Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Voices from Chernobyl

A few years ago, I watched a John Stossel segment on ABC’s 20/20 about myths. One of the myths he “debunks” is “Radiation Will Kill You.” In the report, he discusses Chernobyl, stating that “the biggest health menace the people of Chernobyl faced was psychological trauma, in part from fear. The fear was worse than the radiation.”

I was horrified when I first watched this report and feel doubly so after reading Voices from Chernobyl.

In the decade following the Chernobyl disaster, Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the nuclear reactor’s meltdown, including residents of the area and first responders and their families. Voices is a collection of their firsthand accounts.

I would like John Stossel to read these accounts and then try to tell the world the danger of radiation is a myth.

For example, in a moving prologue, a woman recounts her experiences as a pregnant wife watching her firefighter husband die. His skin falls from his body, and he coughs up pieces of vital organs. After being exposed to her husband’s radioactive body for two weeks, her baby is born with heart and liver disease and lives for only four hours.

I was particularly interested in the cleanup crews’ accounts. All of the responders interviewed suffer from the affects of radiation, and most were soldiers called—and sometimes forced—into action. Many survived action in Afghanistan only to die slowly from Chernobyl. Several wish they’d died from the known danger of an enemy’s bullet rather than suffering from radiation’s Russian roulette.

I’ve read other books about Chernobyl, but reading actual accounts makes the disaster much more personal and emotional. Although the meltdown occurred over 20 years ago, the affects still resound throughout Eastern Europe, particularly Belarus, today.

1 comment:

MarkR said...

"Voices from Chernobyl" is a great book and very much worth the time to read. It is difficult to believe what some of these people had to go through.

I personally visited the Chernobyl area for two days in June 2006 with a friend and former resident of Pripyat. We toured the Chernobyl Plant (including the Reactor 4 control room), several of the abandoned villages, and Pripyat. I have posted a photo journal of my trip at:

My Journey to Chernobyl: 20 Years After the Disaster