Friday, August 3, 2007
The Chernobyl liquidators: incredible men with incredible stories (Part 3)
This weekend, I will write an analysis of what I've learned so far from the liquidators and about the liquidators. But for now, here are a few more interview summaries:
Liquidator #7 - bus driver and strawberry wine enthusiast
Liquidator #7 was working for a construction organization in 1986. He remembers that it was a religious holiday (probably Orthodox Easter) when he first heard about the accident. His family had gone to church, and on the way back, they saw many buses headed to Chernobyl.
He also remembers that he had a garden full of strawberries. He was told not to eat them after the disaster because they were contaminated, but he had also been told to drink one glass of red wine every day as protection against radiation. So, he picked the strawberries and stored them in the sun until they became like wine. Since strawberry wine is red, he and his family and friends drank it all month, just like the officials said. The wine was very good, and he was very happy about this.
Liquidator #7’s job in Chernobyl was as a bus driver. He transported people to and from the clean part of the Exclusion Zone to the "dirty" part, where the Chernobyl NPP was. In 1986, he did this in Chernobyl for only one day. Then, he did it again from 1988 to 1990. It was one of the best paying jobs in Chernobyl at that time. He could spend 2 weeks at home and 2 weeks at work, and the payment was 4 times as big as it was in Kyiv. He chose to go to Chernobyl for the money.
There was nothing to be scared of, in his opinion. He changed his clothes often, and he cleaned himself a lot. His bus was quite contaminated, so he had to wash it many times.
He has had health problems since 1990, and he is ready for death. He does not know if radiation caused his illnesses – but half of his friends are now dead. They were liquidators, too.
If he could go back, he would make the same decision to go to Chernobyl. This is because he has children and grandchildren, and they have to be saved.
He does not think the Ukrainian government has treated him well at all. In his opinion, the politicians think only about themselves, not about the Ukrainian people. In his own words, “damn the government.”
Liquidator #8 - gas, oil, and kerosene delivery man
Liquidator #8 was born in the Luhansk Oblast in 1951. He heard about the accident at home, from his friends. He had no reaction to the news.
He was called to liquidation by the military department of his city in 1987. He had no choice about going there. His name was put on a special list. Everyone on this list was given a medical exam, and the next day they were all sent to Chernobyl.
Liquidator #8 was a driver in Chernobyl, transporting gas, oil, and kerosene. He was in the Exclusion Zone for 3 months. He had some problems with his health while he was inside the Zone – headaches and a cough – but when he left, everything became okay for a while. He was not informed about the risks of working in Chernobyl. He was only told which roads he was supposed to drive on. He was not scared.
Liquidator #8 has had very big problems with his health since 1987. He has not been able to work since 1990. He has problems talking and writing, and he has very bad headaches. He received an official irradiated dose of 8.149 roentgens; however, he thinks that his actual dose was higher. He thinks radiation caused his health problems.
He is very sad about the situation he is in. In his mind, he was “broken” during his time in Chernobyl, but he has received no benefits for the work he did there.
Given the current level of attention he receives from the Ukrainian government, he would not have agreed to be a liquidator if he could go back in time. The pension he receives for his lost health is too small. He would like to receive more social benefits from the government, such as a bigger pension and a better apartment than he has now.
Liquidator #9 - wall destroyer
Liquidator #9 was born in the Sumy Oblast in 1958. He heard about the Chernobyl disaster on the television. His reaction was negative, but he had no anxiety about it.
The military asked him to go to Chernobyl in 1987. His name was on their “list.” He had no choice in going; in fact, he feared that he would go to prison if he refused.
Liquidator #9’s job was to remove the old, bad layer of matter from the reactor walls. He was not told about the risks. Since he had no choice about going to Chernobyl, it “did not matter whether he was scared or not.” He was called there for 180 days, but he ended up being in Chernobyl for only 42 days.
He received an irradiated dose of 9.1 roentgens. Since 1987, he has had headaches, back pain, and leg and hand pain. It seems to him that his irradiated dose caused these problems.
Even for a lot of money, he would never go back to Chernobyl.
He does not think that the Ukrainian government cares about the liquidators.