[g8-sheffield] 20 years, 20 lives press national

Lesley lesley at peopleandplanet.co.uk
Thu Apr 20 18:13:36 BST 2006




On 26 April 1986, twenty years ago, the world's worst nuclear accident happened at Chernobyl. A gigantic explosion and a ten-day blazing fire spread two hundred times the amount of radioactivity of the combined releases of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs over the planet. Over one hundred thousand people were evacuated from the disaster zone.

Two decades on, and radiation continues to escape into the atmosphere through large holes in the concrete sarcophagus that was built to encase the reactor. This structure will have to survive far longer than the pyramids of ancient Egypt, such is the long-term potency of radiation

As we approach Chernobyl's twentieth anniversary and as politicians debate new nuclear power stations, it is more important than ever to tell the story from the perspective of the people living with the consequences on a daily basis. 

This project seeks to draw public attention to the fact that humankind has lived with nuclear technology for only three generations, with already unimaginable consequences. 

Chernobyl - 20 Years, 20 Lives is a photo documentary journey through the experiences of 20 people whose lives were forever altered by the devastating nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986. The images offer an insight into the fate of a few of the victims of Chernobyl and reveal some of the impacts of the continuing catastrophe. (1)

By choosing 20 people from all walks of life we can begin to absorb the significance of the accident and its impact on humanity.

'Remember Chernobyl' is a coalition of Chernobyl charities working to raise awareness of the ongoing effects of the disaster. It has called for the creation of a research fund, administered by the United Nations, to conduct independent studies into other health problems besides the massive and universally recognised rise in thyroid cancer (2) 

Copies of the exhibition will be on show across Europe throughout 2006. 

In the UK the tours will start at: 

* Café in City Hall, London from 17 - 28 April 
* Room 10, House of Commons, London: 7.00pm, 26 April as part of a Parliamentary Public Meeting. 
* The Forum, Norwich: 26 April ONE DAY ONLY.
* The Greenhouse, Bethel Street, Norwich: 26 April - 20 May

Contact for above: John Brodribb (01603 631007 Email: info at GreenhouseTrust.co.uk

* Kingston University, London, from 26 April in a reduced form, with the full exhibition from 02-12 May. Contact Dr. Alan Flowers on (0208 547 2000 extension 62592


(1) Danish photographer Mads Eskesen conceived the 20 Years, 20 Lives project after he first travelled through the affected regions in 1995. The project documents the activities undertaken by people in order to adapt to the reality of life after the Chernobyl disaster, from villagers in Belarus soaking their mushrooms in water and vinegar to reduce the amount of radiation they contain, to a Welsh farmer who needs to scan his sheep before their meat can be passed fit for slaughter and human consumption. We are introduced to a Belarusian professor who measures the accumulated radiation in school children in the south of Belarus and also to the former director of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant who believes that a positive attitude has stopped him from becoming sick.

While visiting an abandoned radioactive village in the Ukraine with an American journalist and a Russian translator Mads met a couple that had defied the authorities to remain in their contaminated home. Later, he visited Belarus and discovered the horrific impact of the disaster on the country. It was then that he decided to return to the region in order to document the lives of ordinary people and tell some of their stories in an effort to break down the barriers that still exist between Eastern and Western Europe and reflect another aspect of the Chernobyl disaster, which still remains a taboo subject in many of the affected regions. 

The personal stories brought to life in this exhibition and accompanying book took three years to compile and took Mads on a journey through the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Latvia, Sweden, France, and the UK.

www.20years20lives.info/press for high-resolution images of the exhibition

The Danish photographer Mads Eskesen is available for interviews at +45  28 88 02 57.

(2) In September 2005 the 'Chernobyl Forum', a body set up by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), issued a report. The 'Remember Chernobyl' coalition believes that this report is unbalanced and rejects its conclusion that the most significant health effect of the accident is the damage to mental health caused by the evacuation of families and by misinformation about radiation. National Co-ordinator: Linda Walker (01457 863534. Email: linda at ccprojectuk.fsnet.co.uk.

Other Useful links

The other report on Chernobyl (TORCH). Published this month, the report highlights the fatalities and growing health problems related to the reactor accident, and the continuing problems of containing the disaster.


FALLOUT - The human cost of nuclear catastrophe. Greenpeace exhibition hosted by the OxO gallery on the South Bank - London.  www.oxotower.co.uk

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