Kilkenny girl to feature on Chernobyl documentary

By Naoise Coogan

Young Kilkenny volunteer Andrea Keogh, pictured with Belarusian orphan Maryna Tsitova, will feature in an RTE Chernobyl documentary this evening (Thursday) at 10.45pm.

A young Kilkenny woman is to feature on an RTE programme this evening featuring some of the children who were born into the contaminated Belarusian nuclear radiation zone.

Twenty-five year-old Andrea Keogh, from Grovine in Kilkenny is one of the Irish volunteers who appears in the powerful and disturbing new television documentary which is to be shown tonight (Thursday) on RTE One at 10.45pm.

The Children Beyond Chernobyl was filmed in Belarus this summer as Adi Roche and a 100-strong team of Irish aid workers returned to the world's most highly contaminated nuclear accident radiation zone.

It was Adi Roche's 55th journey to Belarus, the country that has suffered most from the disastrous 1986 Chernobyl explosion and her 14th visit to the exclusion zone close to the reactor.

Tonight's programme visits the homes of Irish families in Cork and Kilkenny where children from Belarus visit on summertime rest and recuperation breaks and are assessed for life-changing operations here in Ireland.

Andrea Keogh and her family played host this summer to 7-year-old Belarusian orphan, Maryna Tsitova who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and who will need a high level of medical care throughout her life.

Andrea, a childcare worker in the south-east, spends a month each year as a volunteer in Vesnova Orphanage.

She says "I know some of my friends tell me that, at 25, I should be out enjoying myself or travelling the world - but right now helping Maryna is the most important thing in my life and as far as travel is concerned - Australia isn't going anywhere"

Andrea, who worked in the makeshift kitchens at Vesnova Orphanage this summer, added, "right now I feel that I can make a difference to Maryna's life and I am prepared to do everything I can to help her. We have a wonderful group of volunteers here in Kilkenny and in Castlecomer, and it is so important that the children continue to come here for rest and recuperation and that they also receive ongoing support when they return home to Belarus."

The documentary, presented by RTE's Western Editor Jim Fahy, follows her on a sometimes nightmarish journey to remote and inaccessible mental asylums where young and old are locked up together; orphanages where abused and abandoned children live hopeless, despairing lives and hospitals where operations are carried out without anaesthetics.

But her latest journey through Belarus is also one filled with moments of hope and great joy as children - some rescued from brutalised and abusive backgrounds and others with severe physical and mental illnesses - are being given the option of new lives with the help of Irish aid programmes.



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