• Morgan Fagg

Swan Lake

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Swan Lake and a trip across the pond to see the damage caused by Chernobyl.

Taken by the River Shannon, these swans look more like the Children of Lir than Swan Lake and while on a fact finding USI charity mission to see orphanages in Belarus for AIT Student Union, I was fortunate enough to see the famous ballet performance, Swan Lake at Minsk Opera House.

Belarus borders Ukraine which just happened to be the worst neighbour imaginable when Reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went into meltdown exposing thousands upon thousands of people to the radioactive core which had exploded. The stuff of nightmares, towns were evacuated and men fought the radioactive fires at the power plant and to this day it is hard to estimate how many thousands of people died as a result of that nuclear melt-down on April 26th 1986.

They say every cloud has a silver lining and in the case of Belarus, there was no happy ending as Moscow feared an international incident and laced the clouds with a silver iodide to make it rain.

It rained over Russian controlled territory as planned but Belarus was once again caught in the middle of nightmarish situation.

During World War II, Germans fought through Belarus with little resistance until the Russians pushed the Germans back and then the Germans came through the country a second time but unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me when I visited the mass graves.

Belarus was known as the doormat of World War II and again in 1986, Belarus became the victim caught between two lands as the USSR couldn't afford to let the radioactive material reach Nordic countries. 30 miles from the border of Ukraine, the wind blew the power plant contamination right across Belarus where the silver lined clouds rained down on Belarusian towns.

The silver lining for me was that the organisers of the charity did not want a grief tour but a balanced view of Belarus, the highs and the lows. Walking tours of the capital, the ballet and a casino, travelling to see different orphanages and ghost towns with radioactive checks in the contaminated purple zone.

What an experience, Lenin's house, ghost towns, mass graves and seeing Swan Lake in the beautiful Minsk Opera House, there were some difficult times in the orphanage and other places too. We got to see a lot in one week. Not all of it good but not all of it bad.

NOTE: Various photographs taken from internet sources, I did not carry a camera with me in Belarus.

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