The Pure Earth family is sad to learn of the sudden death of Dmitriy Tereshkevich, our country director in Kazakhstan. He was just 33. His passing is a shock and a tremendous loss to everyone at Pure Earth worldwide, and to the field of environmental health, especially in Central Asia.
Many of us in the New York office had the pleasure of meeting Dmitriy when he visited last year. I had the opportunity to chat with him to catch up on what he was doing, and it was a lot. Dmitriy believed in making things happen. I remember him telling me:
“Even if we have problems, we don’t go crying.”
With that attitude, Dmitriy achieved much in a short time. He was on a mission to clean up the toxic legacy of industrial pollution in his part of the world. He told me of his concern about the pollution of vast swaths of the steepe in the west of of Kazakhstan, and of the presence of large uranium tailings in the north of the country. He told me about strange reports of a village, where everyone was sleeping for long stretches – two to three days in a row. Perhaps it was due to environmental factors? With a PhD in health and the environment, Dmitriy was fascinated by this mystery, and no doubt, was on his way to figuring it out.
With Pure Earth, Dmitriy spent a lot of time on the ground, traveling to various toxic sites performing environmental assessments and planning cleanups large and small. He understood that while governments and bureaucracies sometimes move slowly, he could work quickly to offer solutions. In one residential neighborhood contaminated by pesticide, he spoke of seeing cattle walking through a toxic hotspot, children playing nearby, and residents cutting through the polluted pathway to go to work every day. Dmitriy’s solution? To put up a fence around the contaminated area. A simple idea that could be done quickly to reduce risk to the local population.
Another pursuit Dmitriy was passionate about was Latin dance. Below, I close with Dmitriy’s own words, as I recall from my notes. It encapsulates perfectly the essence of this vivacious man, who would have continued to accomplish great things, if only he had the time to dance with everyone he met.
“I love to think positively. I love communicating with other people, talking, singing, and dancing, because when people dance, problems go out. Dance gives the opportunity to be closer to each other, to feel like a team. Even if you only know people for a short time, our souls go together and make something invincible. When people are dancing, something happens in the air, emotions… we understand each other. If we dance, even without words, we will feel more positive. We should dance with everyone, with governments, with bureaucracy…”