Light a candle today to remember Chernobyl on the 35th anniversary urges Adi Roche

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. ADI ROCHE, founder of Chernobyl Children International, talks about the ongoing fall-out from the event, which continues to stalk generations
Light a candle today to remember Chernobyl on the 35th anniversary urges Adi Roche

Adi Roche of Chernobyl Children International.

IN 35 years’ time, in the year 2056, I wonder what will the memories be, and what commemorations will take place to remember the Covid-19 pandemic?

When the history of Covid-19 is written, the most powerful, emotional, and inspiring images that will stand the test of time will be of our ‘frontline’ workers, nurses and doctors.

We will remember and honour those who sadly suffered and died, those who lost their businesses and livelihoods, those who performed heroic work to save those afflicted, those neighbours and friends who reached out to those in want, in crisis, in loneliness amid this awful pandemic that has killed three million people around the world.

The powerful images that will travel through time will not be of empty streets, masks, gowns, or injections, but of the ‘entwined hands’ of nurses and patients as nurses offered consolation and fought to ease the suffering and fear of their patients. Images showing the overriding humanity and compassion of our nurses, moved daily by the impulses of their hearts.

Thank God there are now effective vaccines that will finally put an end to this terrible pandemic and hopefully, an end will come soon to the ravages of Covid19.

Today, we remember 35 years ago, April 26, 1986, when a different suffering was unleashed in a little-known nuclear reactor, when the word ‘CHERNOBYL’ entered the history of language, the history of world disasters, and into the history of the world itself, with a terrible and frightening force.

On that fateful morning, the nuclear reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Station exploded, spewing 190 tons of deadly contaminating radiation 7km into the dark night sky which was then carried by the prevailing winds northwards.

Voluntary CEO of Chernobyl Children International, Adi Roche with Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Joe Kavanagh and Lord Mayoress Stephanie Kavanagh lighting a candle to mark United Nations Chernobyl Remembrance Day (26 April) and the 35th anniversary of the devastating Chernobyl nuclear accident, recognising the extraordinary contribution the people of Ireland have made to Chernobyl’s victims since 1986. Picture: Darragh Kane
Voluntary CEO of Chernobyl Children International, Adi Roche with Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Joe Kavanagh and Lord Mayoress Stephanie Kavanagh lighting a candle to mark United Nations Chernobyl Remembrance Day (26 April) and the 35th anniversary of the devastating Chernobyl nuclear accident, recognising the extraordinary contribution the people of Ireland have made to Chernobyl’s victims since 1986. Picture: Darragh Kane

Chernobyl is a town in Northern Ukraine, on the border of Belarus and Western Russia. The Soviet Union was still in existence at the time, and in response to the Chernobyl accident, the authorities’ approach was ‘don’t tell anyone’, allowing innocent people in the nearby towns and villages to be contaminated, allowing a May Day parade to go ahead with thousands of innocent people to be poisoned by the fallout.

Radiation is transboundary by nature, it needs no entry or exit visa, it travels with the elements. When the radioactive plumes spread out over Europe, and in Sweden, where the first alarm bells were rung, the soviet authorities could not hide the facts anymore. 2,000 towns and villages were hastily evacuated, 400,000 men, women, and children hurriedly boarded into trucks and buses, becoming the first environmental refugees.

In the direct aftermath of the explosion in 1986, frantic attempts to quench the radioactive fire were made by brave firemen, nuclear station workers, and volunteers. These men are known as liquidators and they were the ‘frontline workers’ of Chernobyl. Many of them were killed due to the initial explosion and radioactive contamination in subsequent years.

Chernobyl was an invisible war declared upon the people on that fateful day. They suffered the invasion of an invisible enemy, one they could not see, taste, touch, and one against which you could send no standing army, no weapon, no antidote, no safe haven. This enemy is radiation.

Adi Roche of Chernobyl Children International 2016 in Vesnova village near Glusk, Belarus.
Adi Roche of Chernobyl Children International 2016 in Vesnova village near Glusk, Belarus.

It has permeated every aspect of the cycle of life. Air, water, food, there is no escape, no enclave, no emergency exit. It is indiscriminate, just like the virus. However, the difference is there is an end to the virus, whereas radiation goes on to infinity.

35 years on, the impact of Chernobyl continues to stalk across the generations…in the land, water, air, and DNA of all life. Chernobyl isn’t something from the past; Chernobyl was ‘forever’, Chernobyl is ‘forever;’. The impact of that single shocking nuclear accident can never be undone; its radioactive footprint is embedded in our world forever.

As in most tragedies, children pay the highest price. When it comes to radiation it is no different. Their small bodies absorb adult doses, and those who were children themselves in 1986, are the parents of 2021, thus we see what has become known as ‘Chernobyl Lineage’, where the effects cross into the ‘third generation’.

Eve Hewson Commemorating UN Chernobyl Remembrance Day and the 35th Anniversary of Chernobyl.
Eve Hewson Commemorating UN Chernobyl Remembrance Day and the 35th Anniversary of Chernobyl.

Countless people are still being affected by its deadly legacy, shadowing into their lives for future generations. Chernobyl acts as a ‘cautionary tale’…this accident could happen in any nuclear power station.

For many, 35 years since the Chernobyl tragedy is like reading history, but thankfully not so here in Ireland. We have committed ourselves to their memory and their suffering, and so we light a candle, we hold them in our minds and hearts, and we honour their memory, their struggle, their sacrifice. We honour the countless volunteers who dedicate so much to the children of Chernobyl. Sadly 35 years is just a blip in time in the long-reaching effects of radiation.

Just last week, there was consternation in Japan and its neighbouring countries, as authorities there have approved the release of one million tonnes of radioactive contaminated water from the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean. The nuclear explosion in Fukushima happened a mere 10 years ago. Fishermen and local communities are horrified at the prospect of contaminating the ocean, the fish, the living waters.

We now know all too well that we have only one planet, one earth, we are living in very difficult global warming times…or is it Global-Warning? Warning us, reminding us, urging us to act. We start to act by reminding ourselves of the terrible accidents and mistakes of previous years.

So, this week we reach out with the bright light of our candle of hope, our beacon in the darkness, our symbol of solidarity with one another and with our dear children in the Chernobyl affected areas. 

This week, we reach out to all victims of this tragedy, we remind ourselves and each other that we are one, we are not alone, and we shall overcome.

On this 35th anniversary we re-dedicate ourselves to the innocent victims of Chernobyl, especially to the children, saying to them: ‘we will not forget you’ and we will continue to do all we can to alleviate their suffering, their wants, their needs, their neglect.

We cannot choose to banish THE DARKNESS, but we can choose to KINDLE THE LIGHT!

Join us in solidarity with the people of Chernobyl on the 35th Anniversary. Be part of our global call for everyone to LIGHT a candle to remember, to commemorate, and say loudly ‘you are NOT alone, you are not forgotten.

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