Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chernobyl disaster remembered

Twenty-nine years ago on April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl (or “Chornobyl”) nuclear power plant in Ukraine, officially known at the time as Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, exploded and covered most of the territories of Ukraine, Belarus and the southwest part of Russia with massive deadly radiation. The puppet government of the Ukrainian SSR had control over neither Chernobyl nor any other nuclear power plants in Ukraine. The Kremlin in Moscow had full control of everything. If there would have been a way to control radiation from “escaping” outside of the Soviet Union (like it was pretty effectively done with news about the life of Soviet citizens), the world would have been unaware of this disaster. Unfortunately for Soviet Russia, high levels of radiation were discovered in Sweden and eventually also in other countries, and Moscow had to admit that there was an explosion and radiation was leaking.

    The actual number of victims of the disaster will never be known, because the official report stated that only a handful of responders were killed, and the number of individuals who died from radiation-caused illnesses was never reported. Many cause-of-deaths were listed as other than radiation.

    The nuclear disaster forced hundreds of thousands of people of this Kyivan Polissia region to leave their homes and villages.

    North Port branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, known as “Soyuz Ukrayinok” (union of Ukrainian ladies),
headed by Ann-Marie Susla of Englewood, organized and presented a Chernobyl exhibit last Sunday as part of the Earth Day program at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey. The exhibit was set up by UNWLA members Neonilia Lechman and professor Vira Bodnaruk, both of Venice, with their husbands, Wolodymyr Lechman and Dr. Bohdan Bodnaruk, providing much-needed assistance. Many UNWLA members and guests came to the exhibit and assisted Neonilia and Vira, including Ann-Marie and John Susla, Areta and George Baranowskyj, Vira Hrabetz, Tania Silecky, Slawa Maluk, Lesia Popel, Christyna Bodnar-Sheldon, Lidia and Eugene Mychalowych, Ina Kolesnichenko,
Bohdanna Bilowchtchuk and Iwanna Holowaty.

    This Sunday, immediately following the divine liturgy (Mass), there will be “Panakhyda” (special prayer service for the dead) celebrated for the repose of souls of all victims of the Chernobyl disaster. The service is sponsored by the Coordinating Committee of Ukrainian American clubs and organizations of North Port and vicinity, headed by Roma Harasymiak-Guran of Venice. Representatives of local organizations, including Cpl. Roman

G. Lazor Post 40 of the Ukrainian American Veterans, Ukrainian American Club of Southwest Florida and others, will hold lighted candles during the service.

                                                                            • • •
    The Chornobyl Songs Project Concert will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday in New York City at the Ukrainian Museum at 222 E. Sixth St. The ensemble “Hilka” and ethnomusicologist/ singer Maria Sovevytsky (of Bard College) will feature the polyphonic village singing styles of Ukraine’s Chernobyl region. The Yara Arts Group and Veveritse Brass Band will join the performance.

    The featured Chernobyl songs are part of the about-tobe released CD by Smithsonian Folkways, “Chornobyl Songs Project: Living Culture from a Lost World by Ensemble Hilka.”

    Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians

by Atanas Kobryn

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