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Friends show themselves in times of sorrow

Japanese suffering from Fukushima-1 disaster study Belarusian ‘Chernobyl experience’

By Lidia Volokhova

Sorrow brings people closer. 25 years ago, the Japan Chernobyl Foundation was among the first foreign organisations to assist Belarusians affected by the Chernobyl disaster. It remains among the few international public organisations offering humanitarian co-operation to Gomel Region partners. The Chairman of the Foundation, the Chief Doctor of Shinshu University Hospital, Minoru Kamata, has received Belarus’ Frantsisk Skorina Order for his humanitarian efforts in alleviating the consequences of the nuclear disaster: a true state honour.

Of course, the recent earthquake led to disaster at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power station, bringing sorrow to Japan. Now, Gomel residents are ready to offer all possible assistance to Japanese citizens affected by the disaster: primarily, sharing their valuable experience. As the south-eastern territories of Belarus had to learn from their own mistakes in dealing with the results of the Chernobyl disaster, they now boast huge experience and extensive knowledge. Accordingly, we can help Japan find the best solution, free of too many mistakes.

Sato Kentaro joined other villagers from the affected area in leaving his home, which is suffering from a high level of nuclear contamination. He admits that he’d love to return to enjoy life. Takamura Mihara, the mother of three children, has also been affected by the disaster. They learnt about Belarus’ experience of tackling nuclear problems from films shown on Japanese television. TV journalists have many times visited our nation at the centre of Europe, studying the situation in the Gomel Region and the Bragin District (one of the six most affected territories). Scientists and state officials also visited Belarus at the end of 2011, taking back useful information to Japan. It’s always best to see everything with your own eyes of course. As a result, some people from the affected Japanese region have visited Belarus — with the Japan Chernobyl Foundation delegation. They began in the Gomel Region’s Vetka District (with which the Foundation closely liaises). Unsurprisingly, Mr. Kamata was welcomed as an old friend.

Sato Kentaro and Takamura Mihara accepted everything with interest and were most impressed by Zhelezniki villagers — who also experienced re-settlement after the disaster. In fact, over two dozen villagers still reside in the village, which boasts a wonderful 18th century Orthodox church. Life is returning to the village, with new homes being built. The Japanese guests chatted with the elderly Gatalskys, who refused to leave after the Chernobyl tragedy. They continue to live independently, planting vegetables. They even keep a horse. However, before eating their produce, they check its radionuclide content.
Republican Scientific-Practical Centre of Radiation Medicine and Ecology and the Belarusian Emergency Ministry’s Institute of Radiology were next on the tour. The guests were able to see that life can continue, even in affected territories. Mr. Kentaro tells us, “What we’ve seen and learnt of the life of people residing in contaminated territories drastically differs from our initial views. People live and work here peacefully, which is inspiring. We hope that mutual assistance in solving our common problems will continue in the future.”

“Our citizens who have suffered from the Fukushima-1 nuclear power station disaster are experiencing stress. In fact, everyone in Japan feels concerned — even those who were not affected directly,” adds Mr. Kamata. “We hope your experience will help us overcome our problems.”

Despite the Japanese needing material and financial assistance, the Foundation plans to continue helping those affected by the Chernobyl tragedy. “It’s what our people wish to do,” explains Mr. Kamata.

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