The worst ever nuclear accident happened on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine. Highly radioactive uranium and graphite were expelled into the atmosphere. The Russian government increased the acceptable levels of radioactivity that people could be exposed to, reducing the number of people needing to be evacuated. A quarter of the country’s prime farmland became a nuclear wasteland. As a result, over 800,000 children in Belarus and 380,000 Ukrainian children are at risk of contracting cancer or leukaemia. Belarus has become a zone of international ecological disaster, as its people were exposed to radioactivity 90 times greater than that from the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Chernobyl’s Angels of Hope was established in October 2018, when we set about making plans to bring a group of children from Southern Belarus to Scotland, for a five year programme of summer respite visits.
Thirteen children from Belarus, affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, came to South Lanarkshire, Scotland, in August 2019. They stayed with host families, in their loving homes, for a month – breathing clean air, eating fresh wholesome food, and sharing family life. Our charity’s two interpreters stayed in Scotland with the children for the duration of their stay. The children bonded well with their host famillies, and enjoyed a month of outdoor activities, visit to the beach, a visit to a theme park, as well as learning English, and performing a show of Belarusian music and culture for their host families and friends in Biggar.
Sadly, the group were unable to return in August 2020, or August 2021, due to the Covid pandemic, and the resultant travel restrictions, largely due to the slow vaccine rollout in Belarus. Our hopes were pinned on the group returning, post-vaccination, in August 2022. These hopes have been dashed by the war in Ukraine, and the impending airspace sanctions. Belarusians are no longer able to travel outside Belarus. Neither is it possible for our charity’s Chairperson to travel to Belarus to deliver aid in person.
JULY 2022 UPDATE
Belarus continues to be used as a base for Russian troops, and the launching of rockets. We are in regular touch with our translators in Belarus, and it is still impossible for us to help them. We have been assured that the group of children and their siblings are well, though they continue to live in poverty, compounded by the long term effects of radiation. Our charity cannot send funds to Belarus, in order to deliver humanitarian assistance, due to the sanctions in place. It is still impossible for the group to travel outside Belarus, and therefore the children will miss out yet again on another respite visit to Scotland.