2006: Programme 2
Chernobyl- A disability and adoption story
Last years story on Anna Gabriel, showed the experience of an orphaned child with a physical disability from Belarus, who was adopted by an Irish family. If Anna had not been adopted she would have been committed into a mental asylum. Recently, adoption laws have changed so that children from Belarus can no longer be adopted in Ireland. This year, on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, Three 60 will travel throughout the Chernobyl region, visiting the children and families who are left behind to endure the constant exposure to radiation and its effects. How is disability perceived in the country and what future prospects have people got? Children with disabilities have been abandoned. One of the reasons behind this is due to the poor economic condition of this country.
David Clinch and his son Alexi
David and his wife have been trying to adopt 12-year old Alexei, but as a result of the Irish Adoption agreement with Belarus being rescinded they cannot. Alexei has a congenital disability, as a result, it is assumed of the environmental radiation after Chernobyl.
Alexi Gribovskiy and friends
The Clinch family have hosted Alexi Gribovskiy for the past 6 years and want to adopt him. Alexi lives with his grandmother, Anna, who also would like to see him move to Ireland where, she feels, he could get the care he needs. She is obviously heartbroken at the idea of losing him, but as she is afraid of what would happen to him if she dies, puts his needs first.
David Clinch travelled over on convoy and despite the fact that his own mother passed away during his time in Belarus he decided to stay on as she and he had agreed before he left that it was more important to look after the living than the dead and so, do what he needed to do in Belarus.
David also visited another young boy, Arthur; whom his mother had a soft spot for. Arthur also has a disability and is totally alone. Without David's brief visit, Arthur would get no visitors.
The director of Alexi's school has seen a marked change in the kids over the 18 years he's been in his job - he would attribute this to Chernobyl.
Mobile Thyroid Monitoring Unit - The Red Cross
The Red Cross, with the aid of the Irish government, have sponsored a mobile thyroid monitoring unit. We caught up with them and with an Irish Red Cross representative, Joe Lowry, when they had set up in a factory an hour from Minsk. With less than 20% of children in Belarus born healthy, there is obviously quite a degree of trepidation among young parents. We spoke to a few expectant mothers in the maternity hospital and visited the Genetic Institute where mothers can go for advanced screening to alert them to a disability. The government line is that women are then advised to abort.
The Children's Hospital in Minsk - Dr. Irina and Hospice Nurse in Gomel Alla Bursukaova
In the Children's hospital in Minsk, Dr. Irina described the conditions of a number of the children there, many of whom have a greatly shortened life span and whom are bed-ridden. Alla Bursukova is a hospice nurse in the Gomel region, serving 15 families with disabled children. One of the families consists of Sasha, who is 10 and has hydrocephalus and has been cared for by her father Vitaly her whole life, dramatically increasing her expected life span.
The Abandoned Villages - Tatyana and Valentin
Just outside of the exclusion zone are a number of semi-abandoned villages - communities destroyed with only 5/ 6 people living where there used to be a few thousand. Tatyana, who is 78 lives with her 2 brothers and works the land. She is still strong, despite living in this region but says many of her peers have succumbed to the soulless existence in the tower blocks and cities they were evacuated to.
Children's mental asylums
Vesnovo has one of the many children's 'mental asylums'. Children here range from 3 to 20 and have any sort of disability. Many of them are abandoned by parents who can't cope financially with their extra needs, as the economic situation means both parents have to work.
Aoife Ní Mhurchú, an Irish nurse
Aoife Ní Mhurchú, an Irish nurse, was on convoy but has been to Vesnovo to work with the children there a number of times and described to us the situation of a number of the children there. Her feeling is that all you can do is aim to makes these children's short lives better.
At the end of the week with all deliveries completed the Chernobyl Children's Project hand over all the ambulances to local organisations/ communities.
Contacts Details for Programme Two :
The Chernobyl Adoption Story
For further information contact:
The Chernobyl Children's Project
Tel: +353 21 431 2999
Fax: +353 21 431 3170
Three 60 is sponsored by RehabCare and Fás.