Professor Iury Bandazheuski Urges People: Think about Future!
We have acquainted with Iury Bandazheuski, former rector of Homiel Medical University after his conditional release from the penal colony, though his fate has been a cause of our anxiety for many years.
Being human rights activists, we mostly paid attention to the juridical side of “Bandazheuski’s case”, but recently we’ve used the opportunity to talk about his world outlook, convictions and principles. Here’s the exclusive interview with professor Bandazheuski for Human Rights Center Viasna.
Reference: Iu. Bandazheuski was arrested on 13 July 1999. On 18 June 2001 the military college of the Supreme Court found him guilty in receiving a bribe and sentenced him to 8 years of jail with confiscation of property and prohibition to hold responsible posts for 5 years. As a result of the amnesties of 2002 and 2004 the prison term became two years shorter. On 31 January 2005 commission of the corrective colony-settlement #26 in the settlement of Hiezhaly (Dziatlava district of Hrodna region) refused to conditionally release Mr. Bandazheuski before the end of the prison term. He was released on 5 August on the amnesty that was declared by A. Lukashenka in honor of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Iu. Bandazheuski is known for his research of the influence of small dozes of radiation on human body. He is the author of more than 240 scientific works. Amnesty International declared him prisoner of conscience, considering that he has been punished for open criticism of the actions of Belarusian authorities after the accident in Chernobyl nuclear power station.
In 2001 Iu. Bandazheuski became the 25th man in the world to receive Freedom Passport that gives the right to move all over Europe and choose the country of residence there.
-- Iury Ivanavich, you are free, though till the end of the prison term this freedom is limited. What do you feel and what are your plans for the near future?
-- It’s easier to live free than in jail. Though, a man won’t be able to feel completely free after the things I have experienced during the last years. First of all, I don’t have the possibility to fulfill what I live for and don’t have the possibility to use my forces in work and science. I don’t have the possibility to live the way I want to. Of course, all formalities in relations with the outer word have changed as well.
-- Do you regret the lost time and opportunities?
-- I don’t regret what has happened and have no nostalgia about the possibilities I had had. I’ve done what I could do in science that time. However, working in such strict organizational structure I couldn’t absolutely openly express my own thought, though it was difficult to restrain me from this either. I constantly felt pressurization. Now I don’t belong to anyone and nobody will succeed imposing on me his opinion.
-- During the whole term of the imprisonment you had troubles with your health. How do you feel now?
-- The problems remain, but I know my own diseases that are connected not only with my body, but also with the influence of our environment. When I feel this influence, everything exacerbates. The diseases haven’t disappeared -- I simply made them keep silent. I have for it my own system, obtained with sufferings.
I used to be strict adherent of materialism. I was sure that everything is materials even basing on my profession. Now everything is different. I understand that we play the roles that are defined for us and everything that happens to us physically has been predefined spiritually. Everything will happen the way we understand it, interact, resist or bias.
Before the transfer from jail to the settlement colony I calmed down so much that when they examined me, trying find anything to detain me in jail, they didn’t manage to find anything serious. Then there happened sudden downfall – probably, I wasn’t ready and passed some blows: extreme stomach pathology and muscles come off. Till winter we tried to liquidate this downfall. Then I came to the colony, the house where I had to live had no conditions, the weather was getting frosty, I am refused in conditional early release from colony – and there starts hard pathology of liver and pancreas without any reason. These were energetic problems. If we rise above the material world it is evident that I lacked energy. Then I received several important letters of support and suddenly found what I needed. When in 2002-2003 there was such attention to me in France, several cities declared me honored citizen – I felt much better. Now I understand that life is something special. I can tell myself to be ill or healthy. Today I am healthy because I want to be healthy and make myself healthy. In the case I don’t pull myself together all this hidden pathology can reveal itself and I can quickly perish. I control my health as far as I can.
-- Is it medical approach or something else?
-- Now I understand medicine at a higher level. We have to get rid of short-sightedness in medicine. I understand it much deeper than simply prescribe pills or diagnose illness. It would be too simple. The way to truth is hard. Pitifully enough, such views are unacceptable in the society where I used to work.
-- What is your vision of your present place in science?
