Tatjana Chartonowitsch, sales assistant and strawberry farmer, Belarus

"I would like my children to get away from here"

Tatjana Chartonowitsch is a sales assistant in a store that sells doors. The 38-year-old lives with her family in Dyatlovichi.

"My mother guarded a railway crossing, my father operated an excavator. I grew up in a neighbouring village. We had a good life and as children lacked nothing. Today we live in a contaminated landscape and should only plant green vegetables because they absorb less radionuclides. I have a large garden that provides us with all the vegetables you could need: potatoes, beetroot, cabbage, cucumbers, beans, peppers, asparagus, corn and different types of berries. We've even made our own wine. The vegetables are cooked and then stored for the winter. Some areas around here are completely off-limits for agriculture. Only three kilometres away, our neighbouring village was evacuated years ago and only a few elderly people have remained. In the forest we have to know precisely at which spots we can safely pick mushrooms or berries. Just a stone's throw away, the wild berries can be contaminated by radiation. This is how we've learned to live. My children, too. I love them more than anything, and I will do everything to ensure they have a good life. I miss my 19-year-old son Artiom very much, but it's good that he has gone to Minsk to the air force, and I hope that he stays there and and just visits us from time to time. As for my 15-year-old daughter Julia, I hope that she finds happiness far away from Dyatlovichi. It will break my heart when she leaves, but I won't hold her back. We're like two good friends, and she's already very mature for her age, a thoughtful girl who swallows whole libraries and brings the world into her room via the internet. A few years ago, my husband Evgenij, who was working for some time in Poland, could have had an offer for a fixed job and house in a neighbouring country. We deliberated back and forth and ultimately decided to stay. We were too cowardly to brave a new beginning. But now after six years' work, we've built our own house, having done everything with our own hands. We never ever would have been able to afford this with the money my husband earns as a car mechanic and I as a sales assistant. The 400 euros is just enough to live on. We earned the money for the house with strawberries that we grow on a field. We harvest over one tonne. Every harvest time, Eduard makes four trips to Petersburg, driving 1,200 kilometres with 300 kilos of fresh berries loaded in the car to sell them there. He gets around 2 euros per kilo. We put the money mainly into building materials as the house is far from being finished. But it's a place where we can live quite well – and grow old. "


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