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THE UKRAINIAN REVIEW
and functional training courses which were so much favoured by western
funding programmes and local entrepreneurs, do not provide for the educa
tion of civil servants and engineers, town planners, local government officers,
public administrators, lawyers, educationalists, voluntary sector organisers, etc.
The need to cater for these labour markets as well as the vital enterprise
markets has invigorated the idea o f the university throughout eastern
Europe, and responsible agencies are now realising that there is no substi
tute for a university education of international quality and reputation. Only
top quality higher education can turn out the necessary champions and cus
todians o f the new civil society, for only in the university setting is time
allowed to develop the qualities of character, reflective self-criticism, evalua
tive skills and knowledge-based reasoning powers which prepare young
people for leadership in very challenging positions of responsibility.
The market economy too cannot expect to survive without the regenera
tion o f the skilled human resources which drive it, and which provide the
initiative, the innovation and the enterprise to fire the creative spirit. Such
innovation is just as likely to occur through university research as it is in the
industrial and commercial sector, provided that universities and industry can
achieve that symbiotic relationship found in the best managed research col
laboration in the west.
State socialism divorced the universities from the research function, dis
tanced young people and their teachers from developments in the real
world, and at the same time either misappropriated or suppressed the quali
ties of leadership and reflective criticism which are now so necessary, and
which are sadly, so widely lacking in the working population of the former
USSR as a whole. The Soviet higher education system collaborated both
actively and passively in this process. Whilst reformers in Ukraine are aware
o f shortcomings of the old system, the absence of any Czech and Slovak-
style velvet revolution has maintained continuity in much o f the leadership
o f higher education and its institutions, leaving sweeping reform out of the
question, and the Government powerless to legislate for it simply by decree.
As a result international initiatives have tended to avoid the public sector,
considering that money spent on anachronistic, unreformed state universities
was in fact money wasted. Attitudes within government circles tended to
confirm this view, and money ear-marked for human resourcing was spent
instead on “training” in transferable skills, preferably through private, com
mercial training agents.
Private sector higher education has its place in the provision of training
for specialists in many professions which would otherwise be hard for the
public sector to cater for, such as the skilled labour in the financial institu
tions which provide the framework for the business community to function.
Skills have been transferred in this area via East-West know-how projects,
and the growing presence of foreign companies with their own trained staff
contributes to the locally operating skills base, with important local conse
quences. But nowadays, the limitations o f East-West cooperation in skills
training are becoming evident, the most important weakness being that no
nation can rely upon the generosity of foreigners to satisfy human resource
needs in the future, and there is no evidence that private colleges will sur
vive long enough to develop its sending institutions.
Public sector institutions, despite their flaws, can lay claim to an extensive
capital base, and an historical continuity which goes back in some cases to
the 17th or 18th century. The Kyiv-Mohyla Collegium, the first Ukrainian
higher education institution, dates back to 1632. Kyiv University, founded in
1834, still predates the University of London by two years, and in 1836 the
University of London was merely an examining body and hardly a learned
collegium in the sense of universitas.
There is therefore an educational heritage which deserves to be recap
tured and built upon, and the process is under way to some extent. The
Kyiv-Mohyla Collegium , re-christened the University o f Kyiv Mohyla
Academy, after a 175 period in suspended animation, is once more a centre
of Ukrainian culture and language. However, to what extent does the mod
ern Academy capture the spirit o f 1993, as opposed to the destructive
national rivalries of yesteryear. Perhaps, indeed, nationalism is still inherent
in the spirit o f the age, but in that case, what is the role of the university in
the formation of the modern social market economy of Ukraine which the
government was recently elected to promote?
The modern university, by which we refer to those institutions which suc
cessfully combine the appropriate teaching methods with research excel
lence to create a world class centre of scholarship and innovation, is a com
plex community of endeavour. No modern university can pin its badge of
quality on its scientific standards alone. Standards are one expression of
achievement, but they no longer symbolise the contribution and the signifi
cance of the university to society as a whole. And today “society” means so
much more than what certain groups specify as being in the “national inter
est”. In the modern academic community, the notions of staff and student
mobility, research collaboration, the information age, the global environ
ment and the changing world order suggest new roles and responsibilities
for the university. In some senses they are new, and in others they predate
the artificial political and knowledge barriers which nation-states have erect
ed since the early 19th century.
