32 years ago, on March 29, 1990, 139 Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian children arrived in Cuba after the explosion of reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The longest humanitarian program in history was born that day.
Cubaperiodistas commemorate this date and retell these stories, as contributions and encouragement to true peace and a developed world.
One day in 2011, Sonia Kanleef, a Peruvian visual designer, visited a beach resort. Bathing bald children attracts his attention. He asks who they are and they answer him: Chernobyl’s children. It scars him but he won’t learn anything then. In 2015, Opportunity meets us and she asks me if I know this story. I tell him what was on my mind. She absolutely wanted to do an exhibition on the subject and she asked me to work with her on her research. I hesitate, but I accept. And today I thank him a lot. My brother, a doctor, first contacted me with Dr. Julio Medina, who then referred me to other doctors, to patients, to translators, to research centers, to hygiene center radiation from Cuba and hospitals. Granma and Juventud Rebelde newspapers opened their archives, their newspapers to me. Colleagues gave me video archives, and one thing led to another, in one year, I conducted the research needed for this exhibition project, which was successful in multiple countries. It was one of the best professional experiences of my life.
Thus begins the story
A few years after the explosion of the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the USSR sought help in trying to alleviate the signs of a nuclear explosion on the population at that time, especially the child population. Cuba immediately volunteered. Unfortunately, this was not the case in many developed countries whose needs and assistance in the face of the urgency of the disaster were inadequate.
One day in 1989, on the occasion of an official reception, Anatoly Matvienko, General Secretary of the Communist Youth of Ukraine, contacted Cuban Consul Sergio Lopez and expressed all his concerns about the situation of children in Ukraine. After the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Lilia Pili told Juventus Rebeld’s Julio Morejan in Havana (it must be said that Lilia Pili is a loyal friend of Cuba and a supporter of the resumption of the humanitarian program) after consulting with the country’s directives The whole process was started immediately. Sergio quickly handles the matter and the term “they act like Sergio” became popular in Ukrainian Komsomol.
According to Dr. Julio Medina, who was director of the program for most of the 21 years of its existence, the Cuban Ministry of Public Health created a commission of hematology, oncology, endocrinology, clinical and other specialties that he sent to Ukraine. Once there, by contacting the country’s health authorities and with the help of Komsomol, physicians begin to analyze the situation, organize consultations and work on the ground with patients in need of emergency medical care. The first group consisted of the most ill.
Photo: Liborio Noval. Granma Newspaper Archive How
Chernobyl childcare in Cuba?
Dr. Carlos Dotres, Director of William Solar Hospital in 1990 and Minister of Public Health of Cuba from 1995 to 2002.
The creation of the program is based not only on sick children but also on the impact of contaminated sites and more generally on water, food and the environment. Three republics of the former USSR were particularly affected by its proximity to Chernobyl: Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Ukraine has been particularly hard hit by the low presence of iodine in the water consumed by the population. The thyroid and especially children were greedy for the radioactive iodine released into the atmosphere at the time of the nuclear explosion. It was estimated that thyroid-related diseases would have the greatest impact in the following years. Follow-up confirmed this medical hypothesis.
From that moment on, Cuban interdisciplinary teams began to study and research a subject that Cuba did not know. There were some final elements such as succeeding in relocating a population from a polluted environment to a healthier environment and giving their organisms a chance to heal more quickly.
Star dining room, kids in Chernobyl. Photo: Liborio Novel Granma Newspaper Archive.
The program also had other objectives: to clinically characterize all children. Cuban doctors and others have categorized them according to where they came from. They divided the children into four groups: the most sick people go directly to the hospital or to medical and research institutions. A second group had a significant psychological effect that turned into a mental illness such as psoriasis, alopecia or other illnesses. The third group did not have complex symptoms and the fourth group was considered to be a fairly healthy child.
Chernobyl children in the house of the stars. Photo: Livorio Noval. Granma Newspaper Archive.
Placental Histotherapy Care Center in Tararat. Granma Newspaper Archive.
Maribel Acosta Damascus
Director of the Department of Journalism, Professor of the Faculty of Communication at the University of Havana. President of the Santiago Alvarez Film Journalism Chair.
The original article can be found at the following link: Los Ninos de Chernobyl en Cuba: una historia no contada, part 1 Translated from Spanish, Frederick Druitt