The Chernobyl Disaster, 1986 – A Story from my Childhood
I am writing this just a few days after the anniversary of the l , the largest of its kind. Every year, around April 26th I think about how things could have been different, and about how abhorrent it is to be manipulated by the government.
At the time of the Chernobyl disaster I was 9 years old, and was living near Budapest, behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet occupied Hungary.
I knew nothing of what has happened.
No-one was telling.
How Information on the Chernobyl disaster spread at the time
It went something like this.
April 26th, the day of the disaster, to the end of April: nothing. Nada.
May 1st: It was the day of the semi-obligatory May Day parade, which, like all parades, was held outside. Going outside is not a good idea in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, when there is radiation.
Unfortunately, I went. I usually hated the parades. “Still better than school” is how I thought about it. That year, however, I wanted to go. I don’t remember why. It was a hot, dry day. Everything went as usual, except for people occasionally glancing at the strange, almost otherwordly, purple-tinted sky. Still no information on the accident. Not even a mention.
It wasn’t until later in May that sketchy details, most of it gleaned illegally from international TV and radio stations, started to emerge. Eventually the official line changed from “nothing happened” to “there may have been a slight mishap, but it’s all under control, and there is no need to worry about anything. It’s OK to go outside, and fine to eat whatever you want”.
That was a tell-tale sign. Nobody believed a word of it, of course. Official denial was a certain sign that something was indeed very wrong. From a regime that lied so much they believed themselves, lying at critical times was a given.
The people did the best they could. Second-hand information, misinformation, and conflicting tips were being passed around. Everybody seemed to know better than the next person. There was a lot of confusion about what should be done on a personal level. All people could agree on was that we were not being told the truth about the Chernobyl disaster.
That was something we were used to. It was to be expected. The facade of perfection had to be maintained. It was part of how the system worked. I understood that as a 9 year old. Everybody did.
The Chernobyl Disaster and my Health
Within a few weeks red itchy blisters grew all over my body. It was not unlike chickenpox, which I had experienced before, but it was more itchy.
With no virus, bacteria, or other direct cause to be found, the doctors just shrugged their shoulders, saying it was some kind of allergy. Since they could not find the cause, they just treated the effect with various cremes and ointments.
I probably should have been politically incorrect and skipped the May Day parade. I didn’t know any better at the time.
The pimple-like blisters remained in varying intensity for a long time. Sometimes it was better, sometimes worse, but they were not completely gone until 7 years later when I had the good luck of spending a year in the USA.
The fallout from the Chernobyl disaster, just 700 miles from my home, didn’t reach over the Atlantic I guess.
I have been OK since, and I still don’t glow in the dark, thank God. But now that I look back on it, it was a close call.
Life, Lies and Clarity
I was a child, but I still remember the confusion of the days after the disaster in 1986. I have been cautious about government information (and misinformation) ever since. I’d rather be safe than sorry.
People in positions of power are only going to care about keeping their power, and maintaining order, at best. Your well-being is going to be low on the list, if on it, at all. When the shit hits the fan, you will be on your own. What’s going to matter most, is what’s in your head. How educated on survival and how prepared your are. This is a good place to start.