A Peterborough couple who have spent the last 20 years helping survivors of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster have said the victims need more help than ever.
John and Rosie Sandall from Longthorpe, Peterborough, were in Chernobyl, Ukraine, for the Orthodox Christmas on January 7 and they took gifts donated by Telegraph readers and local supporters. It was the couple’s 40th visit to the region since their first visit in 1996.
They stayed in the city of Chernigov, just 16 miles from the reactor.
Rosie said: “It seems hard to believe we’ve visited Chernigov forty times. We’ve made many friends there and we support a lot of people. Sadly disasters like Chernobyl go out of the news, but thirty years on babies are still being born today with disabilities directly linked to the disaster. Many people have thyroid problems as a result of radiation and everyone we support is very poor.”
Their main project is the Zelany Huy Sanatorium where 1,300 visit each year to receive good food and herbal treatments. The old building is being refurbished, with help from John and Rosie and all 100 beds have recently been replaced. A new boiler has just been fitted and work has now started on re-flooring the building and replacing curtains.
John added: “While the area has become a lot more westernised, children’s heath has, if anything, got worse.
“When the disaster happened 30 years ago, people thought the problems would be grown out of, but that has not happened. It is getting worse as the people who were children at the time, have children of their own.
“It is very moving to see what is happening - we see the same doctors, and support the same families, so we can see how things are changing.”
When John and Rosie first went, they took a lorry load of items, but changes in the area have made it easier to fly to the area. John said: “There are a lot more shops there now, and even a pizza cafe. When we first went no shops had a fridge, but now you can buy pretty much anything there, so it is easier to fly than go over land.
“The problem is these are the forgotten victims. The disaster happened so long ago, and so far away, that people here forget about it, but they need help.”
n John and Rosie will now begin preparing for their next visit in August.
They are now collecting goods for their next fund-raising sale 10am-noon, All Saints’ Church Hall, Park Road, Peterborough, (opposite Central Park) Saturday, April 16. Donations for the sale – household items, books, toys, jewellery, toiletries etc – can be delivered to 51 Apsley Way, Longthorpe, Peterborough, PE3 9NZ, or call 01733 268340.