A journalist from one of the biggest newspapers in Norway, "Adressavisen", has visited Minsk twice. In september '97 he visited the Sanatorium in Ostrosthitsky Gorodok. By reading this article you get an impression of his meeting with these children, so innocent and still so heavily injured by this terrible nuclear accident.
- Svanhild

Maria (11) without a birthday

Belarus, Minsk.
For how long will she live, the seriously ill and blind 11 year old Maria. Will she be alive on her next birthday? Nobody knows at the Sanatorium in Ostrosthitsky Gorodok.
By the way, they don't celebrate the birthdays of the 250 sick children.

But the sun from Stjørdal
warms her.

Text and photo: Per Ø. Jevne.

Blind Maria sang for us when we visited the sanatorium.
From the stage in the Aula we could listen to her weak voice singing "Chudesnaja, malenkaja strana". Beautiful little country. A dream of a little world full of love, friendship, spring and hope. But whether there is any hope for the young girl, to that question nobody will give us the answer.

No room for parents.

If we ask, we are told that the Chernobyl is the reason for her illness as well. She had brain cancer and was operated one year ago, and after the operation she was blind. She knows her illness is serious, just like most of the other children at the sanatorium, but they don't talk about how long children will live here. They take one day at a time and don't celebrate birthdays. Why not? The children don't have their parents there, because there is no room. And not to hurt feelings, one has chosen to let these days pass without any attention. They miss their parents too much anyway.

But- they did celebrate when we visited them, and the reason was that Svanhild from Stjørdal and Halsen Ungdomsskole again visited the sanatorium and this time with 5000$. "Svanhild has become the sympol from the sun", theindustrious director Galina says. Thanks to the money she has brought, the people in Nord Trøndelag, the East West Academy, the county, pupils, many enterprises and insurance companies, and even soccer-audience, the Sanatorium today is one of the most modern in Belarus.

The Children of Chernobyl

To test a child, and to make the diagnosis could take up to two weeks, today these these test are ready in two hours. 23 out of 250 children, age 8 - 15, has cancer, and 63 have neurological diseases, 115 has kidney diseases or cancer in the thyroidgland, and many of these diseases are caused by the Chernobyl disaster.

250 children were gathered in the hall, in their best clothes and with serious faces, when Svanhild arrived a week ago. It was her fith visit to the Sanatorium of Hope. Some of the children were also there when Svanhild visited the Sanatorium half a year ago. When Svanhild asked if anyone remembered her last visit, seven children rushed forward and hugged the deputy from Halsen Ungdomsskole.
The blind Maria was accompanied to say hello, and she took Svanhild's hand.

Modern laboratory

The industrious deputy has collected about 300.000 NKR to this Sanatorium during the last two years. For this money, they have bought Solarium, blood analyzers, P.T. equipment, dentist's facilities, toys and sport effects.
- Some people say we should give more hospitals which need help, but I think it's wrong to give smakk sums here and there, on scattered projects, Svanhild says. Other people say: "Why don't you collect old medical equipment which is stored in Norway and send it here? No way! I collect money, so that the Sanatorium can buy new facilities instead of collecting worn out equipment and make Eastern Europe a medical litterbox!"
- It's been a hard job to get all this money, Svanhild has to admin, but she can hardly hide the enormous pleasure she feels every time she can go here with a sum of money to the children's hospital.
And no wonder Galinas face shone with happiness as well as the sun from Stjørdal, when she showed us the new building where parents can come and stay for some days with their sick children.

A different birthday

Svanhild turned 50 last summer, but didn't want any gifts for herself. She put and advert in the newspaper and asked for money for the Sanatorium of Hope in Belarus. And there was a good response.
You can't imagine the joy when Svanhild unpacked 5 boxes with toys. The children picked out, very varefully, the toys, the boys kicked a new football into the audience, and the staff both laughed and cried.
And then there was a concert, to honour Svanhild and all the contributers back home. Talented children played, sang and danced. Belarussian fairytales were performed with great enthusiasm.
Then the concert is over, and Galina (with the mosdest salary of 300 NKR (barely 30£) a month), gives her thanks to Svanhild and Nord Trøndelag for everything. On the stage, blind Maria was sitting, listening. Svanhild whispered something to director Galina - Svoite ety pjsenju jechå raz - Sing it once more.
And Maria didn't hesitate.

Chudessnaja, malenkaja strana.

So in a way... there was a birthday.. anyway.