today is the result of many years of hard work. With help from the world community, the state has targeted affected regions, to bring social infrastructure, jobs and improved health care, allowing residents to enjoy a full life once more. The world initially underestimated the magnitude of the event (and the extent to which Belarus was affected by the accident) but has since redeemed itself in offering assistance in every sphere — including medical care and the proffering of radiation monitoring equipment. Farms have intensified their work, applying new technologies to ensure the growing of ecologically ‘clean’ produce.
Many would say that, despite this help, Belarus has primarily relied on its own strength, with huge funds from the country’s budget spent on realising post-Chernobyl measures. World experience has been useful — including that of the Japanese, dating from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings. Our kindly Japanese colleagues donated equipment while their specialists shared their valuable professional advice.
When a tsunami triggered an explosion at Japan’s Fukushima-1 nuclear station, our first thought was to offer our Japanese friends assistance. Naturally, a powerful industrial country like Japan is capable of dealing with its problems independently — even such as that at Fukushima — but, no doubt, our gesture of friendship and concern touched their hearts. At our invitation, Japanese schoolchildren recently visited Belarus, while local specialists shared useful experience with their Japanese colleagues in the contemporary Radiation Medicine Centre in Gomel. After Chernobyl, many of our doctors passed internships in Japan, acquiring knowledge there. It is our pleasure to aid the circulation of kindness.
This is my introduction for April. Until we meet again, dear readers!

BY Viktor Kharkov,
magazine editor
Беларусь. Belarus
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