Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Lest we Forget! The legacy of Chernobyl

I came across this plaque whilst I was walking the other day. It hung on a trellis behind a flower tub by the edge of the road. I suspect it was the site of a road accident. The heart certainly seemed to signify that someone very special was being remembered  as it hung over a  vase of  daffodils and tulips recently placed there.

It brought to mind another memorial I had come across this week. A sculpture entitled The Book of life by David Kracov. It is a metal sculpture ,half a metre high, of an opened book out of which are flying many coloured butterflies. The book is a tribute to Rabbi Yossi Raichik,director of Charbad's Children of Chernobyl organisation,and the butterflies represent  the  children who survived Chernobyl and who had been helped by the  charity since.The pages of the book contain poems by children of Auschwitz. the main one being "The Butterfly" by  Pavel Friedman.

The Butterfly
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone…
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
kiss the world goodbye.
For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
In the ghetto.

I hadn't realised ,until I started to look into it, that Belarus (which is north of the Ukraine) was exposed to 90 times the amount of radiation to that released when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.Worse still the disaster happened in my life time in April 1986 and I , perhaps because I was too busy with my career and living a 'mainstream life' back then , didn't appreciate the significance. Home education has taught me to question things and to  become far more involved in politics when I'm passionate about something I believe is important. I think home education does that to you.

I discovered a free book on kindle called The Radiant Girl . It is aimed at children aged 9-14 but it is so much more than a children's book. I'm gripped as it tells the story of the Chernobyl disaster and the impact it had on the residents of  Pripyat, who were evacuated 36 hours after the accident unaware that they had been exposed to large doses of radiation.

I remembered a book I had found in a charity shop months ago - it's funny how those little things suddenly fit into place. It is the story of Ira who was born with severe disabilities, two years after the disaster. A combination of fact and fiction are helping the details fall into place and, at every opportunity , I talk to my son about what I've learned and he will show me how much he knows by dropping in a fact he already knew such as where The Ukraine was on the map or the fact that it used to form part of Russia.

I explained what I'd learned about Nuclear fusion and that certain chemical components  (radionuclides) decayed at different rates.When contamination decreased by half it was called the nuclide's half life. For some such as iodine the rate was relatively fast- only a matter of days.For plutonium it was 24,000 years.

What I  hadn't fully appreciated was the effect that such devastation caused,not only in the countries immediately surrounding the Ukraine but at my own doorstep in Cumbria.Restrictions on sheep on some farms on the south lakeland fells were only lifted in 2012 and this article which appeared in the Westmorland Gazette two years earlier shows how it affected the livelihood of farmers' in Cumbria 

What started off as a small picture of a sculpture posted on Facebook has turned into a lesson on history, science, art,English and politics and I intend to find out more.

And on a lighter note. Look what popped through our letter box yesterday. A lovely Christmas Postcard, courtesy of Post Crossing .And you'll never guess where it came from- The Ukraine! Home Education never ceases to amaze me!

Addendum 4th December 2014  : today I came across this footage of Chernobyl as it now is- Food for thought

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