For Chernobyl Survivors, New Ukraine Nuclear Risk Stirs Dread

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Now, the Chernobyl disaster is casting a shadow over Zaporizhzhia, and the broader region.

“We do not want another Chernobyl,” Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Friday.

In March, after the plant first came under attack, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had a dire warning: “You know the word ‘Chernobyl,’” he said.

Some survivors of that disaster cannot even bring themselves to say that word, all these years later, and won’t talk about it. Others say they are still dealing with the consequences.

Andriy Kulish, a former Soviet military officer, said that after the explosion, he was ordered to clean the roof of Chernobyl’s Reactor 3. The same evening, he recalls, he felt dizzy and nauseated, and vomited and passed out. Doctors at the Kyiv hospital, where he said servicemen with radiation exposure occupied two floors of the neurological department, said he had sustained a high dose of radiation.

Over the years, his thyroid gland doubled in size, he said. Then he developed chronic heart disease and severe physical weakness, that led him to resign as a senior officer of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and then from the civilian job he got after. He said most of the soldiers from his company had fallen ill or died.

Andriy Kulish at the exit from Chernobyl in June 1986.

“I know better than others what high radiation is,” he wrote in an email.

Natalia Kuziomko recalls being evacuated from her village of Illintsi when she was 9, and returning there over the years only for brief visits. “When I visited my native village, my heart ached all the way,” she said.

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