On the 30th Anniversary of the Chornobyl Catastrophe

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Thirty years ago today, the worst nuclear disaster in history occurred at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, causing irreparable harm and tragic human, natural and economic losses to Ukraine and its people.

On the night of Saturday, April 26, 1986, an act of unforgivable negligence at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Northern Ukraine resulted in disaster. An explosion at the plant blew the concrete roof off of Reactor #4 sending large amounts of toxic radioactivity billowing into the atmosphere.  This was not simply an industrial accident, but the unimaginable result of carelessness and disregard on the part of Soviet authorities, that led to human tragedy on a massive scale. Cognizant of their error, the regime did the unthinkable. It imperiled millions of lives by remaining silent and refusing to admit that anything out of the ordinary had happened! It wasn’t until Swedish diplomats, having detected abnormal amounts of radioactivity within their own country, gave notice on Monday, April 28th of their impending desire to file an official alert with the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Moscow finally issued this brief five-sentence statement, which read: “An accident has occurred at Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station.  One of the atomic reactors has been damaged.  Measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the accident.  Aid is being given to the victims.  A government commission has been set up.”

In the meantime, the people of Ukraine were completely left in the dark due to the Soviet authorities’ silence and failure to take the proper precautions to secure the safety of their citizens. Evacuations from the immediate area surrounding Chornobyl were not even initiated by the authorities until 36 hours after the explosion.  Moreover, five days after the catastrophe, in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, a mere 60 miles south of Chornobyl, thousands of unsuspecting citizens paraded in the streets in celebration of May Day, oblivious to the invisible danger that had already infiltrated their city.

The result of this tragedy is not only startling, but long lasting. Although there were those who died immediately from exposure to high levels of radiation, we must not forget the on-going effects that continue to plague Ukraine today: the alarming increase in birth defects and infant mortality, the extremely high rate of thyroid and other cancers, and the countless other side effects that will plague Ukraine for centuries to come.

Ukraine inherited from the totalitarian communist regime the grim and lasting legacy of this nuclear catastrophe, whose destructive power transcended all borders. The efforts to deal with the aftermath of Chornobyl and the far‑reaching effects of the disaster exceed the abilities of any one country - it needs the cooperation of the entire international community. Therefore, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, on this 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear catastrophe, reaffirms its resolve to ensure that the ongoing needs of the victims in Ukraine are not forgotten and calls on the international community to join together to address the consequences of the Chornobyl catastrophe, by providing the moral and financial support needed to assist the affected communities and ease the continued suffering of the countless victims in the wake of this tragedy.

On this 30th anniversary the UCCA also honors those who perished and those who survived this catastrophe. We remember the hundreds of emergency workers who responded to the catastrophe; the hundreds of thousands who were uprooted from their homes; and the millions who suffered and continue to suffer from health issues related to Chornobyl.

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