Chernobyl and the aftermath

Chernobyl is 60 miles north of Kiev. I have been to Ukraine as a member of a mission team to Zitomer, 60 miles west of Kiev. My husband and I stayed in the home of one of the host pastors. The pastor was the only one in the home who spoke English. He was gone most of the week because his construction job was in Kiev. He could not support his family on his pastor's wages.

Every day we were there, we loaded into a van and went out into the countryside to villages. An optometrist on the team gave eye exams and distributed donated glasses from the US. Some of us did activities with the children, and the adults heard the gospel as well as information about cult groups infiltrating Ukraine after their declaration of religious freedom.

We drank bottled water; any water was unsafe for consumption. Was it safe for cooking? We ate vegetables from gardens: tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, at every meal. Was the ground in their garden safe? We were encouraged in awkward sign language to pluck cherries from the cherry tree at our host's home. At some level, we didn't realize just how dangerous life in Ukraine could be. On another level, we did not want to insult our new friends. For some other homes hosting the mission team, electricity and hot water were luxuries. 

Our interpreter told us that the population had declined by two-thirds. I asked if they had moved out of Ukraine. She looked me in the eye and said, "They died." One of the other host pastors had severe stomach problems, probably due to eating whatever villagers put before him. It's considered rude to refuse. The Chernobyl museum in Kiev can be easily compared to the Holocaust museum in DC. The sobering tour soon explained our interpreter's assessment of the extent of the nuclear disaster. It's hard to understand that the former Soviet Union did nothing for days to inform Ukraine and Belarus that the very air they breathed was filled with radiation. The water they drank came from the contaminated river and ground water.

Effects of radiation ongoing

This disaster came on a day of public parades and celebrations. Children watched the festivities in the streets and played in the poisoned rainwater. On this day, all the citizens should have been inside. The date of the disaster has become a marker of the world population. Cancer and other illnesses have left many children without parents. One of the ministries we did in Ukraine was to visit institutions like orphanages and 'old age' homes. Another interesting insight into this tragedy is the aging of adults. Many could not believe my husband and I were in our fifties when we went. Fifty-year-olds in Ukraine looked more like 70.

The blatant disregard for the lives of Ukrainians in the biggest nuclear disaster by the former Soviet Union led to Ukraine's separation and freedom from Soviet rule. Does a fence keep radiation inside a radius around Chernobyl? Does the water in the river escape radiation as it travels south? While people do live inside the enclosure of Chernobyl, though one has a hard time understanding why, the rest of Ukraine, Belarus, and Eastern Europe also face the dangers of radiation from Chernobyl. Does the world have a better answer to save the world from Russia's failure? With North Korea threatening the use of nuclear weapons and fear of terrorists getting aging nuclear weapons from unsecure areas, it's time to decide how much radiation the world is willing to ingest. #Health #World Politics #Environment