We’d like to share about an area in the northeast area of Belarus that has had settlers for some 700 years!! Unfortunately, it has another distinction, of being one of the two large contaminated zones in Belarus resulting from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The village of Tekhtin is our “partner village” in this area. Some years ago, we wanted to select one village with whom to establish a deepening relationship and to assist on a long term basis. A two year search led us to Tekhtin and we began bringing many of their children to our area for the “Children of Chernobyl Respite Program” mentioned earlier.
We have been going to Nadezhda for five years and plan to continue in 2015. We estimate that at least 75% (and probably closer to 95% of the campers) will be from Tekhtin this summer, providing our funding becomes available.
It has a population of about 1,000 persons and is adjacent to a communal farm involved with the forestry industry and also, with “farming” to supply food. Many of the parents work on the communal farm and one of the dads has his own business in the forestry industry. A mother of one of our campers milks cows for her “job”, fathers drive tractors and another is a veterinarian. From the trees surrounding the village, radiation is eventually brought into their homes.
You would no doubt consider it a great convenience and advantage to have wood right near your property for your wood-burning stoves, wouldn’t you? However, the problem is that the wood used to heat their homes and the village school has been contaminated with radiation from the radiated water in the streams that is then absorbed into the tree roots and up into the tree limbs. The winters are longer than ours so the entire community breathes in the radiated contaminants both at home and school from about September to April.
The wood is burned…the radiation is then spewed out into the air which they breathe. It’s beyond our comprehension to live in a situation like that. However, when they come to Nadezhda they are away from their environment and in a “clean” part of Belarus. We aren’t saying that 12 days makes a difference…but it’s 12 days when they aren’t living with the radiation.
Alcohol is readily available in Tekhtin because many residents make their own vodka. One of the Project Restoration board members actually saw a drunken mother meet the bus to pick up her son when he returned from Nadezhda with the other kids. As they walked away, she was heartbroken to see how he was greeted after having had such a great time at the camp.
It’s even more reason why we want to give these kids this great camping experience so they can leave there with some wonderful memories of their sports, craft times and their teaching.
NOTE: After writing the above, we were recently told that the Belarusian government has declared that Tekhtin is no longer in an area that is radioactive contaminated, even though there are several villages close by that are still said to have a higher level of radiation. Interesting, isn’t it?
However, in a conversation with someone who is knowledgeable, we were told there is the possibility of there being radioactive contamination in the underground streams. If that has happened in the area around Tekhtin, then the trees could still absorb the water into their root systems causing the wood that is burned for heating to spew radiation into the air of the schools and homes.