Published on August 7th, 2015 | by Krista van Velzen


Swimming would never be the same again

Sunset, a long hot day comes to an end.
I am standing on the bridge over the river that streams through the city of Hiroshima.
The river that was once full of floating corpses. Seventy years ago, at 8.15 in the morning, a nuclear bomb was dropped on this city. Today, we honour the spirits of the people that lost their lives by floating lanterns on the river. It is a commemoration in which people of all ages participates. The colourful lanterns create a nearly festive atmosphere.

Masao Itou, one of the survivors of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima tells me about the horrific experiences he had on that specific day, 70 years ago and the effects it had on the rest of his life. He was only four years old when he was blown away by the blast of the bomb while playing on his tricycle outside his house. Fortunately he only minor injuries at that time, but he did fall ill, trouble with his lungs, at an older age. I have the fortune to stay at his house in Hiroshima these days.

Staring at the lanterns he tells me he used to go swimming in the river and continued to do that after the bomb was dropped. He enjoyed the cool water at warm summer days, but things changed. Nearly every time he and his friends would go swimming, they would find bones of the deceased people at the bottom of the river. In the beginning there were so many bones, they would bring them to a dedicated place where they were burnt. After quite some time graves were dug and the ‘riverbones’ would get buried. Swimming would never be the same.

Hiroshima water lights.jpg Itousan

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About the Author

Krista van Velzen is a former Dutch MP and is currently working as nuclear disarmament campaigner with PAX in The Netherlands. She is running a citizens initiative in the Netherlands in order to get national legislation banning nuclear weapons. Van Velzen has been working on disarmament issues since the early nineties. As spokesperson on defence and foreign affairs she has convinced the Dutch government to ban and eliminate clustermunitions and and to prohibite investments as well. She has worked in Central and Eastern Europe creating a network of campaigners on the nuclear issue. She organised a Walk for Nuclear Disarmament from Brussels to Moscow. Her attempts to disarm a British Trident submarine gave her truly interesting experiences inside a Scottish jail. Disagreeing with president Obama, she believes a world without nuclear weapons is achievable in this lifetime.

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