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Mayo charity rescues Chernobyl children

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SMILES OF RELIEF Lily Luzan from the Candle of Grace charity pictured in Poland with some of the 106 children who made it to the border safely from war-torn Chernobyl. The children are en-route to Castlebar today (Tuesday).  Pic: Karen Cox

Young refugees are hoping to arrive in Castlebar today

Michael Gallagher

A Mayo charity has defied the odds to rescue 106 children from radiation-ravaged Chernobyl over the weekend and the group will arrive in Castlebar today (Tuesday).
Candle of Grace, inspired by Lily Luzan, has worked for many years to assist residents in the immediate surroundings of Chernobyl on both sides of the Ukraine/Belarus border. The charity have stepped up its efforts dramatically since Russia launched its brutal war on Ukraine.
The children were rescued over the weekend, crossing the border into Poland on Monday morning, where they were greeted by Ms Luzan, Director of Candle of Grace.
The children and their chaperones made the treacherous journey from Chernobyl to the border in buses with blacked-out windows, arriving in Krakow on Monday afternoon.
Ms Luzan said this was the greatest achievement to date for the charity, which is based in Leitir, Islandeady.
The children’s buses were in grave danger of being bombed as they approached the border, and there was a lot of tension in the air. The group will fly to Dublin today (Tuesday) and be bussed to Mayo, where they can be treated for any radiation poisoning.
They are expected to be treated by the leading authority on the impact of the Chernobyl disaster, Prof Yury Bandazhevsky, who was persuaded recently by Ms Luzan to leave Ukraine with all his research records and resettle in Mayo.
The refugee academic aims to set up a radiation research centre in Mayo.
“We are getting the children out and into the clean air of the west of Ireland,” said Ms Luzan, who was a child when the Chernobyl disaster occurred on April 26, 1986. She and her family were living close to the nuclear facility at the time.
Ms Luzan, who has lived in Ireland for the past two decades, has worked for many years to assist residents in the immediate surroundings of Chernobyl on both sides of the Ukraine/Belarus border.