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Some five to seven years after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, a whole culture of helping “Chernobyl children” grew in the regions most affected by the radioactive fallout, fuelled by the presence of several international charity bodies such as the Red Cross and national charities of some Western countries. For the generation of Belarusian children who travelled abroad via ‘health trips’, this activity was both a positive and a traumatic cross-cultural experience that contributed to the growth of the Chernobyl mythology and subculture. Based on personal memories of the author’s five trips to Germany, France, and Italy, evidence given by her friends and relatives interviewed on their travels to Germany and Italy, as well as on the content analysis of online communities in the biggest Russian-speaking social network Vkontakte, the author argues that all aspects of living in the Chernobyl-affected area, which was subject to the special care of both domestic and foreign authorities(including the ‘humanitarian aid’ aspect), were (to varying extents) based on a Chernobyl mythology that played a big role in constructing the “Chernobyl zeitgeist” for the young inhabitants of the “zone”.
Keywords: mythologization of culture, social myths, Chernobyl disaster, Chernobyl children, social memory