-- First of all, it is the world that has always been with me. Imagine a 16-year-old boy who is talented in music and who is predicted to study at a conservatory, but who suddenly gets mad with nature, biology, medicine, joins science and gets into it. When I entered the institute, during the summer vacations where no one was in the library I read the books, some of which were more than fifty years old and I was the first reader to order them. I spent days and nights busy with pathological examinations. I also had a large number of hamster cages at home. Nobody could change my mind. My mother told me I had to adapt in the society and I understood this. On graduating from the institute I entered the traineeship on pathological anatomy. Everyone was surprised, because I studies successfully and could find a better job. However, I was interested in the reasons of many diseases, cancer first of all. When I was 26 years old I became a candidate of sciences, at 32 – doctor, one of the youngest doctors in the USSR, professor with his own scientific school. When I came to Homiel where I established an institute, no one could do anything to me. It was impossible to counteract my work and me. The commission that came in 1,5 years was surprised at what I managed to do. It was 1992-1993 period, the Soviet Union dissolved, there was a mess everywhere and we established a higher educational establishment, educated students, people came to us for study and work…
-- Then there was 1999 – accusation and 2001 – jail…
-- I took this world to jail with me. My diaries, the book “Philosophy of my life” – everything is from there. I put down the thoughts and ideas that came to me. After the verdict was pronounced and in several weeks took to the prison in Kalvaryiskaia Street I sat and wrote the articles that was published later. They were complicated from the view of regulation processes and their understanding, but I wrote them without rough copies. However, the conditions I live in change. At present I have a balcony with the animals that are ready to my experiment. I don’t know where I will stage it, but I am sure I will make it. It is difficult, because people are afraid to contact me. I understand them, but will continue working, despite the conditions.
-- Have you tried to return to the “system”?
-- I won’t return there and don’t want to do it. How can one return to the system, having views that are incompatible with those that are promoted there? It is absolutely impossible. Imagine me reading a lecture on pathology of liver and mentioning radiation among the reasons of hepatitis and cirrhosis. They won’t let me say it. It will end with a conflict. In such a case I’d rather milk cows. I won’t earn money deceiving my scientific principles. The Ministry of Health answered to the inquiry from the colony-settlement where I was kept that there was no work for me. I haven’t applied to the ministry and won’t do it. I have a completely different approach to evaluation of the situation. Before it I could stop this counteraction with my authority, power and interaction. When I lost my position everything changed and was destroyed. Where can I go? I have no place there. Even if they understand me, they won’t openly agree with me, because the state doctrine is completely different. I have to preserve my dignity and do my work. At present the French are trying to organize a laboratory for such investigations. They compose documents to bring the legal grounding for it. Let’s see what the government and the juridical bodies will answer. Now I am doing what I can. If I don’t tune myself for the better, that finally everything will be alright, I will go to pieces.
-- What is the reason of the perennial deviation from normal life and work?
-- I believe its differences in understanding the problems of human health and Chernobyl as the greatest problem. It was Chernobyl that convinced those who didn’t want to see me that I am not needed in this situation. I don’t doubt it. It was easier to defend one’s truth in a large country, which the Soviet Union was. I’ll draw an example. When I was 27 or 28 we studied the influence of an immunity stimulator on a pregnant woman and development of embryo. This medicine was recommended for pregnant women. I wanted to check a hypothesis, because we had registered certain things that we couldn’t understand. This medicine was proposed by the well-known scientist Mrs. Ermolyeva who created Soviet penicillin. I sent a note to the pharmacologic committee with the request to consider this question and stop the use of this medicine. The commission upheld this proposal. This made me more recognizable. Hrodna laboratory rose up to the level of the union laboratory and was immediately put in the register. I have always been self-confident and relied on myself only. Scientific results were above all for me. I am ready to follow scientific truth. That’s why I think that in our situation my views and I won’t be accepted. It’s not to the time when scientific truth is highly valued. There’s order with the wish to receive certain results, but science can’t always give ordered results.
-- Everything will be alright if the laboratory is registered and starts working. What will happen otherwise?
-- In the case there are no conditions for work I won’t stay here. If I have the choice I will work where I have the possibility to work. It’s not that I am not patriot, but if the society doesn’t want to accept what a member of this society tells and care about self-preservation I can’t do anything. Today science must belong to the people who want to know the truth and have information for survival. If will accept such proposals if I receive them. Being a prisoner of this state I don’t have any chance to leave it now.
No matter how hard it is, I close my eyes and start thinking. It gives me the possibility to look into the future which nobody sees. I remember Homiel jail when I was sentenced to 8 years of jail. I lied in the medical isolator, it was stuffy. Some thoughts came to me. I started recording them and building a program. There were 8 years ahead and I was lying there, singing and drawing those things. A man is the master of his fate. It is hard to be in prison, but you have to be your own master. I don’t complain that I have no possibility to work, that my hands are tied, because I use every possibility to go my own way.
-- Who helped you during these hard years?
