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. 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I used to be like most people in the check-out line, waiting impatiently for the checker to scan my items and bag them so I could be on my way. Then, one day a few years ago, I actually stopped long enough to look at the person scanning my groceries…really look at them. And what I saw was a tired, sullen lady, mechanically scanning my items without even looking up. Instantly, I felt a check in my spirit—you know the one—the sweet prompting from the Holy Spirit to reach out.

So, I simply asked, “How is your day going?”

With the look she gave me, you would have thought those 5 words were, “You’ve just won the lottery.” She literally stopped scanning, looked up, and gave me the biggest smile.

“Thank you so much for asking!” She replied. Then, she went on to share with me all about her day. Her whole demeanor had changed! I helped bag my groceries, wished her a wonderful day, and left the store in shock at what one simple question could do.

Since that day, I’ve made it a point to ask that same question as often as I can. At the gas station, the drive-thru, the post office…and every time I ask it, I’m blown away at the wide-open door that results from taking a moment to simply care.

My friends, isn’t that what walking the walk is? It’s caring for others as we care for ourselves. It’s taking the mundane moments and turning them into opportunities to bless others—even if it’s only with a question!

So, here is the challenge. Begin asking God for opportunities to bless people. Ask Him to lift your impatience long enough to look someone in the eye and ask how they are. Ask the Lord for a listening ear—not a half-listening ear, glued to your smartphone—a genuine, tuned-in ear that really cares.

You may not realize this, but our ministry at Christians Care International is full of asking. We ask God for divine direction. We ask our faithful donors for support. We ask our suffering Jewish brothers and sisters how we can best help them. Asking is such a big part of what we do! 

This passage in Matthew 7 describes it best…

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

You know, most children in elementary school learn the Golden Rule and can recite it by heart. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But let us not merely recite these words, my friends. Let’s look at others beyond the surface of the check-out counter. Let’s ask ourselves how we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. Then, let’s take that opportunity to connect.

I’m truly grateful for that day in the check-out line several years ago. I sometimes wonder how many times God tried to wake me up to the needs of others, but I was too preoccupied to listen. However, it is never too late to start caring. Ask God for that check in your spirit, prompted by His Spirit, to notice someone in need. Then, simply ask, “How is your day going?”

Walking the walk with all of you,

Jennifer Waddle, CCI Ministry Development Team