Stacy Jones, Publicity Director for the Fringe, and her Correspondents Team are accomplishing an amazing task: seeing lots of shows and filming short interviews with the creators directly afterwards. Our show is the second interview in this clip!
A more extensive wrap-up of April to post soon, but here’s just a taste of our varied Anniversary events:
We’ll post pictures from last night’s reading soon, but meanwhile here is the poignant information on Chernobyl Children’s Life Line presentation of our play Voices From Chornobyl as part of their 25th Anniversary Vigil. (from their Flickr Page):
Voices From Chernobyl
April 26th 2011 will be the 25th Anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear reactor accident, at Chernobyl in northern Ukraine. The recent events in Japan have led to significant media attention on this anniversary and the work of UK charities such as Chernobyl Children’s Life Line (CCLL) who, since 1991, have been helping the 1000’s of children of Belarus and Ukraine who are living in contaminated regions of these countries, blighted by the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl.
To commemorate the 25th Anniversary events are being planned in the UK and all over Europe. Through the recently formed European Chernobyl Network, CCLL came up with the idea of holding simultaneous candle light memorials at venues throughout Europe on the eve of the disaster i.e. Monday 25th April, as the disaster happened at 1.23am on the 26th April. For the Derbyshire Dales, we will be holding an outdoor memorial event at Stoney Wood, off Middleton Road, in Wirksworth beginning at 8pm.
The commemoration evening will include a performance of the play, “Voices from Chornobyl” based on an award winning book written by Svetlana Alexievich by the same title. Images from the disaster and the immediate aftermath will be projected onto a large scene behind the actors. The main event will be the creation of a candle memorial consisting of a large diameter international radiation symbol and also a “25” formed by 25 people holding candles. Everyone there will have the opportunity to place a candle in the commemorative radiation symbol which will be about 4metres in diameter.
It’s been an fascinating journey for me, signed up initially as an actor – and then having to step forward and make my directorial debut, tackling a very difficult and emotional piece. We had our final rehearsal at our rehearsal room last night – it will be a powerful performance.
If you are anywhere nearby – please come. If not – please look out for local events. 25 years on, it is still a major issue for the people of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
From left to right:
Anna: a villager – played by Hilary Jones
Vasily: a physicist – played by Lee Stephens
Lyudmilla: a fireman’s wife – played by Krystina Johnson
Grigory: a liquidator – played by Gordon Conway
Katya: a daughter and mother – played by Bryony Pollock
Sergei: a camerman – played by Mark Sobey
Part 2 of our interview:
Jane Whitty: I know especially from working on Voices From Chornobyl that Chornobyl is not, like you were saying, it’s something people don’t really want to think about anymore. How did you first get involved? What brought you into this organization?
Kathy Ryan: Well, I got involved during the filming of the HBO special Chernobyl Heart. I went out during the filming of that, during the time I went out you know I’d heard about Chernobyl but I presumed that was all taken care of I guess. You know it just kind of defies logic, its one of those things, I’m 50 years old now so I was 25 when it happened and so even though it does not makes any sense I had just kind of forgotten about it because other things happen in life. There are other disasters and other things that just take up your attention. So I was shocked I have to say, to realize that it was still affecting, that there was still the impact of low levels of radiation over a long period of time that I did not quite realize how the disaster had affected people from a social and economic standpoint. And I guess it makes sense that it would, I mean look at when this happened, it happened at just the worst time for this country, the former Soviet Union. And areas like Ukraine and Belarus should have been well positioned with their fertile land and such to enter a new economy and then this happened. You can say a situation that would have been bad anyway was made worse. And then the people that live in that area don’t believe that they were told the truth about the disaster, and they weren’t. In an environment where people tend to be distrustful of their leadership anyway it really pulled the rug out from under them. To this day when you go into, not necessarily the abandoned regions, where I have been, but in the areas that are contaminated to various levels, where people are still living they have all these protocols for how many times they have to wash to their potatoes and what they soak and what they eat and what they don’t eat. And so it lingers.
