More than a hundred settlements that were captured by radiation were affected by the evacuation in April 1986 – the Ivankovsky and Polessky districts of the Kiev region and part of the Zhytomyr region. The memory of them is the “open-air museum” of the largest man-made disaster in the history of mankind. Among the gallery exhibits are deserted Chernobyl and Pripyat, as well as the terrifying emptiness of thousands of rural houses, which were raging 33 years ago, roosters sang in the mornings in the courtyards, peasants were gossiping in the streets, and children were laughing in the river. This museum has a name today, with which the most terrible man-made disaster of mankind is associated all over the world. Its name is the Chernobyl Zone.
“To those who saved the world” is a concise inscription on the monument to firefighters who were the first to engage in battle with the radiation threat, trying to tame the fire at the 4th power unit of Chernobyl NPP 33 years ago. This monument is located in Chernobyl. Unlike the young and exemplary Pripyat, which photographs of abandoned high-rise buildings circled the whole world, becoming symbols of the Chernobyl disaster, the town of Chernobyl is not so popular among visitors to the exclusion zone.
Today, a small town with a very ancient history, from the time of Kievan Rus, is a temporary home for hundreds of employees of various objects of the exclusion zone working on a rotational basis at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Oddly enough, this settlement, despite the fact that it gave the name of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and with which the catastrophe is associated, which has become a worldwide sign of radiation apocalypse, does not belong to the territory most contaminated with radionuclides.
Chernobyl memory alley
Unlike the ghost town of Pripyat, it is quite crowded today, life does not stop and work is in full swing, but only in its own specific rhythm: you can stumble upon a hotel’s advertisement, a quite usual store with the most necessary products works, cars go on repaired roads.
But the external population of the city is still deceptive, because along with the inhabited dwellings in the houses, those apartments that were left back in 1986 are pierced with holes in broken windows. There is an ordered and at the same time creepy alley dedicated to resettled villages in the middle of the town: more than a hundred settlements turned into symbolic marks on the map due to the Chernobyl disaster – 160 thousand inhabitants of Polesie left their homes forever.
The names of these villages are placed on tablets forming an alley next to the recently opened Museum “Star of Wormwood” and the angel monument made of rebar. There is a quote from the Revelation of St. John the Theologian on the memorial stone:
“Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from the sky, burning like a torch. It fell on one-third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star was Bitterness. It made one-third of the water bitter, and many people died of drinking the bitter water.”
Nearby is a stone, perpetuating the list of the righteous of the Chernobyl spring of 1986, all who were the first, from Chernobyl workers and firefighters to journalists and volunteers.
However, along with signs of an active life, it is very easy to come across gloomy reminders of the tragic event that happened 33 years ago. There is a street of “dead” one-story houses very close to the museum complex.
Every year, the abandoned courtyards are overgrown with trees and shrubs, and it’s more and more difficult to see the touching words of farewell to their home written in paint on the wall through them. Broken windows, failed roofs, abandoned many years ago children’s toys, furniture, posters of old Soviet films – all this is a reminder that ordinary people lived here 33 years ago with their preferences and interests, growing up children and dreaming of a better future for them.
The eternal is not durable
Precipitation, wind and time are doing their job: wooden buildings are increasingly being destroyed, some of them have already turned into a large pile of wood and glass. The picture of a lack of respect for the memory of those who lived here three decades ago is also distressing: many courtyards and houses are littered with empty modern alcohol bottles and other garbage.
Miraculously survived curtains depicting peacocks, the remnants of the life of the inhabitants of Chernobyl, are hanging on the windows of one of the houses, there are scattered cards marked “for official use” everywhere in the house. Over the years, this street will finally turn into a forest, and now it is a dull reminder that everything that seems stable and durable is actually unsteady.
And the “eternal” at any moment can become temporary, and no one is safe from troubles and misfortunes, even one who lives in an ideal and calm corner of green Polesie.
For any person, a review of the Chernobyl abandoned houses is an opportunity not only to recall the disaster of 1986, but also to rethink the place of man in the world, the fragility of his creations. How not to mention in this connection those who, without committing any crime, were forced to become a migrant in their own country and those who, without expecting fame or awards, sacrificed their health or life in the most dramatic days of the radioactive spring of 1986 so that we can live in a safe world.
Years keep us from those terrible April events. Chernobyl is the pain of Ukraine, the pain of the whole world. It is hard to imagine what the world would look like today if it had not been for the courage of the liquidators of the accident who put out the fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. However, the real consequences of the Chernobyl accident make our hearts startle.
The planet Earth will finally get rid of radiation pollution caused by the Chernobyl fire only after thousands of years. Will humanity survive for so long? Will conclusions be drawn and measures taken to prevent another technological disaster? That is why it is important to remember, learn from mistakes, sacredly protect and respect those who sacrificed their lives, health, saving all humanity.
Not a single statistic fixes how many human destinies were damaged by the Chernobyl tornado, how many more liquidators survive in hospital beds in different hospitals, how many have already gone into eternity …
The Chernobyl disaster is considered the most terrible disaster in the history of mankind. The truth about Chernobyl is needed as a breath of fresh air – our children need it. If future generations don’t know anything about Chernobyl, as for example, today half of young people know almost nothing about the Great Patriotic War, then they will never understand human pain.
The Chernobyl tragedy claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, caused damage to the health of tens of millions. Future generations will still feel its consequences.
Still living liquidators, whose experience has not yet been inscribed in our cultural memory, are turning into a living archive and living monuments, the significance of which is much greater than that of memorials installed on the streets of cities.
Their experience is hidden behind various representations of events, whereas for a generation born in 1986, that is, young 25-30 year old citizens who are actively involved in public and professional life, forming a new face of modern society, a disaster that has become the backdrop of their own appearance into the light, remains distant, unfamiliar and incomprehensible.