What is the life of the city, located a couple of tens of kilometers from the exclusion zone, like?
Mikhail Bandarenka, a member of the civil campaign European Belarus, was born in 1994 in Mozyr. He also received an education and spent almost his entire life there. The activist, who decided to take part in the parliamentary campaign, told the BNC about the problems the residents of one of the largest cities of the Belarusian Palessie region face:
- I graduated from the Mozyr State Professional Lyceum of Builders and got a diploma of a mechanic of metal constructions and pipelines. Then I served in the Air Defense Forces, a mechanic-driver of the anti-aircraft missile complex Osa. After returning to the civil life in May 2014, I got a job in my specialty and still work as a fitter.
I communicate a lot with people, my peers and colleagues. Probably the main topic is falling standard of living, low wages, lack of prospects. Even if we take this month, we received payrolls and even the low salaries that we had have become even lower. Many simply refuse to work for a penny, looking for an opportunity to find a job abroad. Even those who stay and work at the facility actually went on strike, doing nothing, because it is simply humiliating to work for such a poor salary.
Bosses, management come and, as a rule, they feed us with promises. Every month the same thing: they come, promise a lot and leave. That's where it all ends.
Medicine and health care are a disaster in general. We have a medical college in the city, but many graduates are leaving, trying to work where at least a little more money is paid. The salary of a doctor is about 400 to 500 rubles. Over the past couple of months, my local GP has changed three times. Specialists are leaving abroad.
The situation at the Mozyr oil refinery is a little better, the salaries there are not bad by our standards. But this is harmful production, people are just ruining their health by the time they are 30 years old. It is easy to distinguish a refinery worker from other residents by appearance.
There are no new jobs. A lot of people are fired, there are staff reductions at all the enterprises. There are more and more people who are unemployed with every passing day.
I once went to the employment office. The lists of vacancies did not include salaries above 300 rubles at all. But many people need to support their families and children with this money. How can we do that? It is simply impossible!
- Mozyr is quite close to the Palessie Radiation Reserve. How is the situation with the environment?
- Indeed, we are not so far from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and this affects the entire region. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians, first of all, residents of Homel region suffered from that accident, many liquidators live in Mozyr. Nobody helps them. There used to be at least some benefits, but then these benefits were canceled, even free travel in transport was cancelled.
- A new nuclear power plant is being built in Belarus...
- And many experts, and even ordinary people, oppose this project. I have read in various sources that it will not make electricity cheaper, but rather the opposite. And there is no point in talking about its cost, if safety is the main thing. The Belarusians have suffered too much from the "peaceful atom" and irresponsibility of officials.
What will we do if an accident happens again? Who will be responsible for this? Who will guarantee that the mess in our country will not cause another accident at the NPP, which the authorities, as usual, will try to hide from us? Talk to the liquidators, listen to what they have to say about this project. I do not want to repeat 1986 and I will do my best to prevent it.
- And what do you want? Why did you decide to take part in the parliamentary campaign?
- I want the same thing that most Belarusians want - change of power. I want simple things - free elections and prevention of another Chernobyl. I want to bring back the opportunity to decide for myself how to live. After all, the root of all the problems is in this. For 25 years of Lukashenka's rule, almost nothing has been done to improve people's lives. Laws and decrees work in the interests of officials, all the activities of the authorities are aimed at taking away everything from us. What can we talk about if Belarusians can't find a normal job in their country and are looking for a better life in a foreign country?
I want my country to become a strong independent European state. I want our future not to be agreed upon behind our backs. I want to be proud of Belarus and the Belarusians.