Time runs fast, making most of our memories vague and hazy. But some things are always there, distinct and clear. Twenty years have passed since the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, and there is no use trying to look for culprits of the terrible disaster that hit our land in 1986. Poignant memories take us back in time to that black April when only the self-sacrifice of rescuers, firefighters and military that have since then been called “liquidators” saved us all.
Time seems vague, but it is in fact very clear and specific. Chernobyl shed light on what people were not eager or ready to see. Chernobyl made it clear the disaster could not be localized, and that global efforts were required to tackle the problem. It was evident that Belarus suffered more than any other nation, but it took so long for everyone to understand it. Much could have been done had this awareness come earlier! Belarus had been struggling by itself to mitigate the Chernobyl syndrome, and one can be certain it did a good job.
Twenty years is a lot of time and a lot of money, and the participants in the international conference to mark the Chernobyl anniversary will definitely be impressed by Belarus’ achievements in recovering its land. The Republican Center of Radiation Medicine, based in the city of Gomel, is one of them. The center rehabilitates “Chernobyl liquidators” from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Gomel is the center of Belarus’ intellect and technologies, which are effectively combined to study, forecast and overcome the consequences of radiation contamination, our correspondent Andrei Novikov writes in the article “Sad Experience and Unique Opportunities”. Contrary to the popular opinion that Chernobyl has been forgotten and forsaken, the author believes the world is getting more interested in this country and its experience. The explanation is quite simple: nuclear technologies will keep developing whether we want it or not. Given the shortage of natural resources mankind has turned to nuclear power — France alone has over 60 nuclear power stations. At the same time, nobody feels absolutely secure and protected from man-caused and natural disasters, nuclear wars and terrorism…
Belarus’ experience, however painful, is valuable. The well-known German scientist Heinz Peter Butz, who paid a visit to the Gomel-based Center for Radiation Medicine and Ecology of Man, was quoted as saying “Belarus has made a gigantic step forward in its efforts to recover from the consequences of Chernobyl.” Dr. Heinz Peter Butz led a delegation of foreign specialists in healthcare and nuclear power.
This conclusion is of extreme importance, but the successful results of research and introduction of new ways to deal with the effects of the accident are even more significant. It is owing to the achievements of Belarusian scientists that farms in the vicinity of the Chernobyl station are making clean produce and manage to break even.
Chernobyl has been a painful memory for long. But the tragedy became a moment of awakening of all those who care, who feel this pain and who believe the world must share it. And today, twenty years into Chernobyl, we tell them “Thank You”.
Editor of “Беларусь.Belarus”