Give Chernobyl children a break

TWENTY years ago today a six-year-old boy watched as a toxic cloud blew devastation across his country.

Constantine Rulioff has lived with the aftermath of Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear disaster, every day since.

He was celebrating his sixth birthday when the nuclear power plant exploded 60 miles south of his home in Mogilev, Belarus, spewing radioactive material across the country.

Two decades on and the fallout is still being felt.

A world away, the 26-year-old is enjoying today with his wife and daughter at the home of Norbreck couple John and Pauline Caulfield. It is a double celebration as Pauline also marks her 46th birthday on the tragic anniversary.

Constantine has worked with the Caulfields as an interpreter bringing children affected by the Chernobyl disaster to the resort over the last three years and he now hopes to start a phD in English in the UK this summer.

However, that fateful day is still etched on his mind.

He said: "Nobody knew what was going on because the government kept it secret for weeks, but as a doctor my father knew something was wrong and told my mother not to let me out. It was a beautiful hot day, and my birthday, so it was like being in a cage.

"Mogilev is 60 miles north of Chernobyl and there was fall out in my town. Everybody was still on the street all day, no one told them to go indoors, and many of my friends have since suffered health problems we believe are because of the disaster."

Just a week after the explosion Constantine and his friends started to receive medication at school to combat thyroid cancer but friends and family have still suffered and the country as a whole has seen a huge increase in cancer deaths, especially among children not even born for another decade.

It is those youngsters the Caulfields have pledged to help by bringing a group to the UK for a month in the summer – a trip which can literally change their lives

The couple, of Chatsworth Avenue, are hoping for more volunteers to help out with the month long visit which can add up to two years to the visitors' life expectancy.

John, 57, said: "We have these children one month and you see the difference, their behaviour gets better, their hair and skin starts to look healthier and we know that the experience we give them is making a real difference."

This year 10 youngsters, age nine to 13 are visiting the resort from July 17 to August 14. It costs more than 400 each to bring the children from Belarus to the UK and the Chernobyl Children Lifeline is holding a fete to raise funds at St Teresa's Church Hall on April 30 from 9.30am.

Any donations for the stalls would be appreciated and anyone interested in helping out, or hosting one of the Chernobyl children is asked to contact John Caulfield on (01253) 353295.