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A Day In The Life Of Mother Earth : Chernobyl's Aftermath : 'This radiation business is like when we were fighting the Nazis.' Ivan I. Shanga, relative of Ukraine resident

May 26, 1992|JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lacking the means to change their place of residence, many people seem to take refuge in the stoicism that has been the Ukrainian peasant's timeless hallmark. "Where can you go? They don't accept us anywhere," says Galya Savchuk, a cook whose teen-age daughter's vision has deteriorated by 30% in recent years. "People I know have been waiting for two or three years to go to Kherson (in southern Ukraine), but there are no free apartments."

Others are more combative and even accuse the Ukrainian leadership of continuing the cover-up campaign the Communists had mounted around Chernobyl, perhaps because the cost of relocating everyone in danger is unthinkably huge.

"The authorities make us live on poisoned territory," says Anatoly L. Polshikov, a member of the government council in Ovruch and a militant in a private radiation watchdog organization.

By order of the Ukrainian government, the Chernobyl plant is to be shut down completely by next year. But its legacy will last virtually forever--24,000 years from now, half the particles of plutonium sprayed into the air in 1986 will still be emitting radiation.

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