Nowadays, the United Kingdom Government’s Know How Fund (KHF)
for Ukraine contributes programme funding for institutional strengthening
projects. The Overseas Development Administration, which has a coordina
tion role on behalf o f the KHF, invited potential UK collaborators to bid by
14 July 1993 for a contract to participate in an institutional strengthening
project at the Institute o f Public Administration and Local Government
(IPALG), Kyiv. The aim of such cooperation is to institutionalise expertise in
civil service training within the higher education sector, especially in univer
sities with a background in management education. Most management edu
cation emphasises the skills required in business and industry, rather than in
THE UKRAINIAN REVIEW
the public service, so the introduction of special new courses, such as the
MA in Public Sector Administration, might temper the over-specialisation of
business schools in competitive business management.
The cost of introducing new courses from scratch by importing expertise,
without even a proportion of academic staff on the payroll with relevant
subject knowledge, and with the necessity o f having the foreign partner vali
dating the course with all the evaluation and monitoring that implies, places
severe financial limitations upon the use of the partnership method.
Nevertheless, by a common-sense use of appropriate resources directed
towards long term goals such as “training-the-trainers” and establishing
sound evaluative mechanisms, inter-university cooperation can provide cop
ing mechanisms along the difficult road to a completely new system o f insti
The external environment is hostile, and Ukraine has a long way to go to
catch up even with the adaptations achieved by higher education in central
Europe. However, ihe cooperation at university level will have a positive bot
tom-up influence on the Government when the time comes, and let it be soon,
when higher education development is driven positively forward by appropri
ate legislation within a well-researched and comprehensive strategy for the
future. When that day comes, universities will know about it because they will
have been involved — but it will not make the Nine o’clock News!
C H E R N IV T S I — A FAILURE IN G L A S N O S T
S te v e H id e
On July 28, 1988, at 3.00 a.m., a Soviet Rocket Forces convoy was wind
ing its way through the historic heart o f Chcrnivtsi, in southwestern Ukraine.
Residents heard the huge tractor units growl to a halt outside their houses.
The shape o f missiles was visible under tarpaulins on trailers. One vehicle in
the convoy, an enormous tanker, seemed to be in trouble. It had hit a tree.
Some kind of fluid was leaking out onto the road.
Aurel Scripcara, a printer on a local newspaper, had been working late
that night. Soldiers stopped his car as he approached the convoy, parked in
Holovna Street, the town’s main thoroughfare. Some with gas masks had
started to spray a white foam where the fluid had leaked. The stricken
tanker, meanwhile, turned into cobbled Kobylytsi Street where it stopped
again. The fluid was still leaking out.
Two hours later the convoy rumbled off into the night and Scripcara was
allowed to continue his journey home. “Do not mention this accident. This
is the military", was a soldier’s last comment.
By the lime he arrived home, only a few streets away, Scripcara was violent
ly ill. His throat was burning — he was thirsty, but he could not drink — and
he lay doubled up with pain. He never recovered. Seven days later, still in
severe pain, his skin turned yellow and all his hair fell out. His doctor could
not help. Scripcara died on November 1, three months after the fateful meeting
with the rocket convoy. Doctors first diagnosed leukaemia, then liver disease.
Five years later Scripcara’s widow, Sylvia, is convinced the leaked chemi
cal from the rocket convoy killed him. The military authorities have other
ideas. They have never admitted — before or after independence — the
accident took place.
There is no other explanation, says Sylvia Scripcara. “Aurel was in pain
when he came home that night. He was sick and he never recovered, many
others have been sick too, many with the same symptoms, but the doctors
w on’t admit it”.
The testimony of Scripcara is just one piece of evidence in Chernivtsi’s
struggle to find the truth behind a mass illness which has gripped the town
for five years. Leading the inquiry is Viktor Freylikh, a quite-spoken profes
sor of history at the University o f Chernivtsi. Freylikh is an unlikely candi
date for eco-agitprop. Dapper with his trim moustache and grey raincoat, he
Steve Hide, a free-lance journalist, has recently returned from western Ukraine, where he
spent a month investigating ecological problems, particularly the case of the mass illnesses in
the town of Chernivtsi, first reported five years ago.
