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Russian student at Tees academy welcomes Chernobyl children

TrioA Russian-speaking student has offered a familiar welcome to children visiting Teesside from the area which suffered the world’s worst nuclear disaster 30 years ago.

Fourteen youngsters, aged between eight and ten, were welcomed by sixth form students at The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, after travelling from their home in Belarus, Russia, which bore 70 per cent of the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

The children, who are staying with host families during their four-week visit, spent the day at The King’s Academy making cookies and art masks and took part in music lessons and team sports with the help of interpreter Tania Vaskovskaia and Russian-born student Daniela Cebotari.

Daniela, 15, of Middlesbrough, who lived in Russia until she was eight years old, said:

This is the fourth year that I have helped to translate for the children. They are always surprised at first when I start talking Russian to them as they think I am English.

“Their faces really light up when I speak to them and they tell me that they love our school, that it is really pretty and they really like being in England.”

Making cookiesAs a result of the explosion, thousands of children born every year in Belarus have a much higher than average expectancy of developing thyroid cancer, bone cancer or leukaemia with a life expectancy in the region of 48 years.

The Chernobyl Children Lifeline charity arranges annually for a group of them to travel to Teesside to improve their quality of life by giving them fresh, non-contaminated water, food, fresh air and exercise, and The King’s Academy hosts the children each year.

Chair of the Chernobyl Children Lifeline charity Margaret Cundall said:

The children are all from a desperately poor area in Belarus. Their schools are only equipped with very basic amenities, they have no inside toilets or hot water – it is a world away from the fabulous facilities that they enjoy while they are here at The King’s Academy.

“We have been coming here for 11 years now and every time we get such a fabulous welcome from everyone at the academy, sometimes it is difficult to see who gets the most pleasure our children or the staff and students.

“The main reason that we organise these visits to the UK is that, despite the Chernobyl disaster happening 30 years ago, people in villages around Belarus are still living with low levels of radiation.

“Their locally grown food is contaminated. Coming here and breathing clean air, eating healthy food and drinking clean water helps rid their bodies of 65-95 per cent of the radiation they have absorbed, and it take three years for that to build up in their bodies again.”

Anyone interested in helping Chernobyl Children Lifeline charity can contact (01642) 274944 or e-mail Margaret.cundall@ntlworld.com