25th Anniversary of Chornobyl Tragedy

6 April 2011, 15:20 | с | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Twenty-five years ago, in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 26, 1986, the residents of Prypiat, a large town and administrative centre located on the river of the same name, one of the many tributaries along the upper reaches of the mighty Dnipro north of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, were awakened from their sleep by an event that would change their lives forever.  This event was of such immense proportions, that its devastating effects spread far beyond the limits of the city and even of Ukraine itself, and indeed, they are still being felt today.

At precisely 1:23 am local time a huge explosion rocked Reactor No. 4 of the nearby Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station, splitting its walls and sending a toxic plume of radioactive fallout, 400 times greater than that emitted by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, high into the night sky.  Although the Soviet authorities initially attempted to minimize the magnitude of the nuclear accident and even deny its occurrence, the immense scale of the disaster became quickly evident to the entire world as the toxic cloud passed from Ukraine into Russia, Belarus and eventually into Scandinavia and Western Europe.

The economic, environmental and human costs of the nuclear accident in Chornobyl that night have been truly staggering.  Many people living in the immediate vicinity of the power plant were killed outright in the aftermath of the explosion.  Many more suffered agonizing deaths due to radiation sickness.  Others were sickened with cancers and other illnesses directly linked to excessive exposure to radiation.  Children proved especially vulnerable.  It is estimated that in the 25 years since the catastrophe, over 4,000 children in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have become ill with thyroid cancer.  Their numbers are still growing.

The explosion and ensuing radioactive contamination also forced the evacuation and eventual resettlement of 350,000 people living in Chornobyl and in 90 separate communities in the surrounding area.  The Chornobyl Exclusion Zone – an area almost 40 miles in diameter surrounding the crippled power plant – is off limits to human habitation and will remain so for generations to come because of radioactive toxins that have poisoned the once rich and productive soil.

A quarter century on, the catastrophe in Chornobyl remains the largest and most devastating nuclear accident in history and has rightly been described as the technological disaster of the 20th century.

Recalling and reflecting upon these sobering and saddening facts on the 25th anniversary of the Chornobyl catastrophe, we can only lift up our hearts in prayer to the Almighty God and beg for His continued mercy and compassion as we remember those who suffered indescribable pain and loss.

We recall firstly, on this solemn anniversary, the many innocent men, women and children who perished in this tragedy and we pray for the repose of their souls.  We remember in particular the brave and selfless firefighters, who, in the hours and days following the explosion, knowingly and willingly exposed themselves to mortal danger and almost certain death in order to extinguish the flames and construct and place the sarcophagus on the smouldering ruins of the reactor.  Of such men Christ speaks eloquently when He declares: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)  We pray that God grant them eternal rest in a place of everlasting light where there is no pain, sorrow or mourning.

We also remember and pray for those whose health was irrevocably damaged by the radiation that was released that day, those who were taken ill and are living with sickness to this day, and for their families, and for those whose lives were cut short by premature death.  We especially remember the children, most of whom who were born after the catastrophe itself, who suffer physical and psychological disabilities today because of Chornobyl.  We also remember and pray for the many thousands of people who were forced, by the noxious cloud of radiation, to flee their homes and leave behind forever, everything that was familiar and loved by them: the villages, houses, fields and farms where they and generations before them were born, lived, laboured and died.  May God grant all who suffer His peace, hope and consolation.

And, in a special way, we also remember and pray for our beloved homeland of Ukraine: so rich, generous and abundant, yet so often neglected, plundered, and abused over the centuries by the men who ruled over her.

We read in the opening verses of Holy Scripture in the Book of Genesis that, after creating Adam and Eve, God the Father blessed them and entrusted the earth and everything that He had created on it to them and their posterity saying: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion... over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  (Gen. 1:28)  “Then God saw everything He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31)

As the summit of God’s creation, made in His image and likeness, mankind was thus given the great privilege of being stewards of God’s creation, entrusted by Him with the awesome responsibility of caring for, preserving and nurturing the earth and all that God had deemed ‘very good’ for all generations.  Sadly however, we know that through his sinfulness, mankind time and time again throughout history has neglected the sacred duty of responsible stewardship over the earth and has abused his privileged position in exchange for prestige, profit and personal gain, often desecrating and destroying God’s creation in the process.

And so it was in Chornobyl.  The world now knows that the nuclear accident in Chornobyl, according to the findings of the Nuclear Safety Advisory Group, was entirely avoidable and can be attributed to “…a deficient safety culture, not only at the Chornobyl plant, but throughout the Soviet design, operating and regulatory organizations… ”  It was the morally bankrupt and dehumanizing Communist idealogy of the Soviet Union, and those that were unfortunate slaves to it, the system that placed the fulfillment of 5-year plans before the good of the people, that are the true causes of the nuclear catastrophe in Chornobyl.

From the distance of a quarter century we can see, despite the incalculable death and destruction caused by Chornobyl, that some good has come from it as well.  For one, the catastrophe in Chornobyl proved to be, in some ways, the death knell of the Soviet Union.  The explosion shook not only the nuclear power station, but the foundation of the godless system that built it as well.  The world came to realize, perhaps as never before, with what utter duplicity and callous disregard the Soviet leadership treated its citizens.  It is no surprise that within a few years of Chornobyl the entire Soviet Empire had collapsed in ruins.

In addition, over the years many people, Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians alike, as well as organizations from nations the world over have been united in their efforts to aid the victims of Chornobyl in whatever way they can, especially the innocent children.  They are people who live the reality that we all form one Body of Christ, and that, as St. Paul says: “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with him…” (1Cor. 12:26)  We remember and pray for them as well, that God reward them for their good hearts and kind deeds.

In conclusion, on the solemn 25th anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe in Chornobyl, let us invoke the loving protection of the most holy Theotokos, Queen of Ukraine.  May she shelter us with her Omophor and, through Her powerful intercession, may those who perished find eternal repose, may those who suffer find spiritual and physical healing, and may the land of Ukraine be renewed and blessed.

Given April, 2011

Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada
+Archbishop Antony
+Bishop Ilarion
+Bishop Andriy
+Bishop Daniel

Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada
+Bishop Richard
+Bishop Stephen
+Bishop Paul
+Bishop David
+Bishop Kenneth
+Bishop Bryan
+Bishop John

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