Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Chernobyl Curse

graffity seen in Prypiat

She looks like a shadow, moves like a shadow; it's only when you place your head into her hands and she gently starts washing it, massaging the scalp, and then styling your hair - only then does she look and sound human, a lively female creature full of energy and humor.
Ina (short for Irina) is a Chernobyl survivor.

Yes, Chernobyl- that dreadful region in Ukraine where on 26 April 1986 early morning , the most devastating nuclear disaster of all times occurred. They said the explosion in the nuclear plant, located close to the town of Prypiat at the border with the Belarus republic, was the result of faulty design of one of the reactors and mistakes done by workers.

[There will always be mistakes, ( " to err is human...") so what does that mean to us? It means that the end of the world is not utopy; all you need to make it happen , is some 'mistake' at a nuclear plant] .

Almost twenty-four years later, the affected area is still a 'dead zone' with deserted towns and villages, decaying ghost houses and high radiation which will remain high for hundreds if not thousands of years. At first, there was talk of a 30 km 'dead zone' around the plant, but as the years went by , it became clear that it was much larger, 300 km at least.
(I strongly recommend reading about it on the website It's a must).

Ina had been exposed to moderate radiation. When she arrived in Israel in 1991 she was diagnosed with two types of cancer. She claims that she's clean now of malignancy due to some unique treatment (combined conventional and alternative means) administered to her by a russian doctor living in Germany and specializing in radiation victims.

Anyway, on the day of my appointment with her, after she had finished 'upgrading' my hair , and I was above to leave the tiny hairdresser 's unit attached to her appartment, I said to Ina the following : "the person who has recommended you, told me that you are too good to be true, and I agree with every word".
"Oh , it's not me , it's my obsessive behaviour about hair", she said in surprising honesty.

It appears that as a result of her long periods of Hair Loss, side-effect of chemotherapic treatments, she has developed an obsessive need to touch and work with women's hair in its live, natural place- on the head. She's very skilled and her hairstyling is considered of high quality. Once a month she volunteers her services as a hairdresser to hospitals and aged people's homes in her area.

On that evening, I attended a festive event. A friend complimented me about the way my hair looked and asked who did it. "I'm afraid it's not Who, it's What - apparently, a 'neurobehavioral' disorder did it" said I , and told her about Ina and her confession.


  1. You have the most incredible encounters. I suspect that you could get anyone to talk about anything. I find that to be a wonderful quality about you. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. This is such a touching story. So much more is said than just the words spoken by the hairdresser. I have often, also now with the earthquake in Haiti, tried to imagine waking up to a disaster of that scale. Waking up to "nothing". Friends gone, family gone, home gone... the world and life as you've known it gone. I find I cannot imagine such horror, it is beyond me. I can only the survivors and admire them for their ability to cope with such tragedy and still go on with their lives. Wonderful post, thank you.

  3. God bless the lady for not stopping, for finding a way to balance herself so she could continue on in life.
    I remember Chernobyl, and also remember the subsequent intermittent documentaries that landed on UK TV. It was, and still is, an absolute disaster, which is conveniently forgotten in the pace of modern day life.
    Thankyou for pulling it up again, as you so often do with other subjects (the missing concentration camp sign for instance). You are a voice that reminds us not to forget. Bless you for this.

  4. Duta, Once again you have brought our conscience into the forefront. So quickly we seem to forget the horrific happenings of our world. We must be aware of the human errors and how they affect not only our lives but the lives of everyone in our world.

    Your 'shadow' lady is a survivor and a daily reminder of what might be. Perhaps if we can perpetrate an awareness among us a worse scenario might never happen. But, then again...

  5. I'm moved by the story (as usual with your stories), but even more I'm a wee bit jealous. I would like to find a hairdresser with a hair obsession...

  6. Very touching, I hope she has some hair of her own also.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this touching story. I commend her for being brave and not giving up. I love your writing. Thank you for reminding us not to take anything for granted. I know we as Americans take so much for granted!

