Chernobyl: Hunger strike in a hospital ward
Chernobyl: Hunger strike in a hospital ward

A state of emergency is not of a local scale – this is what the eighteen liquidators of the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, which occurred in the early spring of 1990 at the All-Union Scientific Center for Radiation Medicine, were called. Its participants are former miners from Makeevka, Donetsk, Krivoy Rog, Gorlovka and other cities, that were being treated in Pushcha-Voditsa, where the clinic of the center of radiation medicine was located.

The miners who initiated the hunger strike lost their health during restoration work, being at the epicenter of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. The Chernobyl disaster responded to them not only by the loss of their own health, but also by the tragic fate of their colleagues, who, as a result of internal exhaustion, died before their eyes, or turned into invalids – such was the fate of thousands of liquidators.

It inevitably waited for those who, on a hunger strike, decided to join the battle for their rights and dared to write a telegram to the Kremlin. Former miners demanded the creation of a special state commission to clean up the issue of medical care for the liquidators of the Chernobyl accident.

Among the categorical requirements set forth by disabled miners were, including those that could be resolved exclusively at the highest union level:

  • to change the approach to the diagnosis of diseases associated with the elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident,
  • to establish guarantee support for all liquidators at their place of residence with emergency medicines,
  • to conduct a full and objective examination of all liquidators who were on guard duty or who were in the service in the 30 km Chernobyl zone,
  • to return the balances of state account № 904 taken from it by the leadership of the Ministry of Atomic Energy.

But there is also in this official document that the miners made their objective diagnosis as much as possible from their point of view – indifference.

As soon as the fact of transmission of a telegram with a special signature stamp “The Kremlin. Urgent” was reported, representatives of the party nomenclature and journalists immediately rushed to the strikers being treated and at the same time on a hunger strike, in short, the situation in the clinic of the scientific center became quite tense.

The following stories are collected from the memories of eyewitnesses of those events. V.V. Sambursky, a resident of Krivoy Rog, who participated in the decontamination of the second Chernobyl power unit tells …

Now I have the second group of disabilities in general disease. Only after arriving at the Center for Radiation Medicine, I learned that the commission established a connection between my disease and my participation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in December last year. But no one officially told me about this. I worked in Chernobyl with a storage device only 17 days out of 60 days of shift, then my dose was 49.3 rem. Then the drives stopped issuing, the remaining shift worked without them. Now, when recounting, it turned out that my dose load was at least 162 rem. I had already been treated in this All-Union Scientific Center of Radiation Medicine, and also underwent treatment in Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk. My head hurts a lot every day, the pressure is 200 to 100 every day, and I can’t bring it down, I feel I`m dying away – every day my strength is getting smaller. However, they do not establish a connection between my illness and the consequences of working in Chernobyl because of the unfair calculation of the received dose of radiation”.

Narrated by N.Y. Rodionova, teacher of secondary school № 120 of Donetsk, deputy chairman of the Chernobyl regional union …

I deal with the problems of the evacuated population from the 30 km Exclusion Zone. There are 40 of us such families in the house where I live. Only six are healthy of the 56 children registered with the pediatrician. All other children are ill. The degree and form of the disease is different for everyone. Depending on where they were before the evacuation and where they were originally resettled, they suffer from diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, blood, and there are two cases of a nervous disorder. My son, with whom I came to the center of radiation medicine, was seriously ill. Today I received a medical report from Professor Laponogov, according to which my son has an epileptic syndrome, with the need for medical intervention and craniotomy. I faced that it is impossible to get the necessary medicine for a sick child. I am a teacher of history and law, every day in the classroom I must inspire schoolchildren about the justice of our society, its primal line and humanity. But when every day you come across an inhuman attitude towards Chernobyl victims, especially affected children, your heart breaks into pieces. I can’t calmly look at the pain of these innocent guys”.

A.Z. Cyrillic, a resident of the Ternopil region reveals ….

