Burning smell

“We didn’t know what had happened to us. They informed us about this toxic bomb later.”
We are standing in Funairi Mutsumi-en, a nursing home for survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Ohmi-san has been living at the nursing home for ten years. “All I can remember is the smell. The smell of burned flesh. Something I will never forget.”

Amenomori-san, the oldest patient of Funairi Mutsumi-en, proudly announces that in November she will celebrate her 100th birthday. When she starts talking about August 6, 1945, she immediately covers her eyes with her hands. “I was strongly burned but all I could think was: I can’t see! I can’t see!”. She thought she had gone blind, but luckily her sight came back when the flash diminished and when her body was recovered from the first shock.

DSC09446Waiting list
Fanairi Mutsumi-en has a day care service capacity of 100 hibakusha a week. Hibakusha literally translates as “explosion-affected people” and is the Japanese word for the surviving victims of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the capacity of the Fanairi Mutsumi-en is not sufficient. Over 500 hibakusha are on the waiting list, average waiting time: 5 years.

Remembering the victims
This week the city of Hiroshima is preparing for the 71st Anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. The summer heat of Hiroshima makes it impossible for most patients of Funairi Mutsumi-en to attend the official Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. But that will not stop them from remembering their family members, friends, neighbours and class mates who did not survived the horrors of August 6, 1945. They will watch the Peace Memorial Ceremony on a big screen in the dining room – the same screen where they watched Obama’s speech at his historic visit to Hiroshima.

PAX campaigner Selma van Oostwaard will attend the 71st Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony together with hibakusha, other campaigners and government representatives participating in the 2016 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. At this conference delegates from all over the world discuss the need for an international treaty for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.