Chernobyl 21-years On

Candle in the dark

The accident that occurred at Chernobyl on 26th April 1986 was the most disastrous reactor malfunction in the history of nuclear power. More than 40,000 residents in the immediate area were exposed to fallout 100 times greater than that from the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Based on top-secret government documents that came to light only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1999, THE BATTLE OF CHERNOBYL reveals a systematic cover-up of the true scope of the disaster, including the possibility of a secondary explosion of the still-smouldering magma, whose radioactive clouds would have rendered Europe uninhabitable.*

Today it is exactly twenty-one years since the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. I do remember it very clearly, indeed. Here is a map of the radioactive fallout of the Caesium-137 over the landmass of Europe. The time when most of the world were kept in the dark over the incident and the consequences of the same. The month of April in 1986 had been rather nice in Ireland, so that the children were outside much – actually, well after the time, when the nation should have been notified to keep them in. Neither were we given the practical advice as in the windows needing to be closed and so on. Here is what the BBC said about it in 1986 and even this day in 2006. The Soviets did not admit to the accident while the monitoring stations in Sweden, Finland and Norway began to report sudden high discharges of radioactivity in the atmosphere two days previously. Also, the Wikipedia has excellent and interesting material on it in here. The Swedish newspaper called Dagens Nyheter had this to say in Swedish in 2006. The Finnish one – my usual morning paper, Helsingin Sanomat said this about the disaster in 2006.

This link is a photographic exhibition online about a Finnish man, who recently went to the ghost town of Pripyat that is located right besides the Chernobyl nuclear plant. It is called: Pripyat – Population Zero, in English. Very interesting and moving at the same time as the place looks like not so-long-ago abandoned and yet it is already 20 years ago! The people leaving their homes were told that they would be gone for only three days… Lisa gave a tip of this site called Kiddofspeed about this very brave lady, Elena, riding her bike in these affected areas taking photos and writing most interesting articles about the same.

Alpha, Beta, Gamma.
It is time to learn a couple of simple things about radiation types. Ones that goes through us is called gamma radiation, it is cumulative, it adds up, so we can calculate what a damage it make for health. Gamma is almost identical X-rays. X-rays are human made, while gamma occurs in nature. It is also called a cosmic radiation. Everyone who (is) flying high on plane (will be) exposed to the 25 mR/hr of cosmic radiation. Gamma is the toughest type of radiation for immediate problems. It is sort of invisible bullets that can kill in hours, alpha and beta on the other hand are alike to delayed-action mine. With breathing of radioactive dust, they are) getting inside of a human body, lodges there and in a few years explode with the cancer cells. A beta particle has more mass and less energy then gamma, so it doesn’t penetrate matter as deeply. Alpha radiation generally can not travel 4-12cms (1-3 inches) before it stopped, so we can play billiard with balls of a pure plutonium. The dead cells on our skin will stop beta radiation, so even juggling with plutonium balls will be safe, just don’t swallow them by mistake. (Elena’s online site.) The words in brackets are mine to clarify further the point she is making, I do hope anyway.

Chernobyl compared to Hiroshima (Wikipedia)

“Far fewer people died as an immediate result of the Chernobyl event than died at Hiroshima, and the eventual total is also significantly less when including those predicted by the WHO to die in the future. However, the radioactivity released at Chernobyl tended to be more long lived than that released by a bomb detonation. Chernobyl released 890 times as much caesium-137 as the Hiroshima bomb, released 87 times as much strontium-90 as the Hiroshima bomb and when the iodine-131 release is compared between the events (decay corrected to three days after the event) then Chernobyl released 25 times as much as the Hiroshima bomb. When the xenon-133 release is compared between the events (decay corrected to three days after the event) then Chernobyl released 31 times as much as the Hiroshima bomb. Hence it is not possible to draw a simple comparison between the two events. Sources of environmental radioactivity.”

Chernobyl compared with the Three Mile Island accident (Wikipedia)

“Three Mile Island-2 was a completely different accident from Chernobyl. Chernobyl was a human-caused power excursion causing a steam explosion resulting in an graphite fire, uncontained, which lofted radioactive smoke high into the atmosphere – TMI was a slow, undetected leak that lowered the water level around the nuclear fuel, resulting in over a third of it melting. Unlike Chernobyl, TMI-2’s reactor vessel did not fail and contained almost all of the radioactive material. Containment at TMI did not fail – but it was not sealed off until after some water containing radioactive material had flowed through an overflow pipe and into the rest of the plant. Radioactive gases from that overflow leaked into the atmosphere, mostly noble gases.”

