OST-EUROPA-MOTORRADTOUR #25(a): Chernobyl; Check-Points, verlassene Dörfer und ein neuer Sarkophag

Punkt 8:00 Uhr Abfahrt von Kiew, hiess es. Wenn aber der Reisebus erst um 5 vor 8 erscheint und die Teilnehmer nach gebuchten Touren kontrollieren muss, wird’s kaum klappen. Dafür schafften wir es pünktlich zum morgendlichen Berufsverkehr in die Innenstadt. Immerhin war ein kurzer Stopp zum Kaffee tanken eingeplant. Der musste reichen bis zum ersten Check-Point an der 30km-Zone um den verunfallten Atomreaktor.  Hier wurden alle Pässe kontrolliert und mit den Genehmigungen verglichen, die die Reiseagentur im Voraus besorgen musste.

Bei der nordukrainischen Stadt Chernobyl kam ein Reaktor eines Atomkraftwerks in der Nacht vom 26./27. April 1986 ausser Kontrolle und explodierte. Die Folgen waren katastrophal und auf der ganzen Welt zu spüren, bzw. messbar. Radioaktives Material verbreitete sich und machte die nächste Umgebung des Katastrophengebiet für mindestens 20’000 Jahre unbewohnbar. Alle Bewohner innerhalb 30 km wurden evakuiert. Verlassene Dörfer und ganze Städte, allen voran die Stadt Pripyat, die nur knapp drei Kilometer vom explodierten Reaktor lag.

Die ersten Besuche galten verlassenen Dörfer, ihre einfallenden Häuser und düsteren Schulen. In Kindergärten zeugen zurückgelassene Puppen und Schulbücher von ihrer Vergangenheit. Die Natur erobert sich langsam wieder ihr Territorium zurück.

Natürlich gibt’s auch Mahnmale, Gedenkstätte und Erinnerungstafeln, die das Unvergessliche in Erinnerung behalten wollen. Schon fast idyllisch mutet die Umgebung der Kirche an. Sanfte Sonnenstrahlen lassen die Trauben reifen, die wie alles hier, aus einem radioaktiven Boden wächst. Auch die Lenin Statute aus der Zeit der Sowjetunion strahlt ruhig vor sich hin. Selbstbewusst und trotzig steht sie da. Während alle andere Lenin Statuen der Welt gestürzt wurden, darf sie hier weiter vor sich hin strahlen.

Die Spannung steigt mit der Dosis der empfangenen Gammastrahlung. Wir nähern uns der Unfallstelle vor 31 Jahren. Schon von Weitem glitzert der neue Sarkophag silbrig in der Sonne. Nach der Katastrophe wurde eiligst ein Betonbunker über den strahlenden Reaktor errichtet. Dieser musste aber durch eine bessere Lösung ersetzt, bzw überbaut werden. In jahrelanger Arbeit wurde eine Hülle erbaut, die dann über den noch immer strahlenden Reaktor geschoben wurde. Hier eine Animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wso-xD0FnU

Der Geigerzähler, der die Radioaktivität misst zeigt noch immer gut über 1.0 msv/h an. Normalwerte sind zwischen 0,1 und 03 msv/h.


Sister Therese

A friend wrote me a message, telling me about a German lady, who lives in Africa since decades as a nun and founded several dispensaries. If i’m passing by that area i should visit her, he suggested. And indeed, it seemed i’m pretty close there anyway.

On my way i got stopped by the traffic police. Once more. While the officer check my papers he wanted to know where i’m heading to. I told him the story of the old lady, doing so many good things for local people. I admire to meet her and maybe making some photos of the place she founded, i explained. As the officer has seen my camera he wanted me to do a portrait shot of himself. I did. With a smile on both of us he let me go.

Just ask for ‚Sister Therese‘ when you reach the town, my friend advised me. And indeed, even the people on the street didn’t recognized the name of the dispensary, they reacted promptly on the name of the nun. But Sister Therese doesn’t live here anymore. The new chairman of the small hospital organized a nice chap who’s guiding me to the new founded dispensary of Sister Therese. It was about an hour drive or so. Maurice asked me to stop in a village to introduce me with the chief, who owns a shop. It’s all interesting and so much to learn about, but also time consuming. Finally we reached the dispensary and i met Sister Therese in person. After a brief tour trough the building and nearby garden, she told me her story by a soup and tea. Since she was a young girl she wanted go somewhere far. As a young nun she went to Southern Africa, studied to become a nurse and stayed many years in Zimbabwe. Many stories about trouble and terrible times, in Southern and later in Eastern Africa, but also about never ending hope and times of happiness. Her eyes are always smiling even when she’s telling dark stories. A truly strong woman, which i’d like to spend more time with, but it got late and time to leave for me. Despite the short time with her, it let a deep impression on my way out of the bush.