THE UKRAINIAN REVIEW
has been unravelling the mystery with a Poirot-like efficiency, meticulously
typing his notes on a battered old typewriter in the cramped confines of his
two-room fiat. His friends call him “the bureaucrat”.
Chernivtsi, like most towns in the former Soviet Union, has lived under
the pall o f industrial pollution for decades.
Says Freylikh: “The old system believed it was easier to compensate the
people for the effects o f pollution than regulate the factories themselves.
What we have ended up with is a huge mess for which no one will take
Freylikh does not pin all the town’s health problems on the rocket fuel.
There are plenty of examples of civil industries polluting the town, such as
the local brick factory that mixed heavy metal waste with its bricks before
firing them. But the rocket fuel spillage had an immediate and devastating
affect on its victims and, believes Freylikh, proved the catalyst for the chron
ic illnesses that have plagued the town ever since.
To date, 18 eye-witnesses have come forward to say they saw the con
voy. Many more saw the clean-up operation when soldiers came every night
for two weeks and sprayed down the streets with foam. They wore full
chemical protection suits — rubber boots, gloves, gas masks — but gave no
warnings to curious locals (including children) who watched them at work.
Residents of Kobylytsi Street, Mariya Bilak and her two daughters Svitlana
and Valentyna, felt burning to their eyes and skin as soon as the leaking
tanker parked outside their house. Next day, like Scripcara, they were dou
bled up with stomach pains. In the weeks that followed doctors diagnosed
“enlarged livers” but gave no cause. Two months later the women’s hair fell
out. Four months later it grew in again but the other symptoms are still there.
Mariya Primak, another witness to the late-night convoy, ended up in a special
ward at the local hospital after two months of high fever, sore throat and stom
ach pains. Then all her hair fell out. There were twelve other adults in the ward
with the same symptoms. A week later, the day before a party of journalists from
Moscow were due to visit the hospital, the patients were all sent home.
Ludmyla Pavlychyna moved to the town in April 1989, nine months after
the tanker crash, and got a job in Kobylytsi Street. A month later all her hair
fell out, including eyebrows and eyelashes. Today her hair has partly grown
in, but she still has stomach pains, an enlarged liver, and sores on her arms.
Doctors have diagnosed liver disease, but do not know what caused it.
The majority of those affected have been children living in the old part of
town. Within a week o f the convoy passing through, 2000 becam e ill.
Common symptoms were eczema, stomach pains, swollen livers, jaundice,
loss of coordination, severe nightmares and bleeding noses. All, it seemed,
had severe bronchitis. Then three months later they began to lose their hair,
at least 185 becom ing com pletely bald. The worst affected w ere aged
between two and four. Later, like the adults, their hair grew in but most
remained ill with other symptoms which still plague them today. Each
spring the symptoms get worse and, in some cases, hair falls out again.
The Soviet health authorities sent the totally bald children for tests in
Moscow and Kyiv. One child, the daughter of an army captain, was went to
a military hospital in Leningrad. The results of the tests in Kyiv and Moscow
were kept secret until angry mothers pickeited the hospitals where their
children were being treated. Four separate reports gave four different sets of
results suggesting the presence of different heavy metals in the children’s
blood. Eventually, thallium, a heavy metal once used as a depilatory, was
identified as the culprit. Unfortunately, health officials could not say where
the thallium came from. Local industry got the blame but no one factory was
identified as producing the waste. M eanwhile, the girl sent alo n e to
Leningrad came home with a different diagnosis; military doctors told her
parents she had been poisoned with rocket fuel.
Soviet missile fuels are not pleasant substances. Inhibited fuming red
nitric acid and asymmetric dimethylhydrazine are so corrosive they cannot
be stored in the missiles they power. Instead, they are stored in large
tankers until two hours before blast-off, when they are pumped into the
missile casing. Such was the tactical disadvantage of this delay, plus the
manifold problems of handling the chemicals (and their unpopularity with
Rocket Force troops) that, in the final years of the Soviet Union, the military
was systematically replacing the old rockets with more stable solid-fuelled
Water and soil samples taken in Chernivtsj soon after the tanker crash
show ed up traces o f the dimethylhydrazine, says Freylikh. Then Kyiv
experts discredited the results, saying samples were not taken correctly.