“Chernobyl Heart” is a medical condition caused by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. The condition weakens the circulatory system, and has affected a large number of children in Ukraine and Belarus who have grown up near the place of the accident. Chernobyl Heart by Maryann DeLeo is a short documentary which offers a look at the children and families who are facing this dangerous disease.” (Wikipedia)

Closer to home so to say, Ireland is the country most affected by the UK’s nuclear industry. Sellafield is only 60 miles away from the Irish coast and has been pumping 2 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste into the Irish Sea every day, making the Irish Sea the most radioactive sea in the world. If an accident happens at the plant or with the shipment, or if there is a terrorist attack, depending on which way the wind blows, Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda, Belfast, and vast parts of Ireland, would be uninhabitable. No wonder the Irish government is sending a navy patrol boat and a spotter plane to closely monitor the shipment. (Greenpeace online)

Tis for now Riihele xx.

*The Battle of Chernobyl
A Film by Thomas Johnson
Everything you want to know about Nuclear Power.

Irish objections to Sellafield
Norwegian objections on the same.

On The Pink Sofa – Let’s Talk: Books


I made this collage to go with the theme I have in mind, which is to sit down on the sofas like I would do with a friend at home, a cuppa in the hand and we would just nat away. Yep, typical for the female of the species. Mind you, when the men open their treasure-chest of words; let’s say, they absolutely flood the place with the vocabulary of their knowledge on the matters! In plain English: There is no end to it, in other words. What I have in mind is things like a good or an interesting book, an article in a magazine or in a newspaper and stuff like that that we can natter about and comment.

I have just awhile ago finished reading a most interesting book about ‘The Women in the Kremlin‘ by a Russian author called, Larisa Vasiljeva. This book seems to be only in Finnish or in Russian which is such a shame as many of you would find this book and all the portraits of the women most intruiging. In Russian the book is called: ‘Kremljovskije zony,’ and in Finnish which I read, ‘Kremlin naiset’ (Otava, Keuruu1994).

Here is a photograph of the Kremlin, the word ‘kremlin’ meaning: fortress, citadel. Kremlin got its name in 1331 and here is their official web site. There are 20 towers of which the highest one is 71 meters in height, and there also three cathedrals in the area of the Kremlin in the overall area of 68 acres. Wikipedia has excellent things on nearly everything possible and here is via them the President of Russia’s Official Web Portal on the Kremlin and here is a snippet of this most interesting of sites:

“The Kremlin was the place where the Russian state was formed. It was and remains the heart of the country’s political life and the center of its culture and history. In medieval times, the Kremlin was the place where the issue of succession to the throne was decided, where the Boyar Duma held its sessions and where the Church held its councils. Russian tsars were crowned in the Annunciation Cathedral, even once the capital had been shifted to St. Petersburg. By this time the Kremlin’s state role had diminished somewhat, but its significance as the heart of the country remained unchanged.

Russia’s rulers strove to strengthen the Kremlin’s status as the residence of the sovereigns of a great nation. After the tumult of the early 20th century, Moscow became the capital once again. From 1918, the Kremlin was once more the center of state and political life and the seat of the highest state institutions. Since 1991, the Kremlin has been the residence of the Russian President.”

I visited Moscow years ago and I do remember for example this collection of the English Silver at the Court of the Czars that was shown to us at the time. Here are some other collections of the Kremlin. We had to be in there as if it was the most sacred of all the sacred places on earth.

This author, Larisa Vasiljeva – unfortunately there is nothing of her in English at all – begins her narrative all the way from Lenin and his wife Nadezda Krupskaja, then on to Stalin and his wife Nadezda Allilujeva to the more modern ones like Raisa Gorbatsova. Plenty of mistresses are mentioned and also the tales of many other colourful women: mothers, sisters, daughters, wives of these men at the very top of the power structure in Russia and the CCCP.

Tis for now. Riihele xx.

I have also read a book by Jean Sasson called, ‘Mayada’ some time back. And, just for the record, I don’t only read books by women about women as there a few months ago I finished a book by a ‘martian about mars’ – a man wrote about his life in the French Foreign Legion – written with all the worst blood & gore and utmost horror, that only a martian can think of!! It was good, though. I liked it as it was well-written and interesting. Another link – the official site for the Legion – in French.

Lapland, Tornio Valley and Childhood – Part3


Riihele at the age of around 4 in Ylitornio, Lapland.

Now I will say a few things of the war called the Finnish War between Russia and Sweden, and other wars and also, other things about the life and culture in the Tornio Valley – as seen through my eyes.

So – that war of 1808-1809 was the very last war that Sweden as a country has suffered while Finland, on the other hand, has been forced to go through several wars such as the Civil War of 1918 and the Russian-Finnish Wars, because there were two wars during the WW II. The first one is called The Winter War, which began in November 1939. It lasted until March 1940, when both of the countries signed a peace treaty where Finland agreed to cede 10 per cent of its territory and 20 per cent of her industrial production to the Soviet Union. This is a compiled account in English about the events of that war.

