Chernobyl survivor in Denver concerned as site seized by Russia

DENVER (KDVR) – For Dr. Hanah Polotsky of Denver, it’s been a frenzied day of phone calls to Ukraine. On the other end of the line, her relative Victoria, a resident of Kyiv who woke to the sound of explosions as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

But for Polotsky, her relative and other friends living back home near the border of Ukraine and Belarus, there’s now another pressing concern: the safety of the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident 36 years ago. The decommissioned power plant was seized by invading Russian forces Thursday, and staff members were reportedly being held hostage by soldiers.

Polotsky was a child, living in nearby Belarus, when an explosion and fire rocked the nuclear plant in April 1986. She survived, but like other children in the former Soviet Union, she was evacuated and forced to finish out the school year away from her family.

FOX31 traveled to Chernobyl last July to tell Polotsky’s story in a digital documentary, “Nuclear Option: A Doctor’s Journey from Chernobyl to Colorado.”

Unbelievably, Chernobyl poses a potential threat yet again. The site is covered in unsafe nuclear radioactive waste.

“If the invader’s artillery hits and ruins / damages the collectors of nuclear waste, radioactive nuclear dust can be spread over the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and the (countries) of the EU,” Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko warned in a Facebook post .

“The main danger is that you have so many troops, you’re bringing up the soil. The soil is radioactive soil. So you’re increasing the levels of radiation, ”Polotsky told FOX31.

She knows the dangers of radiation all too well. Her exposure to radioactive dust in the days after the Chernobyl explosion left her at life-long risk of thyroid cancer. So far, she’s cancer-free.

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