CCOC staff members are asked to spell Chernobyl countless times a day. On April 26, 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor 4 exploded, the result of a test gone dreadfully wrong. Many people died instantly. The government announced that the radioactive debris falling was actually snow, and cancer rates and birth defects skyrocketed; yet today, people are still asking how to spell C-h-e-r-n-o-b-y-l.
The impact of the nuclear meltdown caused a major global reaction. People in the region suffered physically, mentally, and financially while the rest of the world panicked. Decades later, there are few who remember.
This marked the worst nuclear disaster the world had yet encountered. The years passed and, as the children of the Chernobyl region began to mature, the effects of the radiation became increasingly apparent.
By 1990, the radiation from the explosion reached epidemic proportions. The land, air and water throughout the Chernobyl ecosystem were completely contaminated and as a result the food, drinking water, and air that these children were exposed to were greatly affected. Immune systems were weakened and premature death was imminent. And yet, people are still asking how to spell Chernobyl.
That same year, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, advocated for these many helpless children, and Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl was established.
The primary goal of our organization is to rescue the children of Chernobyl, relocating them to Israel, the only country in the world that accepts them on a permanent basis. From a humanitarian perspective, the process is simple: rescue as many children as possible. From a legal perspective, it is a constant battle. The bureaucratic red tape in the former Soviet Union is as difficult to penetrate as the iron bars of a jail cell; but, the CCOC staff and supporters have worked tirelessly and against huge odds to guarantee the children’s safety.
Temporary “cleansing vacations” from the contaminated region help to an extent, but permanent evacuation is the only option for the most complete recoveries. CCOC understands that there are also children who cannot or will not leave the Chernobyl region for a variety of reasons: medicine, medical equipment, therapeutic aids, and other needed items are airlifted into the contaminated areas to help those who remain there. Additionally, CCOC has trained local physicians to specialize in radiation-induced illnesses and has built a mammography clinic to help combat the artificially high rates of breast cancer in the area.
Today, the situation in Chernobyl has worsened. The sarcophagus built around the reactor to confine the radioactivity is in disrepair with a crack wide enough to drive a car through it. Should this structure dissolve, another nuclear disaster far worse than what occurred in 1986 will decimate everything for miles around it. Contaminated water leaks daily from the structure violating all the drinking water in the surrounding area. As a result, the streams, rivers, fields, animals and vegetation are unfit for consumption. But the children remain.
And yet, people are still asking how to spell Chernobyl.