Vadim Shilko, journalist, Luninez, Belarus

"Chernobyl is history. Unfortunately."

Vadim Shilko is the deputy editor of the independent weekly Progulka, which has a circulation of 12,000 copies (of which 2,000 are subscribers) in the 25,000-person town of Luninez in southern Belarus. Shilko lost his job at a state museum when he was a correspondent at the newspaper. Since then he been part of the 12-person editorial team.
"The Chernobyl disaster occurred on 26 April 1986. We were only officially notified in Luninez one week later as the May 1st parades had taken place as usual. By then around a quarter of the radioactive fallout had already come down. But even when it was official, the authorities didn't once mention the radioactive iodine, which had already spread throughout the thyroid. Even the first resettlements were concealed in the beginning. This only changed after they could no longer be kept secret. There was a lot of cynicism. The compensation paid out at the time was widely regarded as coffin money. We've lived with the radiation since then. These days Chernobyl seems far away: increasingly more land is freed up for housing and farming, and the authorities insist at every opportunity that everything is in order and we shouldn't worry any more. But most of the people here are tired. I understand this. You can't live in constant fear, especially if you have no possibility to move away. Many people no longer want to hear about the dangers of radiation as they have other things to worry about. Living costs have nearly doubled and many have no work. It's about surviving in the here and now, not about the risk of cancer in a distant, uncertain future. And so you distract yourself as best as you can, or you develop a belief that you can't escape fate. This might have a lot to do with our history, too. The Belarusians have suffered like no other nation in the 20th century. Perhaps we have collectively internationalised one thing as a result: patience. Chernobyl is history. Unfortunately. Against this fatalistic backdrop, Belarus of all countries is now building a nuclear power plant, the first on Belarusian soil. For me, this is a crime against the Belarusian nation.