Chernobyl nuclear disaster shocks the world

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Twenty-two years ago, the most serious accident in nuclear history disrupted the lives of millions of people. Massive amounts of radioactive materials were released into the environment resulting in a radioactive cloud that spread over much of Europe. The greatest contamination occurred around the Chernobyl nuclear power station in areas that are now part of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. People in Czechoslovakia were not in acute danger, but like others in the communist block they learnt about the nuclear accident many days after it happened and the media censorship ordered by the communist regime prevented them from taking even the most basic precautions.
The Czechoslovak media on Chernobyl: censorship and disinformation

A few cases of iodine overdosing and various forms of mental trauma such as insomnia, concentration disorders, feelings of insecurity and anxiety: those were some of the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the local population, stemming from a lack of information and the government’s attempts to play down the gravity of the situation. Fortunately, according to experts, there was no acute risk to people’ health as a result of heightened radiation exposure.
Consequences of the accident in the Czech Republic

The radioactive air particles from the east spread out over Czechoslovakia and then rebounded back over Czechoslovak territory after hitting the Alps, which pushed the radiation back in the direction of Poland. The first signs of an approaching radioactive cloud were registered by employees of the Dukovany nuclear power plant in the night of April 29. The next day the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology as well as regional hygiene stations started monitoring radioactivity levels around the country.
A Peace Race under a radioactive cloud

The Peace Race, dating back to 1948 and known as the “Tour de France of the East”, was a prestigious cycling event attended not only by communist bloc states but also guest cyclists from the West. It was on a high sporting level but it also played an important political and ideological role. Its traditional participants were from Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany. In 1986 the Soviet Union joined in and it was decided the race should start from Kiev (Ukraine).
1986: fewer baby boys then baby girls - because of Chernobyl?

In November 1986, for the first time in half a century, doctors reported that fewer boys had been born than girls. Many scientists are convinced that this was caused by the radiation from Chernobyl. Embryologist Miroslav Peterka claims that because of the accident in Chernobyl, 450 boys were aborted. He came to the conclusion by comparing the birth-rate statistics of boys and girls over a longer period of time.
The Chernobyl accident and the Volyn Czechs

In the eastern part of Ukraine there lives a Czech minority called the Volyn Czechs, who settled there in the mid-19th century. Several of these villages are situated just tens of kilometres from the Chernobyl power plant. They were hard-hit by the radiation and for example the village of Malá Zubovščina in the region was slated (in December 1989) for displacement.
Therapeutic stays for children from Ukraine and Belarus

Every summer hundreds of children from countries affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident spend a few weeks in the Czech Republic on therapeutic stays. These stays are organized and financed by the Czech-Russian society, the Health Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Czech Compatriots’ Association, the UNESCO Chernobyl programme and a number of private sponsors. These curative stays have been organized since 1991, shortly after the idea to help children from the areas affected by the accident was first proposed. This happened during then-president Václav Havel’s visit to Ukraine.

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