CHILDREN affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster set off to explore Portsmouth on board a big red bus
Twelve youngsters from Belarus embarked on a tour of the city, beginning a four-week charity respite stay in the area.
The young visitors, aged between 10 and 13, kick-started their journey by boarding an original London Routemaster bus outside Southsea D-Day Museum.
Chauffeured by Bob Potter of Local Haunts, they then took in the sights of the Old Portsmouth area, before enjoying ice creams at the top of Portsdown Hill.
One of the trip’s organisers, Natalie Lunn – chair of Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline for Havant and Waterlooville – said the tour would enable the children to ‘see the city they’ll be living in from new heights’.
She said: ‘The children come for a one-month recuperative holiday in England.
‘They spend four weeks enjoying the fresh air, the clean water and the fresh food – this helps to flush the radiation out of their systems.’
As they reside in Portsmouth the children will live in pairs with volunteering local families.
Trudy McGee, 65, is looking after two girls – 10-year-old Nastia and Lisa, 11.
She said: ‘Alongside my husband David I’ve hosted for two years.
‘We decided to do this because we hope to make a difference for the children and make their health better when they return to Belarus.’
As part of their stay, the young people will undergo complimentary dental and healthcare checks – receiving treatment and a free pair of glasses if needed.
Life in Portsmouth is a stark contrast from that of radiation-stricken Belarus, said Mrs Lunn.
‘When the disaster hit, people in Belarus were not expecting it – it didn’t even happen in their country, it happened in Ukraine.
‘But purely because of the way the wind was blowing, Belarus had much of the fallout.
‘In the tower blocks that were thrown up in a state of emergency many families all live in one room.
‘They will share a toilet – often per floor – so that’s about 20 families per toilet, and they share a kitchen per two or three floors.
‘Those who live in the villages don’t have flushing toilets wither, so they literally have to go in the garden and dig a hole or go into woods.
‘It is a very different way of life.’
Via a translator, 11-year-old Vlad said: ‘Belarus is land-locked, so I am most looking forward to seeing the sea.
‘The sun is nice too.’