Newspaper Snezhinsky Avtograf (Snezhinsk Autograph) issued in Russia’s federal nuclear center, the city of Snezhinsk (it’s also called Chelyabinsk-70) published sensational details about liquidation of a nuclear breakdown at the Mayak enterprise in the city of Ozersk (earlier Chelyabinsk-40) in 1957. As it turned out, children were the first in Russia who liquidated consequences of a nuclear catastrophe. The newspaper article tells about pupils in Karabolka who had to cope with radiation threat barehanded on the very first day after the breakdown. The pupils were certainly ignorant of the nuclear threat and knew nothing about consequences of radiation.
Rizvan Khabibulin, a schoolboy from a Karabolka school tells that on the first day of the nuclear breakdown at the Mayak enterprise, on September 29, 1957 he and his class-mates helped farmers gather harvest near the village of Russkaya Karabolka. About 4:00 p.m. everybody heard some thunder from the west and felt strong gusts. In the evening the village field was covered with some strange fog. The pupils couldn’t suppose it was dangerous and kept on working on the field gathering harvest. The pupils continued working within the next several days. However, they were surprised when in several days they were asked to liquidate the vegetables they had gathered by that moment and that were not removed from the field. “For this very purpose deep pits were dug out, we put vegetables in pails and threw them down into the pits. We were completely barehanded, nobody told us to take any precautions as even adults who controlled the gathering of harvest didn’t realize the situation completely,” the man tells.
Then, as Khabibulin tells, when winter came he felt awful headaches and nearly lost his sight. Later, he and his mother were treated for leucaemia. Khabibulin’s brother died at the age of 46, his sister couldn’t have babies as a result of the nuclear catastrophe and died at the same age as well. His granddaughter and a granddaughter of the brother suffer from terrible diseases. Many of Rizvan Khabibulin’s class-mates are already dead.
A citizen from the city of Ozersk, G.Ismailova who was 12 in 1957, also tells about health problems she suffered in 1958 after she and her class-mates participated in liquidation works on the territory of Russkaya Karabolka village after the nuclear disaster. “I fell ill because of a high temperature, terrible headaches, my body grew dumb and I was vomiting constantly. I stayed in bed for 1.5 months. There were no doctors in the village where we lived, we could get no medical aid. That very year my mother delivered a stillborn baby. At present I suffer from an oncological disease.”
Only in many years the woman came across documents telling that in 1958 together with Karabolka pupils she participated in “liquidation works on territories where radiation made up about 1.000 microroentgen per hour and pollution density reached 2.000 curie per a square kilometer.”
The author of the newspaper publication Farit Nigmatullin writes, to tell that people knew nothing about the danger means to tell nothing. “The authorities explained that it was necessary to resettle people from the village of Tatarskaya Karabolka because oil extraction was planned to be started on the village territory. All instances of diseases connected with radiation on that territory were classified as secret, doctors were ordered to diagnose quite different diseases.” As we see, children suffered from the nuclear breakdown most of all. The author of the article obtained information proving that Karabolka pupils participated in liquidation of the nuclear tragedy consequences till the mid-1960s.
To tell the truth, secrecy did more harm than good to everyone, even to those who knew what a tragedy occurred and what consequences the breakdown could entail. One of the men participating in works at a secret object near Chelyabinsk-70 in 1957 told PRAVDA.Ru correspondent that after the breakdown at the Mayak enterprise together with several colleagues he decided to measure the radiation level in the forest near the object. The people had only one dosimeter. However, this device helped discover zones where radiation level exceeded the norm. Workers of the object fixed warning plates in those places, they believed they acted right. But soon all of them had a good telling-off for the unauthorized placement of the warnings. Soon all plates were removed.
The situation was practically the same in other instances not connected with the 1957 nuclear breakdown. Another man who used to work at the Chelyabinsk-70 nuclear center tells that after an incident (we cannot provide more details about this particular case) his group had to participate in liquidation of a radiation micro breakdown. When the people undergone medical examination after the liquidation works, a doctor made records explaining actual diseases of the workers and recommended the people to ask directors for free courses of treatment in health centers. The doctor was a young naive woman, in several days she was told the diagnoses she fixed were allegedly mistakes. The records she made were later removed from medical archives and nobody even dared to ask for free medical treatment after the liquidation works.
But sometimes it happened so that danger was neglected through ignorance. Viktor Doshchenko, former chief physician of a special health center in Chelybinsk-40 (now the place is the city of Ozersk) said in an interview to the Chelyabinsky Rabochy (Chelyabinsk Worker) newspaper, that concentration of plutonium aerosols exceeded the norm 100.000 times in the plutonium workshop #1. Unfortunately, this information became obvious much later. “Doctors and workers of the enterprise suffered very much from that secrecy. Certainly we gradually learnt about detrimental factors from specialists and from bosses in Moscow. This information must be published openly. Sometimes it happened in 1950-1954 that within one working shift workers were irradiated with 5-10 rem. On other words, it was one or even two permissible doses of radiation at once! Only thanks to regular medical examination doctors managed to reveal the earliest negative effects of the excessive irradiation; after that they managed to place people in hospitals and confirm early stages of chronic radiation sickness. This diagnosis allowed people stop working under harmful conditions.”
As we get back to the children who participated in liquidation of nuclear breakdowns, they actually couldn’t even guess what harm that work did them and had no opportunity for frequent medical examination while it was perfectly clear they suffered from high radiation. However, these people who lost health during works that were extremely important for humanity are often deprived of privileges granted by the government to people having the official status of a liquidator of nuclear disasters. Ismailova, the woman whom we mentioned at the beginning of the story, says that previously she had a document proving she became disabled after liquidation of consequences of a nuclear disaster, but later the authorities deprived her of the document and of the status itself. It’s awful that the state won’t care about people who were forced to fight with catastrophes and lost their health.
Andrey Lubensky PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: https://www.pravda.ru/accidents/33459-likvidator/
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