How much time has passed since the accident, how many official assurances have been, and the matter of providing Chernobyl with necessary medicines is in place, at a dead point, does not move. People continue to be sick and die. Before the accident, we were young and completely healthy men. And recently, I have seen the guys here, in the center, with whom I worked at the third power unit – whom they looked like, inside there was one trash left. There is no social security – we are forced to suffer. One service blames another – and go around in circles. And most importantly, there are no urgently needed medications at the place of residence. Chernobyl children are brought here to the center from everywhere: from Ternopol, from Chernigov, from Chernivtsi, looking at whom and where they were relocated during the evacuation period. Everyone in whose life Chernobyl has appeared was as if they had visited the “atomic war in miniature”. It’s not so easy to take and strike out people from society, to stop providing even the most basic medical and social assistance…”

March 1990. While in the chamber of the starving miners, the situation is commented on by the deputy chairman of the Chernobyl Union, A.G. Krasin:

What is happening in the clinic of the All-Union Scientific Center of Radiation Medicine did not arise from scratch. The Chernobyl problem is long overdue, but neither the state nor the government is going to solve it. Liquidators go on hunger strikes everywhere – in clinics in Moscow, Kharkov, Sverdlovsk, and Donetsk. Now it was announced by the liquidators who are undergoing treatment at the clinic of the All-Union Scientific Center for Radiation Medicine, showing solidarity with all the injured colleagues who participated in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident and in the Exclusion Zone. Some of them have already been associated with the consequences of the liquidation of the Chernobyl accident by decisions of the relevant medical commissions. And some are still forced to fight for their rights. Concern is caused not only by the problems of the liquidation participants, but also by the problems of residents evacuated from 30 km of the Exclusion Zone, as well as the fate of those who still live and work in the tight control zone. In my opinion, moral and material compensation for the damage to health should be provided for and social protection of such people should be organized. For comparison, those who continue to work in the Exclusion Zone today are serviced by specialists from the third Main Directorate of the Ministry of Health, whose specialists have an understanding of the characteristics of the effects of radiation on the human body. Whereas the participants in the liquidation of the consequences of the accident who are not working in the compulsory resettlement zone are served at the place of residence by a network of ordinary clinics, where there is no such understanding. What could be a way to solve the problem of increasing the efficiency of medical care for such people, providing them with the necessary medicines? First of all, it is necessary to create as quickly as possible a register of all participants in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, and all who were exposed to radiation to one degree or another as a result of the accident. It is necessary to provide this category of citizens with special certificates, on the basis of which they will be treated, dispense medications to them, without the hassle and painful waiting in lines. And now there is nomenclature confusion. There is one single commission that holds a meeting only once a quarter, at which a decision is made on establishing a connection between a person’s disease and the radiation dose received by him. A person must drive up, come, fly, or sail to this meeting even from the Far East or the shores of Kamchatka – how and in what condition his health is –his does not bother anyone, and besides, you need to bring about 20 all kinds of certificates with you. Such bureaucratic red tape leads to outbursts of human pain and emotions…”

The hunger strike, of course, was stopped. The delegation, which included representatives of the miners who initiated the hunger strike, and representatives of the Chernobyl Union, flew to Moscow to settle all the issues raised. It should be said that a lot was then decided. What echo this subsequently referred to the fate of these people – time has shown.

It remains obvious that only by resorting to radical actions one could defend one’s rights to those who once, by order or voluntarily, arrived at the ruins of the fourth Chernobyl nuclear power unit. Did they think then in 1986 that after a while, they would have to pass another test – moral humiliation and social indifference in the person of the state, which most recently so needed their help?

Did they think that they would have to defend their right to an elementary human attitude in return for their lost health, organizing a forced hunger strike, as an act of despair and hopelessness? How many of the liquidators then went to Chernobyl knowing all this in advance? The question is rhetorical, and the answer, most likely unequivocal – everyone would go – after all, who, if not us?