Chernobyl by Gerd Ludwig as told to Meg Ryan Heery

In 2005 Oleg Shapiro, 54, and Dima Bogdanovich, 13, received thyroid cancer treatment in Minsk, Belarus, where surgery is performed daily. Shapiro was exposed to extreme levels of radiation while working as a liquidator. Dima’s mother blames Chernobyl’s nuclear fallout for her son’s illness.

In 2005 Oleg Shapiro, 54, and Dima Bogdanovich, 13, received thyroid cancer treatment in Minsk, Belarus, where surgery is performed daily. Shapiro was exposed to extreme levels of radiation while working as a liquidator. Dima’s mother blames Chernobyl’s nuclear fallout for her son’s illness.

Visiting an orphanage in Gomel, Belarus, in 2005, I made a request to photograph the children it housed. The director said, “OK, come tomorrow morning.”

The next day I was greeted by two officials, who told me, “Oh, children anywhere can be born with malformations. You won’t find Chernobyl victims here.”

I said, “Are you sure? Not even secondary problems, like those from the mother’s alcoholism or children who were given up by parents who couldn’t handle the stress of relocation and their own diseases?” They replied, “No, no, no, nothing here!”

I knew that many orphanages in Belarus receive funding from international foundations dedicated to helping Chernobyl victims. So I argued, “OK. If you give it to me in writing that none of your children here are in any way related to the Chernobyl accident, I’ll pick up my cameras and leave without taking a single picture. But of course then we will report in National Geographic that this kindergarten doesn’t need any help from the Chernobyl funds because you don’t have victims from Chernobyl here.” You should have seen how fast they changed their minds. From my first visit to the region, I learned that you can’t trust anything about Chernobyl.

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Source (http://www.americanphotomag.com)