JW: Wow. I know you have described that one experience driving up to that home and seeing the cemetery there, but do you have one memory that maybe stands out, that was like wow this is working, or we’re finally reaching out and affecting this disaster in anyway?
KR: Well, you know I’ll never forget the day 12 young men from the Vesnovo asylum, whom I and those of us who had been volunteering for many years moved into their news homes. Just after seeing the horror of institutionalization, actually you can go onto YouTube and see a speech one of the boys did.
JW: Yeah, I’ve watched it; it’s very moving.
KR: I think that’s probably the day that I realized that real change was being made. That something really historical was happening. They moved in, we had a big party and local social services and government representatives from all over Belarus came to see that, yes it is possible for disabled people to live independently. And perhaps this is something that could be replicated throughout the country. So that’s an area that we’re are really concentrating on right now. But that was very moving. That’s the positive side, there is also, it’s hard to go to a graveyard and see these little unmarked grave of children that we’ve gotten very attached to over the years. To realize that they’ve spent their lives in an institution, when it did not have to be that way. So watching the sickness and the ill health can be very difficult. There are a number of children in our hospice program. We deal with children dying all the time, which is hard under any circumstances. On the other hand there is nothing like seeing these boys moving into their own home and going to visit them and they can fix you a cup of tea and have some pride at how they are living. Or going into one of our homes of hope seeing a bunch of children chattering around the table and eating, playing with their new brothers and sisters, in the loving arms of their new parents. That’s one of those really wonderful moments.
JW: For anyone who comes upon our blog and is reading this, what would be the thing that you promote most as the best way to get involved for somebody who is looking to help? Either through your organization in particular or just to affect what’s going on in Chernobyl, in any way they can. What would be the way that you would suggest to get involved?
KR: Well in terms of the Chernobyl issue in general I would like people to be aware that this happened. It’s a part of our history, it’s not as well know perhaps in the United States as in Europe because it was right in Europe’s back yard. But I’d like people to learn more about it and be aware. In terms of how they can specifically help an organization like Chernobyl Children International, we would be very interested in any sort of medical volunteers, we are always looking for physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, medical personnel, nurses who might be interested in volunteering their time. We are also looking for anybody who would be interested in participating in fundraising activities for us. If you work for a business perhaps that business would like to sponsor a Home of Hope, perhaps that business would like to sponsor a cardiac mission or even one surgery. Perhaps people can organize fundraiser at their school or their place of employment. An organization like ours really needs to have funding in order to make things happen and we need to have volunteers who will fundraise and work hands on with communities in Ukraine and in Belarus.
JW: Thank you so much for talking the time to speak with me, we really appreciate it.
Please take some time to get better acquainted with the work Chernobyl Children International is doing. Here is their contact info again:
YouTube Channel: ChernobylChildren
Back in December I spoke with Kathy Ryan of Chernobyl Children International (CCI), our partner charity, to hear what CCI is working to do and to get Kathy’s suggestions about ways for individuals to get involved. A little background on the partnership between Voices From Chornobyl and Chernobyl Children International; in addition to raising awareness around the issue of Chornobyl one of our goals for the events this April is to raise funds for this amazing organization. All of the profits (after we pay our actors, pay for space rentals and other associated costs) from fundraising and events will be donated to CCI.
Below is part 1 of our phone interview, check back on Wednesday, 1/5 for part 2 of 2.
Jane Whitty: To start off if you could just tell me a little bit about Chernobyl Children International, just a little about what they do. Just so people who are not really familiar would get a sense of what you guys are working to try to do.
Kathy Ryan: Sure. Well Chernobyl Children International is an organization that works with children, families and communities that were affected by the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and as you know with the preparations you’re making for your awareness building through Voices From Chornobyl, 2011 will mark the 25th anniversary, of the Chernobyl disaster. So, for all of that time, we were actually founded in Ireland and now we work on an international basis, we have volunteers from all over the world. We have an office in the United States and in Belarus and Ukraine. We continue to work with communities that were affected by this disaster. Even though the disaster was 25 years ago, and perhaps Chernobyl is a word that people don’t want to think about anymore, people are still being affected by this in a number of ways. Not just medically but socially and economically and even psychologically. Chernobyl remains a scar on many people that were affected. So what we do is we go into those communities and we try to put together programs that will not be short terms fixes, because mind you this happened 25 years ago, we try to put together programs that will help the people affected by the disaster and those communities become able to help themselves. Programs that will be sustainable and life changing over the longer term and generationally.
