By Gali, a Chernobyl Alumna

In response to the desperate pleas of distraught parents, whose children had become ill from the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor, Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl began airlifting children to the safety of Israel in 1990.

The worst nuclear disaster in history, Chernobyl has killed and maimed untold thousands and remains today an area filled with toxic contaminants. For children especially, living in this environment causes severe, and sometimes fatal, illnesses.

CCOC has brought nearly 3000 children to the safety of Israel where they are fully cared for. There they receive outstanding medical care, nutritious meals that strengthen their bodies, fresh air and exercise, and a solid education.

As well, they receive a home to live in, compassionate emotional support to help them overcome the illness they have suffered, and the separation from family necessary to rescue them from the “dead zone.”

Many of the children are orphans and CCOC has become their family in every way. We make the journey with them into adulthood and are there with them as they go to university, get married, and begin families of their own.

In a speech at a pre-Purim event this  year, Gali, who arrived with the first group of children to be rescued and evacuated to Israel in August 1990, expressed what CCOC means to the children whose lives have been saved:

I want to say a huge thank you to Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl who never forget me, never forget my family, not even for a moment. Since I immigrated to a new country without a family, you raised me and educated me. You gave me health, a home, and love. You gave me a sympathetic ear and a caressing hand, you helped me marry…and you never left me for a moment because family does not leave.

I would like to tell this wonderful CCOC team that your mission is holy. It not only saved us…you give us strength to bring new life, children, and families of our own into the world.

CCOC continues to care for medically compromised children and is now helping a second generation – the children born to the Chernobyl children. We are their family – and will always remain so. Because for many of them we are the only family they have.

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