Chernobyl Liquidators' Health
as a Psycho-Social Trauma
Several personal remarks
This afterword contains several personal remarks and observations of myself, both as a member of the affected population and as a researcher, during writing this paper; the observations may be of help in understanding and interpretation of the research and its results.
First. It has turned to be quite psychologically hard to be both a subject and the object of the study (especially in the case when the object of the study are considered to be psychologically traumatised men). Before writing the book, basing upon the set of indications, I had thought of myself as the one recovered from the PTSD; however, in the course of this work I discovered that it was not quite right. In particular, it was extremely hard for me to make myself explicitly and systematically describe the pressing psycho-social atmosphere in the Chernobyl zone during my stay there in 1986 (in Chapter 2): it was like an internal brake hindered the recollection and analysis; I avoided doing this part of work until the last possibility. On the contrary, it was a great pleasure to discover, while dealing with the various frameworks of non-radiation impacts of the zone upon liquidators, that many circumstances, which had affected us in the zone, were known, named and already studied; and on this occasions I gladly provided examples from our zone life (Chapter 4). I suppose that this latter type of reaction actually was a certain step of my recovery from the PTSD (as, I am sure, all this research has been).
Second: Being originally trained as a “hard-scientist” (physical chemist), I experienced huge, enormous problems in dealing with the phenomenon, so many-factor and “dirty” (that is — badly defined, enveloped in the host of unreliable or fully distorted facts). I had been grossly flummoxed — until once, at the seminar of Dr Sophie Howlett in the CEU, we happened to discuss the issue of classification of research disciplines, and I was struck by an opinion (which, for many people, may appear to be quite banal, and for many — rather disputable) that there actually existed two principal groups of the disciplines, namely: “hard sciences” — and “social studies”; the latter might be characterised as based upon narration, and each of the narrations is just one of the possible about the subject of research. Such apparently simple idea eliminated a certain “mental block” in my research, and turned to be extremely important — and productive — for the work. Thus, I want to emphasise that in no way my research should be regarded as an “ultimate truth” about the liquidators — it is just a narration, one of the possible, and the narration peculiar by its being told by the insider in this (still unfolding) event, the insider who is both the Chernobyl-affected and Chernobyl expert, with weak and strong sides of this position(s).
Really important questions about the narration are:
— Is it reliable enough (i.e., is it backed with reliable, truthworthy sources and facts)?
— Is it sensible, coherent enough (that is, does it really take into account all important factors, and have no gaps in its logic and in the “substance” of the study)?
— Is it productive enough (i.e., does it suggest new — especially novel and promising — measures to diminish the negative aspects of the phenomenon examined)?
These are the questions to be answered by the reader.
Finally: I want once more to acknowledge that the interdisciplinary intellectual product, presented above, is a fruit, grown in a highly creative, stimulating, really inspiring atmosphere of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy of 1996—2000, and supportive atmosphere of the Central European University (Budapest) of 1996—1999 academic years.
And those of the readers, who found this study interesting and worthy enough to read it to the very last line, perhaps, should know, that I wrote this paper almost constantly having in my mind two persons from this environment, who supported this research (sometimes in quite hard circumstances, which reminded me, as for the degree of psycho-social pressure, nothing else but the Chernobyl zone of 1986) — with incredible, inexhaustible patience, good humour and, in certain moments, outstanding courage. I mean Prof. Edward Bellinger, the study's supervisor (really like an experienced and savvy gardener, he let grow the unusual tree of this research) and Mrs. Anna Yastrzhembska; and I dedicate this work to them.
Design by: M.Opalev
Studio ARWIS Kharkov, 2001