Monday, November 30, 2009


                                     Three Mile Island Plant

A few days ago I read in our daily newspaper that the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania had had a radiation leak forcing the evacuation of 150 workers the previous weekend.  There was no explanation why the disclosure had been delayed, only that management felt the levels of radiation were not considered harmful.....

In April 1986, the world's worst nuclear disaster occurred at Chernobyl.......No exact figures are known for the number of workers killed as a direct result of this meltdown.....or the number of people who died from the fallout.....  A code of silence existed.  The contamination spread across countries, affecting crops and livestock, poisoning the soil for further plantings.  But what was even worse was the knowledge that future generations of Russian children could be genetically damaged.......In 1993 two children affected by this disaster came to live with us and be part of our family for nearly two months.....and this is their story

Through our Lions International Club my husband & I had said "yes", when families were asked to host one, but preferably two children from the contaminated areas.  We were told that some were unwell, most had eye problems, some needed dental work..... but they were well enough to travel to a country with clean fresh air, sunshine and uncontaminated food, in the hopes that their recovery would be hastened.

From the list we chose two little 8 years old, and one almost 9.  I prepared their room...twin beds in an upstairs bedroom...with a larger bedroom/sitting room adjacent, with TV and Stereo (This had been my younger daughter's domain before she left for Melbourne and the bright city lights!).... neighbours gave me the most beautiful dolls for them ...then we waited....and waited....

Finally we had a date of arrival and we couldn't wait to collect our two little girls when the bus arrived.  Imagine our shock when we were told that illness had prevented their travel and would we take Alexandra (aged 13), and Alexander (aged 10).  Of course we would....but what about the dolls...and the twin beds!  Plan B needed to be put into operation!

They were tired and hungry...had not met before boarding the bus at the airport.....Alexandra spoke few words of English......Alexander didn't speak at all....nothing....but they seemed happy to be with us if not a little wary. I had tears in my eyes as I unpacked the young boys clothes...threadbare... and the soles of his runners were worn through in places, but Alexandra was quite the young lady.... with a good dress, casual clothes, and some jewelery.  I wondered how I would manage as my husband left for work the next morning with the words..."Good Luck"

I could write pages and pages......about the time we had getting to know each other....gaining their confidence....taking them shopping for new clothes.... "Are always these many clothes in shops"  Sasha asked of me. ( Between us we had decided on short names... Sasha for Alexandra, and Alex for Alexander, as it was quite it was for them also... as Sasha is also a boy's name and short for Alexander).
Alex finally spoke some Russian and then he learned some English words...and we in turn learned some Russian!

The joy they brought to our home was unbelievable....they made friends with the neighbours.  Alex could play soccer and was snapped up for a local team.....Sasha went to a local college a couple of days a week with a neighbour who was the Deputy Principal....they washed cars....watered the garden.... ("May we wash flowers?" ) Sasha would ask.  Alex made cakes....Sasha learned to cook Spaghetti Bolognese...and excitedly told her parents on the phone. They went to the beach....and on picnics.  And they ate....and ate...(.bananas up to 3kgs per day!) ...they gained weight and their cheeks were pink....laughter filled the house.

                                        At the beach in Winter...brrr
                                                     (why no people swim?....THEY did!)

Alex loved to be with my husband....(apart from his mother, he had a big older sister and younger twin sisters . He would only have been about 3 when his father died from the fallout)...and so this relationship blossomed.  He would come downstairs every morning and sit in the chair next to my husband while he read the paper, and would be there again at night beside him watching TV.  At one time Boris Yeltsin appeared on a news bulletin.  He pointed to him...."Bad"....he said.

                                                                        Good Mates

We celebrated Alex's 10th birthday with a party at MacDonalds. He had made lots of friends....and the manager presented him with a watch....not one of those toy ones, but a beautiful gold plated one with a leather band.(I think he would have preferred one with Ronald on the dial!)

Happy Times

Too soon it was time to go.  We packed up their ones had been bought to cater for all the extras they were taking home.  Sasha had a tennis racquet..(and balls)...for her father... they had clothes and gifts from neighbours. Alex was presented with the soccer club's uniform and a team photo...they were happy....they were excited........we were sad

The neighbours gathered in the early hours before dawn to farewell them...there were kisses and hugs....and tears.  We were on our way to the airport in Brisbane where they would board the British Airways Jet that would take them home.

We didn't say much on the way back.  It was a long drive and we'd been up since before dawn.  We needed a coffee and a good sleep.  It wasn't until the next morning when we woke to an empty house that we realised they were really truly gone....just Alex's fingerprints left there on the lowered ceiling as he used to bound down the stairs then reach up to touch the sky......


arlee bird said...