The amazing thing about that war was that even though the Russians outnumbered the Finns by three to one, the battle was not a walk-over for the Russians looking at the statistics of the casualties and other details. Stalin and his cohorts had thought that it would be just that. The arrogance and attitude of superiority of the Soviets, was such that they started the war with the marching bands and soldiers arm in arm singing stirring Soviet anthems while advancing towards the Finnish lines!! What they had planned, was a short and sharp victory. But God had decided otherwise. My future would have been very, very different to what it has been, IF, Finland had been a state within the USSR. A state like Estonia, our ‘relatives’. There would have been NO freedom to travel to begin with, so I would have been ‘stuck’ and not being able to go anywhere at all!
The Continuation War is the war that was fought between the years 1941-1944. The Lapland War against the former German allies was battled from September 1944 until April 1945. The reason for this war, was the Soviet demand that all German troops were to be expelled from Finland. The task of expelling was made particularly hard because of the other simultaneous Soviet demand of demobilizing the major part of the Finnish armed forces.

The withdrawing Germans used the scorched earth tactics, so that more than one third of the dwellings were destroyed in Lapland. The provincial capital, Rovaniemi, was burned to the ground. This is the town where my mother was born and where she spent her first few years before the family moved to the Tornio Valley in the 1930’s. Rovaniemi was rebuilt after war and the world famous Finnish architect called, Alvar Aalto was very much at forefront of the same. All of mother’s eldest (five) brothers were in the war. And ALL came back – alive. The horrors of the trauma of war and gore, live on the psyche of the Finnish male – passed from generation to generation. My own ‘concrete’ evidence of the Lapland War, were the bullet holes on the flagpole, in the centre of the yard of the houses, where we lived in Ylitornio.

There are a few books on this subject of the Lapland War: the first one is by a colonel called Wolf H. Halsti. His book is in Finnish called – LAPIN SODASSA. That translated into English is like this: IN THE WAR OF LAPLAND. I do not know if it has been publiced in English or any other language. He writes very honestly and pointedly about the whole sad affair. There is a lady who wrote a book about her life in Lapland during these times of hardship, called, Laila Kanon and the book of hers is called – STADIN friidu ja metsien mies, jatkosodan rakkaustarina”. (WSOY 1997) The title in English would translate into something like: “Town Chick and a Man of the forest, a Love Story during the Continuation War.”

The property losses, at the time, were calculated to be at the 1945 US$ as 300 million dollars. HUGE amount! In addition to the financial losses, was the human distress and suffering. The number of the refugees within Lapland was 100,000. My mother with her parents and siblings, that were still at home, fled across the Tornio River over to the Swedish Övertorneå. Karelian refugees were numbered as over 425,000.

I don’t obviously have any personal memories of any of the above, but indirect ones, I do. What do I mean? Well, of that Civil War, I have my grandparents memories and view points that I still quite clearly do remember. In that war there were the Whites against the Reds. It is fairly simple as to figure out what these colours mean. Yes, they mean the hues of one’s political standing. My grandparents, on the father’s side that come from Karelia, were on the White side. I do remember Grandma Helena saying still in her old age, that when she was in an old people’s home, she was made to share a room for a time with one that had been on the Red side. Apparently, the poisonous verbal darts between them were still flying like missiles…
I found that rather amusing but had I lived through the horrors of it, I am sure, my reaction would have been different. It is so very tragic that that should have happened after about sixty years of that civil war. The sadness that there was no forgiveness and forgetting in the depths of the people’s hearts and minds!

Of all the kinds of wars, the civil war between brothers, is the most horrendous of all. No doubt. It really is the most un-civil thing imaginable. Deep, deep wounds are left in the nations that have had to go through it.

The Russian-Sweden War of 1808-1809 over Finland, also known as, the Finnish War, became “familiar” to me through the history lessions at school and also through the Finnish literature. We read Vänriikki Stoolin Tarinat The Tales of Ensign Ståhl – year in, year out, so that, even today, I can give direct quotes of the same! I used to love reading those stories in rhyme about that war.
This is the war (February 1808 ’til September 1809) – that resulted the Valley being cut in two parts with the Tornio River as the border. The choices for the actual border included the River Kalix on the Swedish side – the Russian request – the River Kemi on the Finnish side, to the south of Tornio – the Swedish request. The Tornio River was the agreed joined compromise. From that time on in 1809, Finland became part of the Russian Empire until her independence in December 1917.

Finland was under the Swedish rule from 1352 – 1808, and under the Russian rule from 1809 – 1917. We have, as a nation, learned how to live as a “filling in-a-sandwich” to the bigger and more powerful nations than ourselves that are on either side of us! It takes skill.

Tis for now. Riihele xx