Chernobyl’s Jewish Liquidators

The Chernobyl liquidators were civil and military personnel, who were called upon to deal with the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Countless liquidators were Jewish and during the early 90’s almost 5,000 made Aliyah. Today there are hundreds who remain in Ukraine, suffering from debilitating health issues and the haunting memories of death and destruction.   

Vera’s story:

“We all have defining moments that change the course of our lives forever. For some, it’s their wedding day, for others, maybe the birth of a child. For me, it was the pounding on my front door in the early morning hours of Sunday April 27, 1986 that still haunt and consume my soul. 

The day before started out like most of my work days as I set off early for my job in our regional hospital. It was my week to serve as the attending physician in our busy emergency ward. By midday, I must have seen over 70 patients due to a severe outbreak of influenza in our community. After 14 exhausting hours, I was finally back home in my bed and immediately fell asleep as my head hit the pillow. 

BANG, BANG, BANG… I was jolted awake from the banging on my front door. My first thought was that there was probably an emergency at the hospital. As I cracked open the front door, there was a stranger standing before me in military uniform. He barked out orders to get dressed immediately and come with him. I followed him down the stairs of my building and was taken by the arm and loaded onto a bus with others. We drove for hours without a word being spoken.” 

Anton’s story:

“I was at the height of my military career in the spring of 1986, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I was an officer in the Soviet Army, in charge of many young men who were eager to serve their country. We were training at our base for combat when I was pulled aside and told to ready my men immediately for a secret mission. 

After all of the preparations were completed, we were all loaded onto an old bus. After two hours of driving, our regional commander stood up and delivered the following announcement. 

You are all here because there was an explosion in a power plant, and it’s very possible that you will not return from this mission. You are defending the state just as your grandmothers and grandfathers had done. Many of them died in the wars protecting our motherland. This is your opportunity to do the same…”

Bringing their story together:

Vera and Anton were assigned to the same unit after both arriving at the Chernobyl accident site on the morning of Monday April 28, two days after the meltdown began. They were assigned to work together as liquidators in an environment that was filled with deadly levels of radiation. Their mission was to save the lives of those caught in the explosion. What they experienced during their three weeks of working there was nothing short of a living nightmare that would change their health and lives forever. 

“It was truly a miracle that we survived our days at Chernobyl”, says Vera. “We formed a bond immediately while working together and depended on each other to survive. Destruction, death and suffering were around us everywhere, but somehow we made it out alive and married a short time after”.

Vera and Anton had been suffering for years when our emergency rescue team found them living in a small village outside of Kiev, Ukraine. Both have debilitating health issues and are in desperate need of medical attention and humanitarian assistance.    

My family, let’s wrap our loving arms around this couple and provide them with life-saving food, medical treatments and rehabilitative services as we work to bring them home to Israel. Together we can show them just how powerful Christian love is during their greatest time of need. 

May God bless you for helping to bless and save our suffering Jewish brothers and sisters. 

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