Lack of information disturbed: memories of the liquidator of the Chernobyl accident
Lack of information disturbed: memories of the liquidator of the Chernobyl accident

Bogdan Serdyuk recalls the events of May-July 1986:

“… In the evening of May 30, they came with a summons and told me to come to the point by 11 p.m. Well, then everything turned around according to the script. They explained that the team that is being recruited is preparing to participate in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. Nobody really said anything what exactly will be, they say: “You will find out on the spot, everything will be as it should be.”

… They gathered almost a whole division In the forest near the Kalaidins, in the Poltava region. At that time, I held the position of deputy commander for the political part of the battalion, there were 450 people under the command — the battalion in full force. We will say directly: they fooled us, we ourselves did not know how and what to do. On the first day, we were kept in full readiness from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m.! And then there was only the command: “By car!” – and let’s go. We were driving non-stop at a speed of 40 km / hour in the direction of Kiev.

They didn’t let into Kiev itself, bypassing Boryspil, stopped at Troieschina, which was still under construction. We stood there for quite some time, until about 12 a.m., and then slowly moved on. It was interesting that a lot of elderly women were on the way during the movement of the column through Kiev, they stood and cried: “Where are you going, sons?”

We drove into Chernobyl itself around 2 a.m. Some personnel were sent further in order to pitch tents for the camp – not just tents, but tents with the base, as it should be, dug into the ground. We stood there literally before dinner, again, no one was sleeping, again the command: “By car!” – and we were transferred 90 km further. It was already Belarusian territory, under the town of Bragin. The place was found with a radiation level of about seven milli roentgen per hour. The deeper we were going into the forest, the higher the radiation was.

They immediately warned everyone: “Do not drink water! This is above all! Do not eat mushrooms! You can fish for entertainment, but immediately let it go. If someone does not believe, measure radiation.” We caught, measured and let it go.

All the time, from the first day, the task was to build a barbed fence around 25-30 km of the exclusion zone. A plan was drawn up, surveyors provided everything, showed where and how many hedges should be built.

Oddly enough, even the border guards arrived, who instructed us how to pull the barbed wire so that it was absolutely in accordance with all the rules. 16 rows of barbed wire, the wire is not under high voltage, but so that a signal appears on the control panel. The columns began to be set, the border guards arrived again: “You don`t set correctly, dig it up. You need to do like this.”

There is a new school in the village, but there are no people, only storks…

So we, trained border guards, pulled a barbed wire along the entire zone. You enter the village, and there a new school is built, everything is new, but only pigs, geese, hens are walking, but there are no people, no people at all … Only storks were there… Everyone was warned, including commanders that bear full responsibility for so that the entire composition entrusted to them was necessarily in respirators. At that time, there was still quite a lot of iodine in the air.

Our respirators turned from white to pink after two or three days, as if they were rinsed in potassium permanganate. I saw one policeman who had a respirator like the flag of the Soviet Union – almost red. We told him: “Well, leave it!” But he answered: “They don’t give us a second.”

These were the safety regulations, at least for the first time. As they say, it was tight even with such elementary things. It happened to me that the political officer sometimes took away respirators in the regiment, and then, already in the division. Sometimes they brought them in whole bags or crates, distributed them, and the old ones were for recycling, but no one threw them away, no one burned anything. They surrendered and took it away.

Everyone thought that the sooner we did our work, the faster we would be allowed to go home. The wire was built somewhere in a month, but no one was going to let us go.

Further, from my point of view, they did useless things – decontamination of the territory, that is, they removed the soil layer and took it out. It is clear that a new layer of soil became so radioactive after two days. Grandmothers who lived behind a thorn cut raspberries, grapes, and they swore very much. Then we washed off the roof. Well, we have washed, and water flows down to the ground and again the earth absorbs radiation.

They only realized the inefficiency of this work in August. Since then, we have not dealt with these matters. Somewhere in the beginning of July, the barbed wire from our side was completely built. Mainly the Luben guys kept the brand, only our battalion was slightly diluted with Poltava residents and Mirgorod residents. They were normal, good and funny guys… They honestly performed their duty – they did what they were told.

No one saw radiation in the eyes, but everyone was afraid

We have already heard about the “death alive”, and the predisposition in the future to cancer, and so on. At first, it was said that it is not advisable to get more than 250 millientgen. But how to protect yourself when the radiation flew wherever it wanted – try to keep an eye on it every turn. When we worked directly at the nuclear power plant, I received in one day, according to my calculations, somewhere around four X-rays. My head hurt, but no pills stopped the pain.

Each of us has had plenty of such attacks for all the time we have served, many complained. Each time after work, those responsible for the personnel recorded who did what, where they were, what dose of radiation they received. Over time, we ourselves began to understand that none of us invested in the norm, but in the end, they didn’t set anyone above 24.95. Many ruined their health there. So it goes…

There were days when we had no work at all. Then the task was as follows: at the time of arrival of the authorities, the camp should be empty. Therefore, we were sent to the forest, where we had to go and sit there. Well, why were so many people pickled? There were no mobile phones; there was only a radio station at the battalion. But it was impossible to say by it who you are, what and where you are … Direct text was forbidden. “The enemy can listen to you,” they said right away, right there. “Do not disclose information.” Everything was tapped and forbidden, not missed …

Rumors and speculation…

Lack of information disturbed most of all. It was the end of June, some kind of clap occurred in the Chernobyl region – we only heard echoes, but we could see the station itself. Some wisp, either smoke or dust, rose into the sky – a gray cloud was formed … This cloud pulled past our camp. Where was it drawn to? God knows, but probably on Belarusian territory. And there were several such claps.

We had to be at the station itself. The impression that you are a small ant, and hit something big – huge boxes, wires that came from the engine rooms, about the thickness of a human foot.

Personally, I was not on the roof of the power units. And the people entrusted to me were with their commanders. I saw radio-controlled devices that went inside the reactor itself like a tank without a tower. A huge bucket is ahead that helped to clean up graphite. Television cameras were controlled by radio.

And people worked, not just cars. There was an old MAZ – the glass was smashed, there was another cabin inside the cabin, welded from metal, it looks like a waffle cake. Viewing glass for the driver was in the form of a tiny narrow crack.

The guys who serviced these machines worked two at a time and changed very often. They worked together for about a week, then they were taken out. Anyway, almost everyone received more than 25 x-rays.

There were such daredevils who tried both apples from local orchards and drank local water, although they brought it to us with special machines from very deep wells. Our devices did not show anything. Water, more or less, was clean. In addition, auto shops worked, they brought even mineral water.

Someone says that they gave out red wine — that’s not true. Perhaps, someone was given something in the early days. We didn’t have that. The cases were different: interesting and sad. It was somehow wild to see that whole herds of pigs were walking in the forest – not wild, but domestic, the wire was “given a shit about”. They scattered as much as they could.

That’s how we live

The forest received a lot of radiation – it really was yellow. Special areas in the forest were identified under the so-called storage facilities, where they utilized used equipment, and then covered it with earth.

There were unreasonable people who wanted to take something for themselves from such burial grounds. It`s hard to say what they were thinking about. Radiation does not smell, it is not visible, it is not felt, but the body accumulates, accumulates, accumulates, and the outcome is obvious.

But there is another wall of shame. We put a barbed wire. Only after a short time, cars began to ride through it. Why, one wonders, did we kill people? Why didn’t anyone think that a road would be needed there to take something out?

They say that the fences we built were never repaired, only people were killed. Who has a stronger body, those survived, and some were gone before the new year. There was no human help to the liquidators, so it wasn’t. The only thing was that you could retire 10 years earlier. That`s how live those who survived… “