Chernobyl Children's Project

On February 11, I had the opportunity to attend a benefit for the Chernobyl Children's Project International's cardiac surgery program. The event, at Romanov Restaurant & Lounge in Studio City in Los Angeles, was hosted by singer/songwriter Oksana Grigorieva, who performed her charity single Angel. Along with Mel Gibson, Ms. Grigorieva spoke eloquently about the continuing needs of the people affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

I feel a strong personal connection to this part of the world, and to the disaster that changed so many lives. Every summer until I was eight years old, my family left city life in St. Petersburg to spend time in the countryside of Ukraine. After the disaster, we never went again.

It has been so many years that it may be easy to forget that the people of Ukraine and Belarus are still affected by this event. In fact, according to the Chernobyl Children's Project, over 6,000 children are born there every year with genetic heart disorders, and half of them will not receive the surgery they need.

I was deeply moved by the information shared at the benefit, about the remarkable work being done to help these children and their families, as well as to continue rebuilding the community in the affected areas. I am eager to become more involved, and hope to host a similar benefit this summer, here in Chicago.