Chernobyl: how they became heroes
Chernobyl: how they became heroes

One simple person lives for himself. He is no different from the rest – study, work, family. Once he chose the profession of a fireman for himself, it`s a very masculine and very difficult job.

Iron discipline, responsibility, organization, self-discipline even in small things, masculinity and a sense of team are the main thing for firefighters. On April 26, 1986, it was these guys who were the first to extinguish the fire that occurred at the fourth power unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The tongues of fire provoked by the exploding nuclear reactor mercilessly absorbed everything in their path, the smoke screen practically did not leave any chances to survive for those who plunged into its depths. Having presented all this, it becomes obvious that the options to stay alive in such situations are reduced to zero.

But the profession of a fireman is not for the weak. Therefore, they did not think about the danger, nor about the deadly level of radiation contamination that was spread everywhere.

The heroes of Chernobyl

The fire brigades on duty, one after the other arriving at the scene of the disaster, selflessly entered the battle with the elements, not yet realizing that before their eyes had seen the largest-scale man-made disaster had blazed in the history of mankind.

Who were these fearless fire-guard guys, who were the first to arrive at the site of the Chernobyl tragedy by the dispatcher’s alarm? What did they have to get through after the disaster? It is known that only a few from them have survived.

Vladimir Pravik

Lieutenant Vladimir Pravik is the hero of Chernobyl, served as the head of the guard of the HPV-2 Office of Internal Affairs. He was among the first who participated in extinguishing a fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. He was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously.

Vladimir was 23 years old at the time of the Chernobyl accident, he had just become a father – a few weeks before the accident, his wife gave him the long-awaited daughter.

Six minutes after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, it was his guard on duty together with the unit of Lieutenant V. Kibenok, who were the first to be raised and sent on alert to the scene of the disaster.

He instantly assessed the scale of the disaster, seeing the deadly flames bursting from the ruined roof of the reactor. The first signaled the maximum fire hazard situation, making it clear that urgent assistance was needed for all duty guards against all nearby fire units.

The flame was approaching the room where several tons of engine oil were located. Vladimir realized that in a matter of minutes the whole nuclear power plant could fly up into the air, with all the adjacent power units. Instantly, he concentrated all his own forces and resources of his brigade on extinguishing this hotbed of fire – it was necessary, at all costs, to prevent the spread of hotspots of flame.

His team coped with their task prior to the arrival of reinforcements. He came out of the blazing flame barely alive, however, he was unable to avoid receiving a high dose of radiation. He managed to live after the accident for only two weeks in a specialized clinic where he underwent treatment. Vladimir died of acute radiation sickness in the 6th Moscow Clinical Hospital, two days after the celebration of May 9th.

Victor Kibenok

Lieutenant Viktor Kibenok is a hereditary firefighter, he worked at HPV-2 for the protection of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. He arrived at the scene of the accident 12 minutes after the explosion. He died May 14, 1986, from radiation sickness at the 6th Moscow Clinical Hospital. He was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously.

Victor led the fire brigade at the scene of the accident. The maximum line of the reactor block was more than 70 meters. But, fulfilling his professional duty, he walked, making his way through fiery tongues and puffs of smoke at all levels, including in the engine room.

Twenty minutes was enough to receive a lethal dose of radiation in those conditions. The dosimetric instruments could not withstand the load, they were not designed to such a scale of radioactive waste emissions.

As the leader of the gas and smoke protection brigade, Victor conducted a reconnaissance operation in the epicenter of radiation pollution, in the premises of the reactor hall. Ignoring the obvious danger, by personal example, he showed subordinates how to fulfill their professional duty. He was an inspiration for his colleagues to complete the tasks.

Viktor died two days after the death of his military comrade, Vladimir Pravik, having received a huge dose of radiation during the fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power station.

Leonid Telyatnikov

Major of internal service Leonid Telyatnikov, a hero of the Soviet Union, was appointed head of HPV-2 for the protection of the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1983.

At the time of the accident, a first-class specialist L.Telyatnikov was on a tariff vacation, but he did not have time to go on vacation outside of Pripyat. He was also informed of the accident, he arrived at the scene of the disaster shortly after V.Kibenok, V.Pravik.

