Irina Grushevaya: Fukushima and Chernobyl

Kaethe Kollwitz, The People

Apparently the Japanese people have taken the first tentative steps towards demanding the end of nuclear energy in Japan. The first protest demonstrations seem to have numbered only in the hundreds and now a few thousand, however. The only country so far in which there have been significant demonstrations against nuclear energy during the present Fukushima crisis is Germany: during March 60,000 demonstrated on the 12th, 120,000 on the 14th, 140, 000 on the 21st and 250,000 on the 26th. Seven (out of 17) reactors were immediately shut down for safety checks. The 25th anniversary of Chernobyl this month will no doubt see even bigger demonstrations there on Easter Monday, and probably a few smaller ones in Australia and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the likelihood of massive non-violent blockades, sit-ins etc at nuclear power stations, uranium mines, mining company headquarters, government ministries seems slim at this stage.

Why this general quiescence throughout most of the world where there are nuclear reactors or uranium mines or actual reactors in meltdown? Humanity ‘cannot bear very much reality’, it would perhaps again seem. The capacity to remain passive and obedient in the face of elite-induced catastrophes seems endless. People can be kicked in the teeth (as in the GFC and bank bailouts), their children contaminated by decisions made by corporations and governments, but there is little outrage. Suffering continues to remain solidly ‘privatised’, just the way the ruling elites like it. Solidarity and collective action seem to be very hard to achieve in most industrialised consumer societies.

Below an extract from a speech by Irina Grushevaya on one of these demonstrations in Germany, translated from the transcript in Graswurzelrevolution No. 358, April 2011, p. 8. Irina Grushevaya is the 1989 founder of the Children of Chernobyl foundation in Belarus and active in the struggle against the dictatorial Belarus Government’s suppression or playing down of the Chernobyl effects. She and her husband have received many death threats for their work.

Irina Grushevaya: Extracts from Speech at Anti-Nuclear Demonstration Muenster, Germany 14 March 2011

Dear concerned citizens! It is a difficult occasion for me because I particularly feel deep grief. And all the feelings that we all have experienced in 25 years of Chernobyl are coming to the surface again at this moment [of the Fukushima catastrophe]. We, the people in Belarus, do not wish to again experience all the losses and anger about the deceit and down-playing of the first few years.

We were lulled into quiescence in exactly the same way the people in Japan are being lulled now. And when I hear that the people in the 20 km zone around Fukushima have been evacuated, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. What are 20 km around a melted reactor when the radioactivity is going around the whole world? When the Chernobyl cloud went around the world seven times and left its deadly legacy everywhere and when the radiation isn’t just in the soil or food or air. So where is it to be found now? It is in human bodies! That’s something they no longer can, or want to, prove.

25 years, not after, but living with, Chernobyl, has awoken very many people. Today I look on them as prophets. It’s said there are no prophets in one’s own country. That’s true if we’re talking about one or two people. But I believe every citizen who is concerned about the future of our children and grandchildren becomes a prophet in that he or she understands that how we deal with this radioactive future is up to him or her. I want my children and grandchildren to radiate, but with joy.

I want us all, even if it may sound macabre, to seize the opportunity of the moment, because everyone is now shaken, to become active, more active than ever before, rather than radioactive.


Humanity has not really understood our sacrifice, the sacrifice of the white country [White Russia, Belarus]. Humanity has let itself be lulled into quiescence. In 1990 we began to tell the whole world about the effects of Chernobyl. In 1999 Germany declared its exit from nuclear power. And what do we see 20 years later [in Germany]? The exit from the exit. That is a great challenge.

In Japan there may be an even more terrible meltdown happening. I don’t know what dimensions a catastrophe has to have to make us active prophets. To let us achieve what moves and concerns us. Solidarity with Japan means all of us discovering a new nervous system within ourselves, a new transmitter and a new receiver, so that we can feel the radioactivity that is otherwise imperceptible to our senses, so that we can all react to this danger appropriately.


If we survive as humans, as a species, then the chronicle of the future will be written after Chernobyl, in Belarus. For everyone this is a warning and an opportunity to now rethink our concept of life together with Japan and to try to end what is putting our lives on the endangered list.

I hope we now come through, I hope that these armchair terrorists achieve nothing and that our children only radiate with joy.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 12, 2011.

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