  8. Ina is a perfect example of something I've always believed; bad things happen and then the course of your life changes and if you have character, it makes you another amazing person with different skills. She never would have focused on hair like that and developed that talent except for the bad things that happened. Life will throw things in your path but if you adapt or even thrive, you are a hero.

  9. Hi Duta,
    A thought-provoking post as usual. I am speechless.
    I came by to thank you for your comment on my window view post. The man is my brother. I think the same as you.

  10. Wow...this was a powerful story and a good reminder to those of us who have forgotten what happened and how the legacy of the "mistake" still lives on.


  11. I love how she is creating beauty out of her personal horrors. Thank you for an inspiring post.

  12. Wow! What a thought-provoking post. Thank you.

  13. Wow. What a miracle of the human spirit this woman is. Indeed, she is a hero, as Autumn said. Poignant, very touching, this story. Thank you.

  14. Sunt curios, daca in 1986 erai in Romania sau in Israel. Adica daca ai trait pe viu acea teama aproape supranaturala de iradiere.Cu respect.

  15. A wonderfully thought provoking post Duta,but one I find sad.
    The fact that this lady survived and got on with her life is commendable,but does she enjoy hairdressing ??Or is it just her compulsive disorder,which she has admitted to,but gives no joy to her ?this would be sad.
    We in Ireland have never forgotten Chernobyl,we arrange holidays for orphans and disabled children (still being born with birth defects to this day )who stay with a host family.They are taken on trips and organized events,giving them respite from the orphanages that Ireland finances.
    Our students also do fund raising and go to the orphanages to work and teach in their Easter or summer vacation
    Thank you for this moving post.

  16. Very insightful post...I like that the survivor has taken a new path out of the ruins of the old one. It's what we must do to truly survive and move on from disaster I think.

  17. Bombshell Bliss,

    You might be right about my 'ability' to make people talk. I'm not sure whether it's an inherent quality or an acquired one from the period when I worked as interviewer of candidates to jobs in our office.

    A human kind of human,

    Thanks for your interesting comment.
    I agree with you that a "waking up to nothing" is beyond our imagination; and yet, it happens so often and in so many places.


    How can we forget, when the dangers of terrible things recurring, are constantly present with us.
    And it seems that we are helpless and /or unwilling to do something to prevent further disasters.

    C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson,

    Unfortunately, people tend to ignore both the terrible events in the past, and grave errors in the present that could lead again to horific happenings.
    That's human nature, and you're right about it.

    The Bug,

    Your comment brings a smile to our face, and the timing is perfect. Thank you.

  18. @eloh,

    Yes, she does have her own hair now, and it's thick and beautiful. I suppoese, though, she might still have fears of losing it again.


    Well said. We should never take things for granted. As for the survivor, she's indeed worthy of admiration for her brave character.


    I thought of you when I wrote the post. The 'dead zone' with its ghost towns, villages, farms could be of much interest to you as a researcher of the paranormal. The places are said to be haunted by thousands of ghosts.

    I completely agree with your beautiful analysis of the survivor with character.


    Thank you . I'm glad the nice looking man reflected through the window is your brother. You do choose well your captures.

  19. Sue (Someone's Mom),

    Glad you're back. Thanks for your comment; I agree with your viewing the story both as a reminder and a legacy.

    Nancy C,

    I like the image in your sentence: 'creating beauty out of horrors'. That's exactly what Ina has been doing all these years.


    I'm glad my post gives some food to one's thoughts. We need to think and figure out how we can prevent terrible happenings.

    Bad Little Woman,

    Hi Michelle, Thank you for stopping by. I completly agree with you. The story might sound fascinating but it's still a sad story.

  20. You write about the most unexpected things, DUTA!

    As it just so happens, yesterday, as I enjoy geography, was just looking at a map of the Ukraine.

    Take a pic of you hair and post it, k?

  21. Susannah,

    The "human spirit" as you call it,can indeed do a lot of miracles, and Ina's recovery is certainly one of them.


