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And Indeed There Will Be Time

In the world of today, all of us were in a great hurry… we were running with hatred, malignancy, and also with a strong urge to reach the zenith. We did not have the time to notice what was going on around us. Also, we did not have much time for self evaluation, either!

However, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has changed the scenario. We had no idea that a virus could slow the entire world to a virtual standstill. We were not prepared for this… the crisis has shocked the human race, immensely. Of course, the quarantine has given us an opportunity to think about the situation. Unfortunately, we find that we have lost the power to think. Now, we have turned ourselves into mere numbers, and are ready to accept death.

Belarusian Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich had given some interviews after the Chernobyl disaster, which was triggered by a Nuclear accident that had occurred at the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the northern Ukrainian city of Pripyat on April 26, 1986. On the basis of those interviews, she has penned a book – ‘Chernobyl Prayer: Voices from Chernobyl’ – in 1997. Each and every page of that book contains a touching account of the disruption of social stability…

Svetlana Alexievich

After the disaster, Nikolai Fomich Kalugin, who lost his daughter, told Alexievich: ‘We didn’t just lose a town, we lost our whole lives. We left on the third day. The reactor was on fire. I remember one of my friends saying, “It smells of reactor.” It was an indescribable smell.’ He said: ‘I took my daughter and my wife to hospital. They had black spots all over their bodies. These spots would appear, then disappear. They were about the size of a five-kopek coin. But nothing hurt. They did some tests on them. My daughter was six-years-old. I’m putting her to bed, and she whispers in my ear: “Daddy, I want to live, I’m still little.” And I had thought she didn’t understand anything.’ Kalugin continued: ‘Can you picture seven little girls shaved bald in one room? There were seven of them in the hospital room… my wife couldn’t take it. “It’d be better for her to die than to suffer like this. Or for me to die, so that I don’t have to watch anymore,” she stressed. We put her on the door… on the door that my father lay on. Until, they brought a little coffin. It was small, like the box for a large doll. I want to bear witness: my daughter died from Chernobyl. And they want us to forget about it.’

Corona, too, has made, and will make millions of ordinary lives extraordinary! One day, this pandemic will find its place in History. History will help future generations trace the number of affected people and also the death toll. However, majority of the people will forget the pain and sufferings.

The Chernobyl disaster had claimed the lives of many firemen, who had rushed to the plant, without taking any precautionary measures. Many of them did not even know that severe radioactive poisoning had already started affecting their exposed bodies. Some died within 24 hours, while others were flown to Moscow. Lyudmilla Ignatenko, the wife of fireman Vasily Ignatenko, insisted: “He started to change; every day I met a brand-new person. The burns started to come to the surface. In his mouth, on his tongue, his cheeks – at first there were little lesions, and then they grew. It came off in layers – as white film… the colour of his face… his body… blue, red, grey-brown. And it’s all so very mine!” She added: “He was producing stools 25 to 30 times a day, with blood and mucous. His skin started cracking on his arms and legs. He became covered with boils. When he turned his head, there’d be a clump of hair left on the pillow. I tried joking: ‘It’s convenient, you don’t need a comb.’ Soon they cut all their hair.” Lyudmilla further said: “I tell the nurse: ‘He’s dying.’ And she says to me: ‘What did you expect? He got 1,600 roentgen. Four hundred is a lethal dose. You’re sitting next to a nuclear reactor.’ She told Alexievich: “When they all died, they refurbished the hospital. They scraped down the walls and dug up the parquet. When he died, they dressed him up in formal wear, with his service cap. They couldn’t get shoes on him because his feet had swollen up. They buried him barefoot. My love!”

Igor Kostin photographs the remains of reactor number 4 from the roof of the third reactor. (Photo by Igor Kostin/Sygma via Getty Images)

When everything goes well, we think that our death would be perfect… peaceful and painless. However, it does not always happen so. Sometimes, we lose too many people at a time. In the contemporary world, Corona has created such a situation. Indeed, it is difficult to get rid of this sudden onslaught of silence and depression, easily. Those, who will manage to survive, will join the race, once again. Occasionally, they will have to stop. They should be mentally prepared to accept the pause, which is the inevitable and inalienable part of human civilisation.

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