Moyo’s Refugee Camps

There’s a beautiful landscape far north of Uganda, just at the border to South Sudan, i read. Off i go, and many bumpy kilometers later i reached Moyo, a dusty border town. Dozens of big, white Toyotas and trucks with blue UN letters or red crosses crossing my way. It’s not a sleepy town anymore since thousands of Sudanese refugees fleeing from the war and passing trough here. I stopped for a bitter lemon at a bar, watching busses with refugees coming from reception camps, get somewhere out of town. Young men hanging around, drinking cheap liquor from small plastic bags. I need a tourist camp to stay overnight, i tell them. Helpfully they explain me the way, spell the name of a place and show me the spot on the map. Just at the river Nile. Looks great to me. When i arrived the place it turns out as huge refugee camp. It’s too late to turn back, so i ask around for a real „tourist camp/lodge“. Another friendly guy shows the direction, just to end up in another refugee camp, even further away from next town. I felt lucky to see a bunch of big, expensive Toyotas with the emblem of a NGO. I asked friendly to stay at the carpark, where a guard is watching at night anyway. A young white guy called himself in charge, but refused to take any responsibility and sent me away. When i turned for another help, he gave me the advice to ask the neighbors, but offer them some money for their help. „sure“, i smiled to him, but thought ‚fuck you off with your cheap advices while too cowardly to let me even stay here, you white prick‘.

The locals were more helpful, sent me to the police station midst of a refugee camp. In front of a few round houses some police officers were sitting in plain clothes. After i got the allowance to stay, i sat with them and listen to their stories. The current camp opened only three months again. Every day hundreds of more refugees are coming, flooding the camps and plans for extending the area already existing. While we spoke, some armed officers arrived in uniforms, turned back from their patrol by motorbikes.  In one of the round houses the prisoners are kept until there’s a transport to Moyo to the bigger jail. Some of them move relatively free, others were with hand chains. They get out of the house to help carrying water or doing some minor jobs. When night falls over the camp, all went silent. No light, no noise. I felt like sleeping in a completely remote area.

Hike Trough Border Villages

Early morning a young guy approached me. He offered tours. Despite my plans to travel further, i got convinced to spend a day longer in this area. Julius, the young tour guide, promised me, not only to guide me for an hike along the Congo border, but also showing me authentic village life, where he’s born. I didn’t regret my decision. Trough villages and over farmland, he brought me to a cave, climbed up an hill with craters, where every inch is used as agriculture land, introduced me with school and showed me the spring, where village people get their drinking water. On this hike, i got the whole lot impression of country life in Uganda.

Pygmy Village

The pygmy people, they call themselves Batwa, used to live in the forest, where they survived as hunters and gatherers. As the forests became national parks, the Batwa got relocated without access to new hunting and collecting areas. Lost in a strange environment, many became addicted to alcohol and start with begging too. They get abused as cheap labour, survive from the leftovers of other ones or get some income from dancing and performing for tourists.

Neza, who works for an organization, which takes care for the Batwa communities, explained me the difficulties of their life. I got interested to see the real life of these people rather than visiting a tourist performance. I’m invited to join a meeting, but was expected not to come barehanded, since the Batwa rely on food and goods coming from outside. A 25 kilo bag of maize flour was my ticket to the community. But first i met a few people in the office of the organization UOBDU and got introduced to several people, as a lawyer, accountant, shop keeper of the souvenirs and the head of organization. With her i had a longer talk and learned more about the misery of the Batwa people. In short; the government neglect the Batwa, the local people don’t care, but abuse them as cheap labour and many Batwa refuse to work at all, since their culture were hunting and gathering, what is now forbidden to them. UOBDU is trying to reduce the suffering and bring them education, it got explained to me. What’s the goal for the future, i asked. Good question, was the thoughtfully reply, but still lacking the answer.

A new dirt road leads up to mountains, passing many small villages and little farms. Here in the valleys lives the Batwa in neighborhood with Hutus and Tutsis, i learned. But it seems they don’t help each other out. We arrived a tiny farm. Now we had to wait till the word spread in the neighborhood, that the members of the organization arrived. Everyone who joins the meeting had to put the name on a list and either gives a signature or a fingerprint. Then started a three hour teaching with loud words, many gestures, big laughters and role play. The topics, as i learned later, were about violence between neighbors and within family, the right of education for children and young marriages. At the end of the meeting the people gathered around the vehicle of UOBDU. Everyone who attended and signed the list for the meeting got a soap bar and some food. What was the real motivation for people to join the meeting, and will be a constantly flow of donations from foreign organizations the real future of those people? i asked myself when i passed the majestic volcano behind Lake Kayumbu.

Project; Give Girls A Future

One of the manager told us the entire history of that project. While my friend wrote it down, i got briefly the purpose of it. To get the girls from the street, out of drugs and their struggle in life, teach them a profession and help them to find a job. Tailoring is a good way. Just recently another seven girls from the project found a job in a big tailor factory, he told us. The office is occupied by 6 persons, busy at their desks. Colorful fabrics and and finished bags are lying around.

We are led around the building which stands just at edge of a slum. In there upper levels are the rooms for education, a library and the sewing machines. Next to famous brands like Singer stands machines from China. No matter, as long they do their work. Three women were busy and explained how they produce washable sanitary pads. Good idea to produce something reusable, but despite they’re convinced it’s easy to clean them properly, i still doubt it since they use to wash with cold water.

On roof top young women with their children just finished lunch.The kids were playful, posed for photos and some older ones wanted try themselves to take pictures. A couple boys gathered in a corner to play cards. When get down again, a dance class just started in one of the rooms. With the rhythm in our ears we leave the place.