Guest blog by Liudmyla Bulychova, Entry Clearance Assistant and Chornobyl walk participant

When I first heard about the idea of Charity Walk to Chornobyl, I was so excited about it that I immediately agreed to help organise and take part in it.

I had two basic reasons for that. Firstly, I would be the only Ukrainian in the Chornobyl Charity Walk team, and by doing the walk I would commemorate the tragedy that happened in my country 25 years ago. Secondly, I was born one year after the disaster, which affected my health as well as all children in Ukraine and neighbouring countries at the time. Unfortunately, the consequences of the disaster continue to have negative impact on the lives of kids living there today. Therefore, by participating in this extraordinary walk I wanted to attract attention to their problems and help raise money for the Ukrainian charity, who works for the benefit of ‘Chornobyl’ children.

It took us several months to thoroughly prepare for the walk. We performed increasingly long walks over the weekends to make sure we were physically fit for a 110-kilometre challenge. The night before the walk was supposed to be full of sleeping, but instead I was nervous and, as a result, didn’t have enough rest. But when our team gathered at Mikhailivska Square at 3pm on Friday 22 April – one hour before the walk – and when we saw such incredible support from friends, colleagues and just strangers, all fears were gone – we knew we COULD do it.

But of course nobody said it’d be easy. For the first several hours it was like a relaxing walk with friends, but after sunset everyone became more concentrated on the walking and ignoring the pain rising in legs. Despite this, our spirit was kept high by chatting with each other and with the support team that accompanied us and by some amusing incidents. One such incident happened around. Passing through Dimer, we saw a teenage boy waiting at the bus stop. Once he saw us – all wearing high-visible vests and escorted by a police car – he decided to join us. He explained later that he’d missed the last bus of the night and had to walk for 12 km to get home, and it seemed more safe and interesting to walk with us than alone. I wonder whether his parents believed him when he told them how he got home...

By sunrise we started slowing down, but it felt much better to walk in the morning sun. After we reached Ivankiv, the last town before the destination point, we made a mistake of stopping and checking our feet. Most of us suffered from massive blisters and general tiredness. And once we stopped, it was almost impossible to get up. I made a weak attempt to walk another 4 kilometres, but soon realised I was delaying others who walked at a greater pace.  So I had to give up at about 80-kilometre mark.

After several long and painful hours Lee and Kirsty finished the marathon, and we all caught up at the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone checkpoint.  Then we entered the Zone itself. Let me describe what I felt in those moments: I recalled the Soviet Government’s attempts to conceal the truth about the tragedy in the first few days after it had happened; I thought about how modern technology could help and also lead to a disaster, if things go wrong. Naturally, I felt proud of those heroes who sacrificed their lives and health to stop the fire. At the same time, I was reminded of the situation in Japan and of many innocent people  suffering there from almost the same problem. All these thoughts and feelings led me to one conclusion: humankind must not allow tragedies like this anymore.

At the end, I am really proud of what we have done.  We achieved what we wanted – we attracted attention to ‘Chornobyl’ children and raised a huge amount of money to help them, as well as British ex-military personnel who have suffered tragic injuries.  As for the team – we had a wonderful experience that none of us will ever forget. 

You can read the blogs written by other walkers, and see more pictures (including the blisters!) here.




Ukrayinska Dumka


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