Some of the programs that you might have heard of include our cardiac surgery program. We bring volunteer cardiac teams from all over the world, mostly from the United States but really from all over the world, into Ukraine and Belarus. We operate on children who literally would die if they did not receive these surgeries. While we are out there operating on them we train the local professionals with the knowledge and training so they will be able to move forward and take care of the kids on their own, in their own countries. We started the program in Belarus and when the program started there were 7,000 children on waiting lists, waiting for surgery, and most of them would not get the surgery that they needed in order to survive. Now a days Belarus is fairly self-sufficient in terms of children’s cardiac surgery and we only go in to operate on the most serious cases and to provide training. So we’ve started to focus the program on Ukraine where 6,000 children are born every year with genetic heart diseases and only half of them will receive the operations they need to survive. So we hope to repeat the success we had in Belarus to the Ukraine.
We have other programs, we have a program called Homes of Hope where we take children out of orphanages and we place them in loving homes of their own, homes where they will grow up, where they will receive an education, where they will have a family really for the rest of their lives. That’s probably one of my favorite programs because, you know, often times we’re dealing with very difficult issues but it’s so easy to change the lives of children when you take them out of an orphanage and place them in a family environment. So we have a number of those homes going, we are always looking for sponsors for new ones. We also have at home care for seriously disabled children, we provide hospice care for children with more serious diseases, which provides not only medical but also psychological support for the families. We go into the most neglected of institutions, and that would be institutions for mentally disabled children and adults, and we have refurbished these institutions. But more importantly put together a high quality care and medical program in these institutions so that the people that live in them can lead a life of dignity that they deserve.
On that issue of mental disability we actually put together the very first independent living program for disabled young adults in Belarus. So children who have reached the age, we quickly learned from working in orphanages that you can help these kids in the orphanage but the day is going to come when they have to quote, unquote ‘graduate’. And we wondered, where did they go? And they go into terrible, dismal institutions for adults and they basically live there the rest of their lives. There’s one institution called Soltanovka, that I will never forget, driving down this long road to it, going there to visit kids who had graduated from the children’s asylum that we’d been working in, and pulling up there’s a graveyard right across. It just struck me that you know kids coming to this place going down the road know that they are never gonna come back and the first site they see is the graveyard where they are going to end up at the end of their days. So we realized it was really important, that is was really important to not just give these people humane treatment while they are in these institutions but we just have to have an exit plan to allow mentally and physically disabled children to live an independent life in society and not segregated to these institutions. So that is the independent living program.
What to know more about Chernobyl Children International? Contact them:
YouTube Channel: ChernobylChildren
by Cindy Marie Jenkins
For six years Voices From Chornobyl has engulfed me.
I finally got over people asking if I’m Ukrainian or Russian or something. Because why else would I care about Chernobyl?
I tinkered for three years on the scripts, often throwing entire drafts away before landing on these two texts we use now.
I flew out to Manchester England and gave a key note speech urging the Chernobyl charities to use our video and play as a vehicle to raise money and awareness for their work.
Now, we line up new venues and ideas for April 2011 Awareness Events daily, in Los Angeles and the UK. With every step that takes us forward, we discover five additional steps in order to get there.
We make a lot of lists.
I know it’s going to be totally worth it. I’ve done awareness events before the 25th anniversary, and learned the following:
1. My ensemble is always awesome.
2. The play always affects people.
3. They always leave asking questions.
4. A non-traditional theater space is always better.
5. Marketing marketing marketing.
So here we are, planning for the 25th anniversary events, hearing from new collaborators every day. Everyone brings specifics talents to the team and we all keep the goal in sight: