He died at 53 ..., the story of one liquidator of the Chernobyl accident
He died at 53 …, the story of one liquidator of the Chernobyl accident

On August 1996, Vladimir Martynenko returned to his home. He was almost 53 years old, but outwardly he looked ten years older than his years. That day, he returned to Kiev from his small homeland, the small town of Vorozhba, Sumy region.

Vladimir was exhausted, but despite his poor health, he left Kiev for a couple of days to his hometown to streamline the grave of his father. Despite being tired, he found time after the road to play with his three-year-old grandson, to listen to how he was trying to read poetry, a little funny distorting words.

At some point, Vladimir felt that his tiredness was winning, so he went to rest. He could not wake up anymore. Relatives, who cried sobbing, gathered around him, and cried a grandson who could not understand what was happening around …

“… I was this kid,” the 26-year-old Mikhail Martynenko recalls. The last day of my grandfather’s life and his death were the first episode in my life that I remembered. August 12, 1996, another death happened.

Above the place where my grandfather died, his photo portrait hangs now, on the frame of which is attached a medal of the participant in the liquidation of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Vladimir Grigoryevich Martynenko was born on November 24, 1943. The Red Army recently liberated the city of Vorozhba from Nazi occupiers – after occupation devastation reigned. Grandfather’s mother, Natalia, went to the Baltic states and Western Ukraine during the famine of 1946-1947 to get food to bring something home and feed my family.

There was a fierce struggle in these territories between the fighters for the independence of their countries on the one hand and the Soviet government on the other. Fortunately, my great-grandmother by hook or by crook was able to avoid getting into the millstone of that “war after the war” and survived, and was able to help her family survive … Great-grandmother Natalia survived her son for 10 years and died at the age of 94…

School and training for a signalman were waiting for Vladimir. After that, he served for three years in the army at the reserve command post of the Kiev Military District. It was the second half of the 60s, the era of the Cold War and international crises. After the army, work began in the Kiev regional communications department.

The Chernobyl disaster changed his life and the life of his family. Vladimir Martynenko, who was then 42 years old, was summoned to the radiation damage zone almost immediately after the Chernobyl accident. His grandfather did not speak much about where he was and what he did. He only talked about the fact that he was responsible for communication in the disaster zone, but did not go into details.

Only his “Chernobyl archive with documents” remained from the memoirs, which confirmed his participation in the aftermath of the accident.

If Pripyat became a “dead city” from April 27, 1986, then the city of Chernobyl, even despite its proximity to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (18 km) and radiation pollution, in fact, became the main place for the deployment of various headquarters and residence of the liquidators. Today, the city of Chernobyl is the place where the controls of the Exclusion Zone are located. In Chernobyl during the liquidation of the consequences of the accident most of the time, was Vladimir Martynenko.

“Sloppiness” or some kind of evil intent?

His record card for radiation doses is noteworthy. There are no indicators for the first days of the disaster, although his grandfather arrived in the area on April 30, 1986.

In principle, there is no “normal” or “acceptable” radiation standard – all this is a myth. Any “excess” exposure is a deviation from the norm. But even those first figures received in mid-May 1986 are really impressive, they are causing goose bumps.

Radiation dose was counted at night in no way, after all why, radiation does not fall asleep at night. I don’t even know what is more here: the general “sloppiness” or some kind of evil intent of the authorities?

The only document by which it is possible to reconstruct the activities of the grandfather in the exclusion zone is his report on a business trip on November 4-12, 1986, and related documents. What happened in late April-May 1986 can only be imagined.

Most likely, it was a troublesome and risky job of establishing and maintaining communication in an environment where few people imagined what to do to cope with the consequences of atomic experiments. Uninterrupted communication was one of the key conditions for ensuring and organizing the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

In early November 1986, Vladimir Martynenko left for Chernobyl once again, as the head of a group of communication specialists. His business trip was supposed to last until November 17. For a period of more than a week, a group of specialists led by my grandfather ensured all telephone conversations of the Government Commission on the liquidation of the Chernobyl disaster.

Signalmen laid trenches and communication cables in the villages of Lelev, Rudnya-Veresnya, Zeleniy Mys, Tolstoy Les, as well as in the city of Chernobyl, during their monotonous and exhausting work in the exclusion zone

Cardiovascular disease was the only diagnosis for all

After the end of his grandfather’s business trips to the Exclusion Zone, he began to quickly turn into a disabled person from an almost healthy middle-aged man. A number of medical documents confirm this, in particular, the cardiovascular disease traditionally diagnosed for all Chernobyl victims is an epigraph for each medical book of Chernobyl victims.

In addition, radiation cataracts of the left eye were discovered. It is one of the typical manifestations in a person who received large doses of radiation. A heart attack happened one after another, but only in 1990, Vladimir Martynenko was assigned the status of a participant in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.

“An accident” … A cynical word for a deadly tragedy that subsequently claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

In 1993, Vladimir Martynenko was given the 2nd disability group. Despite his poor health, his grandfather continued to work, moreover, he began to seriously become interested in history during Perestroika and in the early years of independent Ukraine.

In the late 80s – early 90s of the last century, historical works, various kinds of memories that concerned the “white spots in history” began to be published in hundreds of thousands of copies. Vladimir Martynenko began to buy these books en masse and reread it eagerly. Even now, the books he bought in our family library are about 15%.

Topics that he was interested in: the history of the 1917 revolution and the war for the independence of Ukraine in 1917-1921, the history of Stalinism and Stalinist repressions. A little less was the history of World War II and the general history of Ukraine … the books that my grandfather bought influenced my decision to become a historian …

On August 12, 1996, Vladimir Martynenko died; he was incomplete 53 years old. If not for the Chernobyl disaster, obviously, he would have lived longer.

I do not know if he had a choice to go or not to go to the Zone. My grandfather belonged to the category of responsible people who, even if there was an opportunity not to go to this dangerous place, would still go, even if the cost of this was his health and life.

I was offered several times to go on an excursion to the Exclusion Zone, but I always refused, not because of the risk of exposure, it is insignificant now, if you do not go too far. And not because it costs $200. Probably because if for many people who go there on an excursion the Zone is an object of tourist attraction, then for me it is a place of memory, at the mention of which irrational fear arises somewhere on a subconscious level.