    In 1986 eram in Israel. Aici auzisem ca in regiunea de unde provin(Botosani),ce nu este prea departe de Ukraina,s-a inregistrat o iradiere inalta care a cauzat fel de fel de fenomene stranii. Nu-mi aduc aminte detalii.


    Very good question. I've often asked myself the same. Well, I think that it's not all compulsory and that she likes her work. She usually has someone to help her with washing the heads , so she concentrates mainly on hairstyling. Her original profession being fashion style & design, there is some similarity between the two kinds of work.

    I'm very impressed with what you tell us about Ireland's help for the children of Chernobyl. Admirable work!


    Thanks for your beautiful comment.
    Indeed, the survivor deserves our admiration for the way she "has taken a new path out of the ruins of the old one".

  22. I am so touched by this story. Its amazing. Certainly is food for thought. I am always, always trying not to take anything for granted. I again realize how very, very fortunate I have been in my life.

  23. What an interesting, and helpful form of post traumatic stress disorder Ina has. It is wonderful that she turned a source of pain into something that improves the lives of others. After all, isn't just that little bit easier to feel happy when we know we look our best? It's a wonderful gift to come out of something so tragic.

    There is a lot to be said about Chernobyl, too much to put here. One of the contributing factors did have to do with the overall approach towards safety. Sometimes being over-cautious holds back progress to what seems a maddening degree, but Chernobyl will always be a sobering cautionary tale. In a rush to harness the potential of nuclear power some corners were cut, and the cost was devastating.

    It's tragic on many levels, including the side effect that alternative fuel source exploration stalled mightily for quite some time. Clearly the human suffering is the far more important part of that, but there were ripples.

    I'm not a physicist and the intricacies of the situation are primarily lost upon me. It has been my understanding from people who seem to have a keener grasp, that a contributing factor was simply that we made certain discoveries about potential, but hadn't developed enough of an understanding of the adverse possibilities and the scope they encompassed.

    Basically that we tried to rush a process before we'd actually reached a working understanding of an ominously powerful thing. I say "we" because whereas Chernobyl was the worst accident, over the course of a decade, there were several, in various places.

    To use a strange analogy, we were like kid's who had gotten a hold of a chemistry set, far beyond our understanding. We were so eager to find out what could be in gain, we didn't pay enough attention to the potential of loss.

  24. Hello Duta
    This is such a touching post!
    Very sad also!
    But I am very glad that you shared with us here about Ina, she is truly a remarkable person!
    Thank you!

  25. Sounds like not only done by a neurobehavioral disorder but also with love. Some people just have the gift of touch. Great post and points of the story after Chernobyl.

  26. Duta, once again you bring us the most usual thought provoking stories that stir the heart. Oh the people you meet combined with your lovely flair of story telling keeps up commin' back for more. You have a gift my friend.

    God bless and have a uniquely blessed day!!!

  27. A fost oribil! Parintii mei erau in Moldova, la 17 km de Vama Albita, iar eu la Bucuresti. Dar, tatal meu a murit in 1988 in urma unei tumori inexplicabile aparuta aiurea si banuita a se fi dezvoltat in urma acestei nenorociri.
    Multumesc pentru vizita si penbtru ridicarea premiului prieteniei. Cu mentiune, fara importanta, numele meu este Elena Toma (nu Popa). O saptamana minunata!

  28. Entrepeneur Chick,

    Thank you.
    Ukraine ,BTW, could be a good country where to make investments and set up companies.In fact all East Europe. So how about that lady entrepeneur?


    You've got the right approach to Life, which means: never to take things for granted. I'm glad you feel you've been fortunate so far, and wish you All the Best in the future.

    Land of Shimp,

    As usual, you write all the right words, look at things from all the right angles in your very special, interesting way .

    No doubt, Progress brings along with it a certain potential for causing human suffering. Governments look for the short way when it comes to the big issue of finding solutions for fuel, electricity, water, etc..and the short way could be very dangerous. Nuclear power has many good uses but one tiny mistake could blow up the world.


    Thanks for your warm words.
    I bet you could have written a lovely poem (your specialty) on the remarkable Ina and her sad story.

