26.04.1986 01:23 (UTC + 3) is the beginning of the biggest nuclear disaster in the human history – the explosion of the No.4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine. This event changes the fate of thousands of people and poses a threat to the health of millions. About that time some of us had made their first unintelligible noises, others weren’t yet conceived, but we are all marked as the generation of Chernobyl. After so many stories and documentaries about the catastrophe and its consequences we decided to go see with our own eyes what is it like 27 years later.
As it turned out, it is no easy or trivial matter to visit Chernobyl. You have to book the trip in advance with your passport and then be approved of the Ukrainian authorities. One way or another we managed to take part in a group and we left Kiev early in the morning. The drive is about two hours and a half. We were instructed about the radioactive particles and how to work with a Geiger counter. We watched a documentary with unique photos and video material from the operation of containing the damage, which affected whole Europe.
30 km away from the town is the first checkpoint. It is like crossing a border- they check your passport and everything. Then we headed for the most dangerous zone within radius of 10 km from the reactor, there you pass a radioactivity check. And then is the first stop, the entrance of Chernobyl.
You can’t help but notice how empty and deserted it all seems – there are no people, cars, noises from the town… Sometimes you can meet an official car of a nuclear agency, or a scientist…
We had to wear long sleeves and long trousers, as well as closed shoes. First we visited the part of the town which is still inhabited by people who work in the area. They live there up to 2 weeks, and then they rest for 2 weeks more and come back. There is a monument of the victims of the disaster, which includes a list of the villages which have been destroyed. There are two post boxes with symbolic meaning. They are meant as means of communication with the people who had once lived there but now are somewhere else.
The firemen who arrived first at the site of the disaster had no idea what has happened. They gave their lives fighting for control over the fire. There is a monument build to keep them from fading into history.
We are off to the part where the abandoned houses are overcome by nature, which has been cruelly poisoned by the human imprudence and egoism.
The counters show levels high above the norm. We are in the yard of a kindergarten.
We continue with dark thoughts on our minds, provoked by the visit at the kindergarten. It’s one of the most chilling scenes that we’ll remember for a long time. We got bitten by some mosquitoes. We hope they weren’t too radioactive. At the distance you can see the heart of the problem – No.4 reactor.
When you come as close as it is allowed, the first thing you notice is the construction of the new dome. The old one is damaged by time.
Immediately next to it is the sarcophagus of the not so loved pharaoh No.4.
You can’t linger here because the Geiger counter starts emitting unpleasant sounds. We drove for 2 km and we arrived at the entrance of the ghost town – Pripyat.
There are no people there, the time has stopped for them. But it doesn’t stop the lush mutated vegetation, which conquers parks, squares, schools, apartment buildings… It is truly a ghost town, you wouldn’t like to stay there after dark. The mood of our group wasn’t this grim because it was warm and green everywhere. We took a walk through many parts of the town, which had accidentally become monuments of one of the most terrifying catastrophes in modern history. The following are some photos of this walk and then we are headed for Chernobyl.
In places like Pripyat you can see the signs that there is still hope.
Some faces can’t allow to be forgotten…
Will it light up in red… in these moments green becomes your favorite color.
Luckily, everything was green and we ended the day with a tasty lunch in a communist diner in Chernobyl – the time had stopped there, unlike the radiation.
It was an unforgettable radioactive adventure. It is time to head back to Kiev.
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
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