Chernobyl Liquidators' Health
as a Psycho-Social Trauma









5.5.2. War veterans (Vietnam, Gulf, Afghan Wars)

       As it has been pointed out in Ch. 2, Chernobyl experience of the liquidators (especially — but not only — military liquidators), in terms of psychological and social environment, is very similar to combat one. That is why the data about both the impacts of these factors upon combatants, and their mitigation, proved to be extremely relevant to the case in question.
       1. American Vietnam War veterans are the best studied and so far arguably politically the most important case; it has been often referred to in the subchapter dedicated to PTSD. A thorough comparative study of the Chernobyl liquidators' and the US Vietnam War veterans' cases, including medical, psychological, economic (welfare), social, political and cultural dimensions, seems to be of utmost importance for adequate interpretation and mitigation of the Chernobyl liquidators' situation; experience of recovery of the US society from “the Vietnam Syndrome' may illuminate the ways for recovery of the Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian societies from “the Chernobyl syndrome”.
       2. Gulf War veterans exhibited symptoms similar to those (mentioned in Ch. 3.3 and 3.4) of the Chernobyl liquidators, according to the broadcast of 29.03.1999 of the Radio Liberty Russian Service, in the program Po sledam Eskulapa: Novosti meditsyny i zdravoohranenija [Following traces of Aesculapius: News of medicine and healthcare] (author Eugene Muslin). The broadcast presented a summary of an experience of several medical doctors, in particular, Simon Westly, Head of the Department of Chronic Fatigue of the London Royal College, who treated the Gulf War veterans.
       The doctors have come to the conclusion that the veterans “are not malingers, they are really ill”, and that this is a result of a physical and emotional stress. The diagnosis was neurasthenia. It was efficiently treated in 12-week course by exercises aimed to gradually increase physical endurance The treatment also restored the patients' self-esteem. Apparently, a similar approach can be justifiably tried to rehabilitate the Chernobyl liquidators.
       This experience deserves a deeper and more detailed study, aimed at comparing harmful factors affecting Chernobyl and Gulf War veterans, their present health state, medical treatment used, and finally to improve health-care measures for Chernobyl liquidators (though a positive feedback for the Gulf War veterans' treatment may be received as well).
       3. The Soviet Afghan War (1979—1989) veterans may be a very important reference group for Chernobyl liquidators, for they were and still are members of the same society as the liquidators. Important experience of mitigation of “post-event” harmful societal factors may be derived from the comparison. Besides, the Afghan War veterans constitute an arguably one of the most important and interesting control groups to separate the radiation impact from the impact of the other, non-specific traumatic factors, to get a deeper insight on the specific radiation impact upon health of the Chernobyl liquidators.
       Thus, it is possible to conclude that further — deeper and more detailed — comparative studies of the war impacts upon the combatants, and the Chernobyl impacts upon the liquidators, are highly desirable. The experience, already accumulated for the mitigation of war and post-war traumas, seems to be very relevant — and potentially highly efficient — in the case of the Chernobyl liquidators.

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Studio ARWIS  Kharkov, 2001