Chernobyl youngsters get Lochaber welcome 13:08, 02/02/2005, By Ian Abernethy, Aberdeen Press & Journal
Contrary to conflicting reports earlier this month, the Chernobyl Children Lifeline`s Lochaber Link will welcome youngsters to the local area this year. Statements early in January, attributed to Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko, made it sound as if countries like the UK might "corrupt" the minds of the visiting Chernobyl children.
The youngsters, from the Gomel region of Belarus, suffered contamination as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Although they were born after the Chernobyl incident, their home region continues to be badly affected by the nuclear fallout. As a result, they have enjoyed respite visits to Scotland for several years since, staying with a number of volunteer families connected to various charitable organisations.
Future visits seemed to be threatened at the beginning of this year when it was suggested that their government might ban such journeys.
However, in February, at Easter and again in the summer, children aged 10 and under will be allowed to visit Lochaber.
Those over 11 will be restricted to visits during their school holidays.
Next month, two youngsters will travel to Lochaber. A further four will arrive at Easter and 10 in the summer.
The pattern of visits remains similar to that agreed for 2000-04, during which time 93 Chernobyl children enjoyed four weeks of respite care in Lochaber.
With the numbers topping 100 during 2005, the local link is looking for host families who can house and feed the children in the summer for a fortnight or the full four weeks.