Mikhail Omelchenko comes from Ivashkovka, Gorodnyanskiy district in Chernihiv region. He graduated from the Agricultural Academy. Then, he finished the military department. In 1981, he received the rank of lieutenant. He dreamed of the future. He built a solid house in his homeland, in which, as planned, his family would live. However, three years later, in 1984, when he got married, he got a job assignment in Butovtsy, in the Poltava region.
They began to build a house in Butovtsy with their young wife Valentina. The family had already completed the repair work. However, Mikhail was again redirected to Drozdovitsa, where he had to work as a secretary of the party organization. Life began to improve, everything went on as usual. However, there was an accident in Chernobyl in April 1986. Mikhail Omelchenko received a summons from the military registration and enlistment office. From October 9 to December 2, together with other guys, Mikhail worked in Chernobyl to eliminate the consequences of the accident. By that time, he had already had the rank of senior lieutenant.
Memories of Mikhail Ivanovich Omelchenko, the liquidator of the Chernobyl accident:
“… We had a separate battalion of material support. It was a part of the 25th Moscow brigade. I served as the company’s political officer. I made 28 trips to the third contamination zone. The scorching heat of the exploded reactor was behind me, through the wall. I also had to be in Pripyat. We cleaned the balconies from household items soaked through with radiation. We were lifted to a certain floor using a crane with a “trough”. Having risen, we threw everything down from the balconies, not entering the apartments.”
Our brigade loaded things onto cars downstairs and took to the burial ground. All the soldiers and the command lived in a 30-kilometer zone from the accident site, in the Ivankovsky district. The soldiers lived in tents for 100 people. And the officers lived in modules similar to Finnish houses, only large. The liquidators ate well, sometimes even with red fish and red caviar. We changed clothes every day because it was impossible to return from the zone in the infected one.
Elimination of the Chernobyl accident: buckets, mops, Lotus powder and water
I carried out the first ten trips directly to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as a head of the machine. The driver and I arrived in a car, covered with a centimeter thick lead. We loaded graphite. Then, we took it to the burial ground, located in a ten-kilometer zone from Chernobyl, in the village of Kulikovo. Thus, our brigade cleaned the territory for the construction of the future sarcophagus.
A little later, I had to work with a mop in my hands. We were given buckets, mops, Lotus powder and water. A group with a dosimeter drove up to the premises of the station. And we went inside and measured the radiation level with a dosimeter. For example, it was 75 roentgens in one corner of the room, and 20 in the other. We could only work for one or one and a half minutes, no more.
During this time, we managed to dilute the powder and rub the walls with mops ten times. It took two buckets of soapy water. Radiation decreased by half after such cleaning. We washed each room ten times. Then, the group returned to the administrative complex. We washed and changed our clothes here. After that, we came back to a 30-kilometer zone. We could only make one trip to the contamination zone per day.
Few knew the truth about radiation then. Of course, some rumors spread among the liquidators. However, it was impossible to understand the full depth of the tragedy. There was complete silence at the official level, but among us… Well, you never know who is inventing something for themselves. Therefore, the guys did not “sound the alarm”, receiving protective materials that did not protect at all.
Could it be one hundred percent to protect those who gazed death in the eye?
We were not given gas masks, only masks that we called “petals”. Well, from what could they protect? I started having a suffocating cough and terrible diarrhea after the first two trips to the territory of the third reactor. Obviously, I inhaled enough radiation evaporation. I was sent to the medical unit, where I lay down for four days while the condition stabilized. I think that the body simply adapted, got used to it, because there was no such reaction on the next trips. However, this did not mean that the radiation disappeared somewhere.
To put a piece of graphite from the ChNPP under a mother`s-in-law pillow
It did not happen without curious cases at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. I remember once a dosimetrist came into our tent to measure the level of radiation. The dosimeter showed such a background of radiation near one of the beds that the device squeaked shrilly and disgustingly. It turned out that the soldier took out a small piece of graphite from the zone and hid it. He said that he would take it home and put his mother-in-law under the pillow. Oh, and we laughed then…
Prohibitions, prohibitions, prohibitions …
I remember that the Japanese sent us robots that had to drop infected objects from the roof of the power unit. The roof contained the largest amount of radiation, over 500 roentgens. But the Japanese technology broke down. The robots could not withstand the tension. Instead, they were looking for volunteers who would climb onto the roof. And they found such people. They were young men under the age of 25, apparently, only after serving in the army. So, here they are, in suits protected by lead. They threw everything they could from the roof. The documents wrote that they received 25 X-rays. This is the maximum amount of radiation that could be indicated in the documents.
The government immediately paid a thousand rubles each of them and sent home, as it turned out later to die. We found out later that those guys passed away in a month. Did they realize that they were consenting to their own death? Probably not. None of us knew what terrible power radiation had. It was invisible. If you look around, you will see the buildings are intact, intact, only a pungent smell of iodine around.
Many special services were involved in eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Nothing can be taken out of the zone, nothing can be brought in. This was especially true for cameras that could capture something unnecessary. The territory of the station with all the utility blocks, with coolers was large. There was enough work.
After the liquidation of the accident, Mikhail Ivanovich served in Moscow, then in Chekhov. I had to be a political commander and work as a chief engineer at a tank farm. When the enterprise was closed, he retired. Today, years after the tragedy in Chernobyl, Mikhail Ivanovich does not lose heart. Tossing his own grandson in his arms, he says that the child is the only thing that heals body and soul, gives life inspiration. For the sake of his life and millions of people like him, he survived in Chernobyl in 198. He says that he did everything so that the radiation flame did not touch those who were born after the disaster.