Lighting a candle for Chernobyl

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TWENTY five years on from the Chernobyl disaster, the Borders has remembered the world’s worst nuclear accident, writes Kenny Paterson.

On April 26, 1986, at 1.26am, a reactor at the power plant in northern Ukraine, then the Soviet Union, exploded, harming and causing the deaths of thousands of people.

Monday evening saw the Scottish Borders Link of Chernobyl Children Lifeline hold a candelight ceremony at Galashiels Fire Station, where around 40 people created the shape of the number 25 in memory of that fateful day.

Borders branch chairman, Fraser Simm noted the brave efforts of the firemen of Pripyat and Chernobyl who made sacrifices to extinguish the fires at the nuclear reactor and thanked the Galashiels fire service for their co-operation in helping to arrange the event.

Mr Simm said: “We were joined by members of the charity throughout the UK, as well people in Belarus, Ukraine, Berlin and Barcelona.

“There was also a large contingent who lit candles in their homes and shared the experience.

“The message is that, despite not hosting children this year, we will be next year.”

Remembering the disaster 25 years on, Mr Simm, from Stow, told us: “I had a young son at the time, so I remember having to take steps (to protect him) because they were at risk.

“Looking back, it was one of those moments when you knew nothing would ever be quite the same.

“The authorities in the Soviet Union were not sure what had happened and it was not until days after that the potential hazards of the explosion became known.”

Formed in 2001 in Stow by Ian Anderson and Mr Simm, the Scottish Borders Link of Chernobyl Children Lifeline has raised an estimated £40,000 to bring 90 children from neighbouring Belarus to the region for month-long holidays and health check-ups.

The charity believes the visits extend a child’s life by on average two years.

Mr Simm added: “The children do go away happier and healthier. They put on some weight and visit the dentists and opticians.

“Last year we had one boy who stayed in Tweedmouth who received 32 fillings at the dentist.

“The dentists and doctors have been really supportive of us, as have local businesses who have donated fruit and vegetables and vitamins.”

Monday’s candlelight ceremony also saw members of the Scottish Borders Link of Chernobyl Children Lifeline read short pieces relating to the 1986 disaster.

The evening was also supported by the churches of Upper Tweeddale (Broughton, Stobo, Tweedsmuir and Skirling) who bought many candles.

If you would like to join Scottish Borders Link of Chernobyl Children Lifeline contact Mr Simm (01578 730297) or Sarah Barton (01835 840333).