Leonid Telyatnikov took over the leadership of the fire brigades as the head of the fire brigades assigned to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. During the fire extinguishing, he more than once climbed the roof of the reactor, the last time he could not go down on his own.

After more than three hours in the heart of the fire, the manifesting signs of acute radiation sickness literally knocked him down. He received a high dose of radiation, but, despite the disappointing forecasts of doctors, he survived.

He continued to serve in the Internal Troops after the most difficult treatment in the clinic. Upon retiring, he continued to be interested in the fate of firefighters. He voluntarily headed the Kiev Volunteer Fire Society.

He did not like to advertise the Star of the Hero received for liquidating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, and was a very private person and citizen. His death in 2004, during the split of Ukraine into orange and blue and white, was almost imperceptible.

Vasily Ignatenko

Vasily Ignatenko is the commander of the 6th independent HPV-2 unit and a senior sergeant in the internal service.

Ignatenko was among the first to arrive at the scene of the accident, leaving his wife at home. He correctly assessed the situation and concentrated the strength of the personnel on the fulfillment of the necessary tasks.

First, he and his comrades dismantled the rubble, with the goal of installing a ladder between the 3rd and 4th power units, in order to be able to expand the working arms and begin to extinguish the fires on the damaged roof of the machine room.

He personally inspired the separation of courageous actions working at maximum height, at an overwhelming temperature and total smokiness. He carried out his own hands from the fire of three of his comrades who lost consciousness due to receiving a high dose of radiation.

It became obvious after the tragedy that no one had been called on to his brigade in an ordinary fire, nobody had protective anti-radiation clothing.

Vasily himself and his comrades were brought to the medical unit almost in their shirts. His pregnant wife, in spite of the entreaties of the doctors, tried to stay close to him, coming to her husband in the hospital.

She saw in what torment firemen die, how the meat exfoliates from the bone. A bone marrow transplant operation, in which Vasily’s sister became a donor, did not give any results; he died in Moscow on May 14, 1986, from acute radiation sickness.

V.Ignatenko is Hero of Ukraine with the award of the Golden Star Order, awarded with the honor of the President of Ukraine, Cross “For Courage”, but all this is posthumous.

His daughter, who was born after the accident, having received a high dose of radiation in the womb, did not live even a day.

We remember the heroes

Nikolai Vashchuk, the commander of the 6th independent HPV unit, Vladimir Tishura, the senior fire department, and firefighter Nikolai Titenok, and many others were among the liquidators of the Chernobyl fire.

They, like their fighting comrades, gave their lives in the name of saving the rest. They extinguished the fire, not assuming that they would not die of burns received due to flaming tongues of fire, not from suffocating smoke and soot, but from a crueler enemy – acute radiation sickness.

Its deceit is that, even after surviving in a fire, a person has practically no chance of salvation because radiation burns him out from the inside. Firefighters were in close proximity to the crater of the exploding nuclear reactor of the fourth Chernobyl power unit.

There were the clubs of radiation dust around, a river of radioactive water and steam. A coughing dose of the radiation exposure they received took their lives, leaving their descendants with the memory of them as real heroes of their time.

Vashchuk, Tishura, Titenok, Ignatenko, Pravik, Kibenok – these are the names of those firefighters to whom we all owe our lives. Their bodies, even after death, remained very radioactive, so firefighters were buried in sealed coffins and poured with concrete slabs.

A wild and painful death, a terrible funeral, all this, like a symbolic bell reminds the future generation of a tragedy that no one can ever forget.

The streets in the places where they were born or studied are named after them. Memorial steles, as a symbol of memory of those who gave their lives to save the planet from the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, are today in every Ukrainian city.

Human memory is a unique thing. On the one hand, it perpetuates events, and on the other, it is not always able to remember the lessons learned from technological disasters.

Chernobyl lessons should become a daily running line in the heads of those who are trying to build their interests at the expense of victims resting in concrete graves. The world nuclear industry, in terms of the use of the “peaceful atom” for economic purposes, is experiencing a renaissance today.

“What is the price of the question?”, how often those who cultivate this process around the world ask themselves. And have they all planned so that concrete graves in galvanized coffins no longer appear on our planet?