Parallels of benevolence
Japan’s natural tragedy — its devastating earthquake and tsunami — has led to destruction and countless human victims. One of the world’s strongest economies has been torn apart by this stroke of nature, leaving people worldwide to shudder and cringe, feeling their vulnerability. News of damage at the Fukushima nuclear power station has added to the horror, with the natural cataclysm having caused a chain reaction of atoms. The terrible word ‘radiation’ now resounds.
Time will tell whether Fukushima becomes as well known a destination as Chernobyl; the scale of the disaster is yet to be fully revealed and the consequences may take much time to show themselves. Naturally, the whole world recollects the events at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, of 25 years ago. At that time, the event was also disturbing, although no one could exactly forecast its scale. Belarus was among those who felt the consequences of the catastrophe most deeply; today, we remember.
‘For our country, it’s not merely a date; it’s a landmark in our fate’ writes our author in I Will Take Your Pain. It seems to be the highest form of injustice that the nation which lost a third of its population in WWII suffered this Chernobyl pain. Over 70 percent of radioactive fallout occurred on our territory, with one in five Belarusians affected, including over 500,000 children. One book in the Belarusian spiritual treasury is known to every Belarusian: I Will Take Your Pain. These words are a symbol of our national historical drama, appropriately reminding us to recall and analyse the past, mourning those lost and thanking all those who have shared our Chernobyl pain. Italy was one of the first to offer its assistance, and remains one of Belarus’ major partners in the humanitarian sphere. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Italy, H.E. Mr. Yevgeny Shestakov, tells us about the role of Italian charities in aiding the recuperation and rehabilitation of Belarusian children.
Optimism is Stronger than Caesium explores work done to deal with the consequences of the catastrophe and looks at what the future holds, since problems regarding radioactive contamination remain. The events of April 1986 continue to plague us, as caesium and strontium have long lives, affecting us for many decades. Despite the huge economic damage suffered by Belarus, which was most affected by Chernobyl’s fallout, we have achieved significant results in mitigating its consequences. The country began with major resettlement from contaminated areas, implementing an efficient system of radiation control. It has now shifted to socio-economic revival of affected regions: a major task tackled by the 5th State Programme on Overcoming the Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident for 2011-2015. This will cost the state $2.2bln — double that was spent over the previous five years.
Twenty five years ago, Chernobyl brought grief and misfortune, as we know only too well and will always remember. However, it also awoke people all over the planet, who perceived this grief as their own and were inspired to sympathise and offer help. Two and a half decades later, these people remain close to Belarus and we will be ever grateful.
The Japanese are also among those who have helped Belarus recover from the Chernobyl disaster, so Belarusians have responded readily to the misfortune which has arrived in Japan. In Clocks with Secrets, we hear how Minsk’s Polimaster Ltd. was inundated with telephone calls and emails following the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station. Authorities from various Japanese prefectures and other countries neighbouring Japan were keen to promptly receive devices able to monitor radiation levels.
Time follows its own path and there is really little to be gained in revisiting the reasons behind the tragedy which occurred at Chernobyl 25 years ago, in April 1986. Returning to those times, you feel human pain and understand the self-sacrifice of the rescuers and fire fighters and all those who did their duty, with no thought for their own safety or health. They each risked their life at the power station, located not far from Belarus.
Time isn’t an abstract phenomenon; rather, it’s absolutely concrete. Chernobyl and Fukushima show us that a technogenic accident in not just a ‘local event’; the whole world community should unite its efforts to fight such situations. It’s a pity that so much time passed before Belarus managed to convince the world of how much it had suffered from the accident at Chernobyl. It seems that understanding has finally arrived, although behind time. In such cases, initial recognition is vital. However, the country has done much to make ‘Chernobyl syndrome’ less painful.
BY Viktor Kharkov,