-- Family, first of all. Doubtlessly, my wife Halina Siarhieieuna did really much. I had good contacts with foreign scientists, I was quite well-known. When all the truth, the evidence of my point of view, my notes and open letters, reports were given publicity to, the pre-history became quite clear. I found many friends in spirit, whom I haven’t met earlier. Many of the people, who called themselves friends when I had power, stopped being such. I can say some good words about my students, despite I was a very strict teacher – my students came to me after I was deprived from the position of provost. Having received diplomas from other people the came to me and lead me to a park to make a photo. Then they contacted me if they had such a possibility. It is difficult to fool the youth. They start lying later, becoming a part of the system. When I was arrested, my department and the museum we were creating were liquidated. We have made 26 candidate dissertations at the department. They are afraid of open and unpleasant truth. Of course, everyone has own truth, but that’s what the pluralism of opinions is for. The present problem is in impossibility to express one’s opinion. Till I touched upon radiation problems they bore me and I even became recognized, but everything came to end when I touched a problem connected to very large interests. When I was asked why I moved to Homiel I answered I don’t want to beat around the bush. It was my fate to deal with the problem of Chernobyl.
-- Judging by the information we receive from the official sources, everything is quite well in Homiel region – agro-towns are built, people saw and harvest in the fields. Is it really so?
-- One must at least slightly familiarize with the statistic data in order to understand it. Even according to the official sources the population of Belarus lost 29 000 persons, it is the information of the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis. That’s what couldn’t be hidden. It is connected not only with the economical instability, but also with ecology and the reluctance of people to give birth to children. Why? It’s because the hormonal level of testosterone and extragene is too low. In this situation people even don’t want to have sex. It is the situation defined by our ecology. We held an investigation short before my arrest. Its results were partially publicized. We took teenagers in Buda-Kashaliova. Girls had inversion of the hormonal level. They had many men’s hormones instead of women’s. The explanation is simple: such pathogenic agent as radioactive cesium damages chondriosomes, the parts of cells that are responsible for metabolism connected with production of hormones, which, naturally, influences their production. In this case the inversion of the hormonal level is registered because production of women’s hormones is more complicated than men’s. The former ones are produced in insufficient quality and girls have a high level of testosterone that gives no possibility to women’s gametes to mature.
-- Is this situation common for our country only twenty years after Chernobyl?
-- Belarus faced radiation long before Chernobyl. First of all there are terrestrial and subterranean explosions everywhere. The problem is that people know very little. In 1974 it was described in the book “Pollution of the air with cesium”. This book got to me quite late, but I managed to study this information. There workers of the biophysics institute of the Soviet Union said about quite a high level of radiation, but said nothing about its harm to human body. They said that all Paliessie region, Pinsk and Stolin were polluted beginning from 50-60-ies. These are hare-brained explosions, military trainings with nuclear weapons and concentration of radioactive materials on the border with western countries – it all created high radiation. Frankly speaking, every nuclear power station leaks, one can’t make a closed cycle – cesium, for instance, constantly comes to biosphere. People don’t know where to place the wastes – there’s a serious problem with it. Having faced with the possibility of a radioactive burial at our border, we started thinking. Why didn’t we think before?
The ecological illiteracy of the population that results from absence of information is used. Now I am reading a letter dedicated to the IAEA letter that the main role in the consequences of Chernobyl tragedy was played by stresses, psychological instability, low life standards and overpopulation. I say that a man has stresses everywhere – in family, in the street, at work, but why do they cause such a specific pathology? It is nonsense aimed at completely disoriented people. If nuclear energy provides progress, how can this progress end? We can cope only in the case we all realize that we may have no tomorrow. There’s unbelievable quantity of military and civil radioactive materials on the Earth and it becomes more and more difficult to manage it. In this case it’s unwise to develop the nuclear technologies in such conditions.
-- However, we are used to this source of energy. How else can it be received?
-- The life of the humankind is on the stake. Nuclear technologies destroy everything, even the mountains that appeared as a result of similar reactions, leave alone weak human body. That’s to what I urged my colleagues: sit and think what will be tomorrow. It is impossible to stop everything today, but it is necessary to gradually refuse from such technologies and find new sources of energy. We have invented nuclear energy – it means that we can invest something better as well. Today we admire names of the physics that invented atomic disintegration. What has it brought to humankind? Nobody invented a remedy! Where’s the scientists’ responsibility for the things done? Even Einstein came to his senses and said: what I am doing? Then he wrote letters and became a pacifist, but the imp has already been taken out of the bottle. The humankind would exist without nuclear technologies and develop in another way. However, people wished to have superprofits and dominate others – it ended terribly. At present it’s no good, it is a threat. There has been a typhoon in the US. It was very hard for the American society to cope with its consequences. What will happen in the case a typhoon touches objects related to nuclear energy? The Earth will disappear. Society must search possibilities for its survival. I am a doctor and can’t but be anxious about problems of human life and health. That’s what I live, that’s why I will continue my work.