As you know, 30 years is the half-life of only one of the radioactive elements that got into the environment as a result of the terrible man-made disaster in Chernobyl. This element is cesium.
The country has changed and will continue to change, new generations of Ukrainians have already grown up. “A local catastrophe with global consequences”, according to the international scale of nuclear events, is gradually disappearing into the margins of Ukrainian history.
Recalling the tragic events of April 1986, we appeal to those who saved the world from the global spread of the Chernobyl atom – the liquidators of the Chernobyl accident. Their stories are sad, their current problems are similar in many ways …
65-year-old Alexander Koren from Chernigov is a participant in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Ironically, in 1977-1978, he worked as a welder and installer on the construction of the 4th power unit of the Chernobyl station, laid the foundation for the 5th power unit.
After all, the authorities planned to build at least six power units at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. But these intentions remained forever only plans. After the accident at the fourth power unit, the authorities stopped the construction of the third stage of the nuclear power plant. By the way, it included the construction of the fifth and sixth power units with the same reactors.
These facilities were at the final stage of construction and were almost ready for launch. They almost finished building of the fifth power unit. They planned to launch it in October 1986, the sixth – a year later.
Alexander worked at a worsted-cloth factory as a battery operator in Chernigov. His wife, Natalia, worked as a dispatcher at the same enterprise. In 1986, three children were already growing up in the family. The youngest, Andrei, was only two years old at that time, daughter Tatiana was three, and the eldest, Roman, was seven. In April 1986, Alexander Koren was on vacation with his parents in the village of Dneprovskoe.
I learned that not everything is in order at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant from a godfather who lived in Pripyat and worked as an operator at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
However, the general atmosphere of “pacification”, the widespread holding of May Day parades, did not prompt to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of children and families. Everyone around them continued to live their normal lives. A summons from the military registration and enlistment office to 31-year-old Alexander, the father of three young children, came a little later.
They said in Lenin’s room: “Wait, they will send you soon”
Alexander Koren recalls: “Officially, no one said where and why we were being mobilized. They gathered the men at the military registration and enlistment office. Also, they put men on four buses and sent them to Belaya Tserkov. There they changed into military uniforms, collected them in Lenin’s room and warned: “Wait, they will send you soon.” Then, they brought us to a tent camp in the 30-kilometer zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
The management emphasized that we were volunteers, although none of us asked for it, and no one asked us specifically. Chernigov firefighters and a brigade from Dnepropetrovsk were in the same camp. The regime and discipline were reminiscent of military exercises. However, none of us fully realized the degree of danger to which we exposed ourselves.”
Alexander Koren spent one month eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident and one day in June 1986. Together with other volunteers, he was engaged in decontamination of the premises of the third power unit, worked at the battery substation. Work near the reactor lasted 4 hours a day. Each of those who were there had a dosimeter. However, most of them did not work, because they were constantly discharged due to the excess of the radiation level.
Another liquidator of the accident – Anatoly Matusevich from Zhitomir – confirmed these words. At the time of the accident, he was the head of the fire testing laboratory of the fire department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Zhytomyr Regional Executive Committee. There, at the beginning of May 1986, a consolidated fire brigade was formed to liquidate a fire at the ChNPP. Anatoly headed this detachment. The liquidator himself recalls those events as follows:
“I remember that when we arrived in Ivankov, the detachment, to replace which they brought us in, did not have time to vacate our tents and territory, but commands and orders had already arrived at our address. Vanity, many are confused. A pile of new fire hoses lay five meters from the campground. Everything would be fine, but their radiation background was off scale.
We, the military and the civilian population, walked near this heap. No matter how much I asked for permission to take them to the “burial ground”. I was not allowed to do it. Not everyone in the leadership understood that you cannot taste, touch, and even glance at radiation. These are neither stones nor weapons. They are penetrating rays that you cannot see. “
“The personnel performed tasks directly at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in Chernobyl and Pripyat,” Anatoly Matusevich says. We supplied water to the sites where concrete was made, decontaminated the cities of Pripyat, Chernobyl and other settlements, equipment, extinguished peat and forest fires in a 30-kilometer zone. We carried out the work in an area with a high level of radiation.
Almost forty-degree heat, which was that summer, also haunted. Despite the fact that the radiation level in the area around the destroyed reactor reached about 70 roentgens per hour, the liquidators worked without adequate protective equipment. All of us, without exception, received significant doses of radiation. However, no one fixed them for sure.”
It hurts and insults, it’s unfair
The liquidators did not know about the actual radiation background in which they were. They also did not know about the possible consequences for their health. Alexander Koren notes that few of those people with whom he was in the Chernobyl zone are still alive today. For example, his tentmate died at 35. Alexander Romanovich himself is a disabled person of the first group.
“Of course, it hurts and insults, it is unfair. Someone received the highest military ranks, good pensions, but for us – ordinary people – everything remained unchanged. We lost our health, many gave their lives. Unfortunately, the state does not pay attention to the affected population, liquidators, their families. It does not provide the entire spectrum of promised benefits.
Although back in 1991, the state prescribed benefits for Chernobyl victims in all vital areas: housing, education, medicines, loans for construction, travel in public transport, free medicines, benefits when entering universities, spa treatment, pensions, subsidies, etc. Where is all this? Name at least one simple liquidator who today fully uses all these benefits. He doesn’t exist.
Today, we have come to the conclusion that every year, just high-quality medicine becomes inaccessible for many liquidators. It is especially offensive that this is not due to the lack of necessary resources from the state. There is no longer a secret that there are people who “made” a certificate for themselves. In fact, they do not know where Chernobyl is located on the map, or were on a fishing trip in Pripyat and became “fake liquidators”.
The man spent several hours in the zone, but he earned his status. Now, if there were no such “one-day Chernobyl victims”, then real liquidators would be able to receive more tangible social assistance,” Aleksandr Koren says with offense.
It is difficult to disagree with these words. Do you feel how the half-life of not only radioactive elements, but also common human morality occurs?