On April 26, 1986, a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude occurred at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Northern Ukraine. At 1:23 AM, an explosion at the plant blew the concrete roof off Reactor #4 spewing huge amounts of toxic radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Other than immediate attempts by Chornobyl workers to put out the fire caused by the explosion, there was no official government reaction to this catastrophe – no announcements were made, no warnings given – nothing that showed the slightest concern for the population of Ukraine, or for the global community in general. In a deliberate act of what can only be seen as negligence and disregard for the safety of millions, Soviet authorities remained silent.
In the meantime, the people of Ukraine were completely unaware of the impending danger to their lives. Soviet authorities did not initiate evacuations from the immediate area surrounding Chornobyl until 36 hours following the explosion. It was only after high amounts of radioactivity were detected over parts of Europe and after Scandinavian experts determined that the source was Ukraine, did the Kremlin come forward to announce that an accident had occurred at Chornobyl, and that Moscow was handling the situation. Their reaction was hardly appropriate to the magnitude of the situation. And as such, five days after the catastrophe, thousands of unsuspecting citizens, many of them children, paraded in the streets of Kyiv, only 60 miles south of Chornobyl, in celebration of May Day, oblivious to the silent and invisible danger that had infiltrated their city.
On this 35th anniversary, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest representation of Ukrainians in America, remembers all those who perished in this catastrophe, and those who survived. We honor the hundreds of emergency workers who responded to the catastrophe; the hundreds of thousands who were uprooted from their homes; and the millions who suffered and continue to suffer from health issues related to Chornobyl.
Today, as we mark this solemn anniversary, UCCA reaffirms its resolve to do our part in ensuring that the ongoing needs of the victims of this tragedy in Ukraine are not forgotten. We will continue to condemn all acts of negligence towards mankind such as occurred at Chornobyl in 1986. In this way, we hope to ensure that the victims of this tragedy are never forgotten and that such callous acts of inhumanity are never repeated again.