Mar 19, 2013

Trips to Chernobyl

written by Sveta Kalinskaya

I’ve been to Chernobyl two or three times. It’s like Mecca for nuclear engineering translators and interpreters. This should be a sacred place of pilgrimage for everyone who works in the field.

There’s an old joke from the Soviet times. Then every delegation going on a foreign trip had to be accompanied by a KGB agent. He (and as a rule, it was a man) was usually presented as an advisor for cultural affairs. The joke is about a group of Soviet violinists who went to an international contest. One of them won the first prize and as a special honor was allowed to play a Stradivari. After the award ceremony, the “advisor for cultural affairs” asked him what was special about playing some old violin. Well – said the violinist. – How can I explain it? Imagine they allowed you to hold Dzerzhinsky’s gun [Dzerzhinsky was the first head of the Soviet security police, later KGB].

In other words, what may seem strange or even insane for outsiders, is quite natural for professionals. My colleagues brag about visiting remote nuclear power plants that are usually located outside standard tourist attractions.   They get excited about going to a location surrounded by nothing but many miles of corn fields and consisting of a dome and a stack.

Another thing that I learned from my Chernobyl trips is the great responsibility that lies with the nuclear industry. Before the visit, I perceived my work environment as a normal office or a large enterprise but what I’ve seen in the Chernobyl museum made me think about possible consequences of working at a nuclear facility.

I wonder what “sacred places” are for translators and interpreters in other fields. Once I met a girl who specialized in the cattle industry. Where would she dream to go? Texas?

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