    Ronda Laveen,

    Indeed so, she's got the "gift of touch", (I'm sure you have that gift too in your massage therapy profession).

    She likes working as a hairdresser; it's not all compulasery behaviour.
    Thanks for the compliment in your last sentence of the comment.


    Thanks a lot for your kind words. I'm glad you liked my post, and hope you'll "keep coming back for more" of my stories.

    God bless you too!

  29. Scuza-mi eroarea ; am corectat-o imediat.
    Imi pare rau de cele intamplate tatalui tau. Probabil ca se numara si el printre victimele dezastrului nuclear. Fie ca sufletul sa-i odihneasca in pace!
    Multumesc pentru comentariu.

  30. What a very moving story. It still makes me sad to read anything related to this tragic 'mistake'. Thank you for this.


  31. What an amazing story. I have seen footage of Chernobyl on TV and I remember when the accident occurred. With all of that, I never realized the human impact until now.

  32. A great story as usual Duta. I'm sure your hair looked wonderful, it would have been nice to see a picture of it :-)

    It amazes me what humans do to find comfort and acceptance in adversity, such as your hairdresser did in finding comfort in touching and caring for other peoples hair. A touching story.

  33. pennycones,

    Sadness accompanies everything about the Chernobyl disaster.That's man made disaster not Nature's, so we are not totally helpless, we could perhaps do something to prevent it in the future.


    Thanks for stopping by.
    This is not an accident one could ever forget. There are thousands of stories out there, most of them not as positive as Ina's that make us realize the terrible human impact of this nuclear happening.


    The hairdresser is a good example for a person who manages to turn tragic circumstances into an acceptable, comforting reality.

  34. Very touching indeed. And of course it's a completely different thing from describing, or understanding it than experiencing it...

  35. Phivos Nicolaides,

    You're right , of course. Describing and or understanding is one thing, experiencing it is quite another thing. Ina has experienced horrible things, but our trying to understand it, and write about it, is helping all of us, in a certain way.

  36. This was a beautiful post for many reasons Duta. I always appreciate your writing and perspective. Ina is fortunate to be where she is now considering how life could have gone for her.

    In my town every summer Belorussian children come because it is said that 6 weeks of fresh air is helping them to breathe better and to recover from poor air quality. Do you know about this?

  37. How wonderful that Ina was able to take something so terrible from her life and use it to do something wonderful for others. Others might have been fearful of their obsession...but she took it and turned it into something positive. Thank you for the touching story Duta.

  38. Jennifer,

    Thank you for your kind words.
    As for the Belorussian children - I understand that many western countries among them Ireland, the USA, are doing a great deal for these children - and that's very moving attitude.


    Very well put.

    na could well serve as an example of turning something horrible from her life into something positive.

  39. There is a wonderful book called Lives in Progress that might interest you if you could find a copy. It consists of case histories documenting how very obsessive behaviours led their sufferers into their chosen occupations. An obsessive hand-washer became a surgeon, for example!
    Great post.

  40. So often we live so much in the present we forgot the disaters of the past. I am thankful she found a way to express herself. Peace

  41. Just had to come back & read this again. thanks again for the haunting beauty of this story.

  42. Dave King,

    Thanks for your very interesting comment and for the information on the book Lives in Progress.I'll try to get hold of this book.

    Lady Di Tn,

    Well, that's human nature - to live intensely in the present and forget/ignore the past. Yes, luckily Ina found her way.

    Susannah - I'm very flattered and feel honored by your coming back to reread my post. Thank you very much.

  43. What a story to tell. Incredible.

  44. Bailey,

    Hi B,

    Thanks for visiting! Indeed , the story may sound incredible, but it's a true story.

  45. Who knew a neurobehavorial disorder could be a blessing? :-)

    "...she volunteers her services as a hairdresser to hospitals and aged people's homes in her area."

    Every one of us can do some good in some way. Good for her!

    1. Interesting, isn't it? An obsession turning into a blessing for the hairdresser and people needing her services.