On May 15, 1986 80 Rechitsa-based oil workers got on a bus and set out for the contaminated zone. For three weeks the Belarusians worked on the destroyed reactor, cementing wells. Today there are 26 of them left. Belarus is the only post-Soviet country, whose leader took benefits from the liquidators of the Charnobyl accident. Belsat.eu recorded the stories of three residents of Rechitsa, who 34 years ago saved the lives of millions and eventually were left without benefits and proper medical care.
An order from the Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry to send 100 people to Charnobyl came from Moscow. This is how many people were in my team. I said 80 would be enough. If you send 100 people, the whole oil industry will stop. Without pluggers, it can’t work. We were at the nuclear power plant because if the waste from the reactor had gotten into the ground and gone into the water, Europe might not exist today. Our task was to isolate the radioactive water that was around the plant.
Now everyone has forgotten about us. We cannot get proper medical treatment. Those who have retired cannot get insurance. Oil workers have $12,000 a year in insurance for treatment. And they say to us: “If we insure you, you will constantly get treatment, and we can’t pay for it”.
On May 15, 1986 we were sent by bus to Charnobyl. We worked until June 6, making cement wells. It was a war, only with a peaceful atom.
In 1990, the liquidators were provided with a certificate and benefits. They were minuscule, but they were there. Lukashenka took away everything, promising to give it back soon. It’s been 20 years. Our health deteriorated, we were forgotten. Why can MPs use the best medical services after leaving the job, and we can’t?
I’m not sorry to have gone there. Someone had to do it, save the others. We were 80, no one ran away. Now we’re 26, and soon we’ll be 15. And then with the accident, and now with the epidemic, the authorities are silent. Both then and now there’s panic everywhere. Nothing has changed, everything’s the same as in 1986.
We were not asked if we wanted to go. They put us on a bus and took us to Charnobyl. Now that we need help, we’re being ignored. We used to be given a voucher to a health resort, extra days of rest, 50% discount for housing and utilities. We haven’t had anything for a long time. Every liquidator is sick now, we are not given a medical disability certificate. When I retired, the insurance was taken away. Lukashenka tricked us. We were saving Belarus, the USSR. We need help, and nobody wants to hear us. We’re sick and we’re asking for our benefits back.
The main benefits for Belarusian liquidators were abolished in 2007 by decree of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Since 2009, they have been deprived of almost all privileges, changing their status from “liquidator” to “victim”. The Charnobyl aftermath liquidators who had eliminated the consequences of the disaster were equated with those who lived in the Charnobyl zone or came to the contaminated areas for a short period of time.