Photography by Brian Moody
On April 26, 1986, the Soviet Union played host to the world’s largest nuclear catastrophe. The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant contaminated 155,000 square kilometres, home to seven million people. 17-year-old Sasha Khodosok, who was two at the time, lived with his family in the contaminated city of Braghin. It was not until 1990, four years after the accident, that the family was moved to a ‘clean’ village 20 kilometres away. In 1998 Sasha was diagnosed with thyroid cancer – the only childhood cancer conclusively linked with radiation. His parents, Vladimir and Ludmile Khodoshok, are also now invalids.
People say Chernobyl was an accident, but the people responsible have never been held accountable. Sasha has thyroid cancer and we have no money with which to buy him the fresh food he needs in order to stay healthy. After the dissolution of the Communist Party, its former members became businessmen and took our money. I had 6,000 rubels saved in the bank, but I was only allowed to take out 500. The rest just disappeared into other people’s pockets.
There was no reparation. We all worked near Chernobyl. At the time I was a member of a collective farm. Myself and other farm workers had to move hay and equipment out of the contaminated area into the “clean” area. No one told us we were putting our health at risk. Now I have chronic asthma, my wife has sight problems, Sasha has cancer and we have a daughter who is partially sighted. Our other son died at the age of 12 – the official reason given was “cardiovascular deficiency”.