A fascinating article that I did not expect to find in More Magazine about the babuskas in the Chernobyl area has me wondering about many things. [The picture above is not from the article which has some wonderful pictures of these elderly [in their 70s and 80s] women. Several women returned to their homes in the forbidden area despite having been made aware of the extent of the radiation and most having been told they would be dead within a couple of years. They have been there for some 25 years. They eat food grown in the radioactive soil, they drink milk from cows who eat the radioactive grass and eat the flesh of chickens, deer, rabbits and other animals who roam freely in the area. They are in the homes that mean everything to them. Their husbands, sons and other relatives have mostly died or rarely return. Some women have thyroid cancer but most die of strokes, just as do people in other areas.
The article amazes me. I read it thinking of Japan where a similar disaster has occurred, and thinking of the many nuclear power plants in the US that have finally revealed their own potential weaknesses. I think of the many things we fear to eat, hysterias brought on by news media like the recent fears of reusing plastic bottles water is sold in. And I wonder what do we know about any of this? Our ignorance at least equals, if not greatly outweighs, what we actually know about dangers.
The article in the April issue of More magazine [click link above to read it] seems to me highly unusual for a lifestyle magazine. The writers wisely tell us what they found and do not pose the questions that leap to my mind. These old women seem to be fearless, they also seem content although they have suffered the loss of family and friends, although they live as exiles in the homes that have been the center of their adult lives. What is the secret of their longevity and of their apparent contentment? How many other people [perhaps many Japanese in the near future] are going to have to deal with the same dilemmas? What lessons can we learn about living a meaningful life?
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