Cultural exchange is fascinating. Many years ago I hosted a couple of young women from Liechtenstein for a couple of weeks. My daughters were still fairly young at the time but they bonded well with the young women and continue to correspond with one of them after 15 years. It was interesting to learn about a country I knew little about and fun to share experiences with them in the U.S.

A while back I saw a video that talked about how the name "Chernobyl" meant "wormwood" which was the name of the "star" mentioned in the book of Revelations that fell into the water and poisoned it. I thought it was an interesting interpretation.


Journaling Woman said...

Oh my, WD, such a happy/sad story. I must fix my makeup before I go back to work. They looked so very happy with you.

I have questions. #1 Did you ever correspond with them after that? (or did I miss that) #2 Did they go back to their mother in Russia? #3 did it break your heart when they left?

I can tell you loved them...I can feel it in your words.

Just one more thing in which to admire you. I know you and your husband make a huge impact on their lives. You should be very proud of that.


A Melbourne Girl said...

Lovely story White Dove. I also wanted to know if you've stayed in touch with them...they sound like great kids. A wonderful experience for everyone I think.
PS. Yes you can transfer the lighting voucher should your name be drawn for the fact you can do anything you like with it.

White Dove said...

Thank you all for your was a very emotional post for me to write, stirring up so many memories.

Lee....interesting comment about the name Chernobyl....very apt....and one I didn't know.

Teresa & Lesley....the answer to all your questions is "Yes". We kept in touch by phone, and email and through the organisation who arranged their visit to Australia. We even visited Russia in 1996, (a rather frightening experience,being beset by authority as all the paperwork we needed to travel in that country was ignored...the Russian mafia...the demands for money.. and other things, till finally it all became too hard and we gave up in frustration and fear)... Finally Sasha was allowed to come to us in Moscow and stay with us in our hotel until our time ran out.
We were able to speak by phone to Alex's neighbour after sending a telegram to his home and she assured us that both he and his family were well, but that he was in the Ukraine with his grandmother for school holidays.

We think of them often....

We lost touch with Alex as it became too difficult with letters and food parcels going astray...but we hope he is well and that he was able to realise his one ambition in life,to become a "sportsman". My husband misses him terribly and we even wonder if he is still alive.

Sasha is married (to another Alexander, would you believe) and she has a son David. She is a linguist, speaking seven languages, and the last we heard she was working as a legal interpreter. She became very fearful for her life and that of her husband and son after the terrible slaughter in Beslan in 2004, and they moved from the capital. Our last email to her at Christmas was undelivered

A friend of ours is in Russia at the moment and we are hopeful that she may return with news of them all.

Living in a country where freedom of speech is a given, it is diffult to understand the fear under which they live.....but we have been there and seen it. No one ever smiles a hello...

A Melbourne Girl said...

Sounds like the sort of place you wouldn't want to visit for too long.

♥♥ tuğçe♥♥ said...

lovely story and i should say that the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl also affected the other countries like Turkey,The black sea region and people and next generations have suffered from it a lot
i hope a peaceful world for all people
it is nice to visit ur blog
great post

Betty said...

What a tragedy!! for years to remember!
That was a sad/lovely story. Thanks for sharing with us.Beautiful photos!!!
I'm following!:)
Hope you visit my blog soon!
Have a nice day:)
Pls: I do love Australia. So many interesting places to visit.

Always a mom said...

Wow! What a captivating story and great photos too! Sorry that you lost touch with them both in the end due to circumstances beyond your control. I am sure that you remain in their thoughts as much as they are in yours. Thanks for your comment on my post "30 Days of Christmas In Love". You were right wasn't so hard to speak nice words about my husband. :)

White Dove said...

Welcome to Tugce and Betty...thanks so much for your comments

Yes tugce...yes many countries were affected by Chernobyl...right up to Scotland and the USA too. It spread its poison right thru the N. Hemisphere. Have read your comments on other blogs and I visited your today.

Betty...yes it was a tragedy...let's hope some good came of it....but it's hard to think what. I visited your blog a few days back and left a comment about Meryl many comments....such a popular blog!

Always a mom...lovely to hear from you. I've enjoyed your posts, so warm and funny, I feel like I know you ! ....we think of our Chernobyl children often and know we must be in their thoughts also....along with the word KANGAROO....they laughed every time they tried to say it, and loved seeing a real one just hopping along the roadside !

Always a mom said...

Hi White Dove,

I have an award for you to pick up on my blog.
Your article on Chernobyl touched my heart!
Great writing! See the post "Overjoyed".


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