It has been 25 years since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, to the day.
25 years ago, Ukraine, like Poland and other countries, was part of the USSR for 40 years already. The details of that, I won't get into. That is a discussion for another day and could be talked about for an entire lifetime without many changing their perspectives and grasping one another's feelings on the subject.
Instead, I will share with you my personal experiences regarding Chernobyl.
We had been in the USA for almost 4 years at this time. My little brother was about 3 years old. He is American born. At this time, I was almost 6 years old. Not yet in school.
My parents started saying words over and over which meant nothing to my young mind. "Chernobyl", "Nuklearny", "Energia jadrowa". And words I knew. "Ukraine", "Sovieci", "Murderstwo", "Makabra", "Boga".
My mother was crossing herself and crying. My father was smoking more cigarettes (outside, never inside around us children and always thinking we never saw it) than usual. My parents were whispering a lot and glancing at us children playing and walking into another room to talk.
Phone calls to Poland were made. I would hate to imagine how expensive that phone bill was for them, since I knew they easily paid $100 for a half hour phone call at the time.
The news was on a lot.
It was as though the air was electric. Something was going on but I didn't know what. I asked but my parents answered me the way they did when I asked about our leaving Poland. "One day when you are older and can understand and not be angry or blame anyone, I will tell you."
They never explained it to me. I was never told by my parents about the Chernobyl disaster. Instead, I learned about it in passing in school and the subject called to me. I learned about it on my own.
I learned that the sarcophagus now containing the radiation at Chernobyl has an expected lifetime of 30 years and that a newer, more long term solution should have started being created 25 years ago in order to meet the deadline. I learned that as of yet, funds are still being raised for it. I can't blame Ukraine. But that is another discussion about a country's economic aftereffects from being under the USSR for so many years.
When the Japanese nuclear disaster occurred recently, my Ciocia revealed to me a bit about how my family was affected by Chernobyl.
She said thoughts that truly struck home with me. "People would go outside and not be able to catch their breathe. Some people got throat cancer suddenly. Skin cancer. Other cancers. Teeth started suddenly falling out of the mouths of healthy people. Hair fell out for some. Old people got sick. Children got thyroid cancer. Babies bron a few months later, some weren't lucky. Maybe it wasn't from Chernobyl but it was a terrible coincidence."
I didn't know what she meant at first, but learned later that there were some cases of elevated levels of Downs Syndrome and Neural Tube Defects, etc. in certain areas of population. Of course, that made sense to me since fetuses are so vulnerable during pregnancy.
My Ciocia was not the first or the last to say such words. But to hear a very intelligent woman who I respect highly and who I know is not a sensationalist or prone to hysteria in any way, that is what hits home.
I hope the world does not face such a disaster again. But while hoping against such an event, the only solution I can ever think of is to say "No" to Nuclear power. Yet, who am I? I am no government official, I am not a rich company or investor. I am nobody who can make a difference.
So, all I can do is pray to God...