Attempts at further sampling failed when local scientists were told if they
cooperated with the testing, they would lose their jobs.
According to the chemical textbooks, dimethylhydrazine is a highly corro
sive irritant to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, and a convulsant poison.
In high doses it can cause liver disease, liver cancer, and cancer of the
colon. It evaporates in air and is soluble in water. Anecdotal evidence from
the former Soviet Rocket Forces states that soldiers who accidentally inhaled
the vapour accidentally have died.
Chernivtsi’s rocket fuel theory has gained such support in the town that
local authorities set up a special committee to investigate it. On one side of
the table sits Professor Freylikh with co-campaigner and local politician
Volodymyr Zhorin. Opposite them are former members of the KGB (now
SBU, Ukrainian Security Service) whose job it is to investigate the military.
In a cyclical game of cat and mouse, Freylikh presents an eyewitness report
of the convoy — but without a name. The intelligence officers ask for the
names of the witnesses so they can make their own inquiries. Not surpris
ingly, the witnesses refuse to be named.
A minor breakthrough came when a soldier wrote to the local paper. The
rocket fuel accident was common knowledge in the army, he said. In fact,
the unit’s training major had exhorted poor drivers with phrases like “shape
up — we don’t want another problem like Chernivtsi”.
THE UKRAINIAN REVIEW
The major in question was hauled before the committee to explain this
statement but acquitted himself with the assertion that the “problem” he
referred to was not a fuel spillage, but the public’s false notion that the army
had poisoned them; there was no room for a real accident.
The people of Chernivtsi did not see it that way. They remember the
indecent haste with which the soldiers felled the offending tree — the one
which the tanker had hit — a day after the crash. Not only did they chop it
down and remove every twig, then (with unheard-of efficiency) they cut the
stump to street level and asphalted over the remains. Here, they say, is a
snapshot of the “old system” in action: the truck can’t have hit the tree
because the tree never existed. Show us the tree?
“Eco-AIDS" is one of the buzzwords at the Chernivtsi Children’s Hospital
for Radiological and Ecodependent Diseases. What it means is that pollution
is so widespread it has become impossible.to match a symptom with a cause.
The doctors work under incredible difficulties. Medical supplies are run
ning out, the wards are full, and the mass poisoning just won’t go away.
Doctors at the hospital say the 1988 “burst, o f chem ical intoxication”
affected only 185 children — those who went totally bald — and have been
reluctant to link their illness with sick adults or the other 2000 children who
suffered similar symptoms but only partial hair loss. This has infuriated the
families of the victims themselves who detect a political plot to make the
problem appear smaller than it is.
Nor will the doctors admit that any deaths occurred. Freylikh has evi
dence of five young children who died soon after the convoy accident of
symptoms which suggested chemical poisoning. In one case a four-year-old
girl fell ill. Dark blotches appeared on her skin and she died four days later.
The official diagnosis was leukaemia, but a doctor told the family the girl’s
liver had been poisoned. When the girl’s mother went to the local photo
studio to collect the memorial photo she was amazed to see pictures o f
other dead children lying in their coffins with similar marks visible.
Even if they had the political will to do it, the Chernivtsi doctors are now
isolated and are unable to continue their research. If for no other reason than
that they have no chemical reagents or equipment to make further tests.
“We are in the middle of an environmental disaster”, says chief doctor
Still, Shapovalov has had some success treating the symptoms of the poi
soning with vitamin E, charcoal-absorbents, antibiotics, and steroids. Extra
food rations from special health shops have enabled doctors to ensure their
patients are getting a healthy diet.
Unfortunately, the treatment regimes nearly collapsed last year from lack
o f drugs. Shapovalov is ready to meet foreigners with a list of urgently need
ed supplies: “analyser for clinical chemistry and reagents ENCORE III;
Ultrasonic system AU-630 with transducer to detect enlarged thyroid glands;
b r o n c h io fib r o s c o p e p a e d ia tric set; annual su p p ly o f reag e n ts for
Hematologuc Analyser CeIl-Dyn-l600”.
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