In the course of analyzing the recollections of eyewitnesses to the tragic events associated with the Chernobyl disaster, as well as in the process of communicating with people who are not rumored about the accident, it becomes clear that measures aimed at eliminating the consequences of the accident at the nuclear power plant were not definitely perceived by ordinary citizens.
On the one hand, eyewitness memoirs help to find out what was happening at and around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, not only at the time of the disaster, but also months after the accident. On the other hand, there is information in almost all memoirs that suggests the need for further research of various processes, especially since such a possibility exists.
It is not difficult to analyze the spectrum of activities of people who, working at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant during the liquidation of the consequences of the accident, share their experiences of their own “Chernobyl period” in their letters to relatives and friends. It is well known that people of various professions and specialties fell into Chernobyl to eliminate the consequences of the disaster.
Therefore, their professional activities and degree of responsibility left an imprint on the nature of the work they performed during the accident and after it. This, in turn, influenced the course of events in which they participated or observed, and, accordingly, the completeness and sincerity of how they subsequently covered it. In any case, the memories prompt you to think …
“… My husband and I remained at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant until May 5. I am a cook by profession, my husband is a farm worker. I prepared food for the liquidators, and my husband, along with other workers, loaded sand into parachutes, which were delivered by helicopters to the station to extinguish the fire. But not only cooks worked in our dining room. Bookkeepers, stenographers and accounting inspectors were sent to us for service. They handed out food, washed dishes. The husband went to work, and when the reactor was extinguished, he, like all our men, voluntarily went to the station and did everything that was ordered, ” Maria Loktionova, a cook, recalls.
The military men mobilized by the military commissariat were sent to the area on a rotational basis. The servicemen recall:
“… We were brought into the field and ordered to settle down. There were no accommodations or tents. We slept in the open air, in green fields, where young shoots of winter wheat had just begun to protrude from the ground. We lay down on the mattress, covered ourselves with a mattress – that’s all the conditions. But then we were fed well. We had a lot of qualitative food: meat, fish, condensed milk. The pace was crazy, we, soldiers, were actually ancillary to civilian builders. We have been there for three months, but no one has ever measured the radiation level for us. Then none of us knew how cheaply we sold our health”.
“… Upon arrival at the place of deployment, we heard strict rules: do not touch anything without need, don’t take anything into your hands, do NOT leave without permission and a command, because the step is left and right from the explored route and you’ll“ grab ”extra X-rays . There was a unit of conscripts who had just returned from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the military unit where we were stationed. Unlike those called up from the reserve and civilians, they worked in the zone with virtually no radiation control, no one kept records of radiation doses, they subsequently did not receive the status of liquidators. They treated them like “cannon fodder” – they brought them into the zone, ordered them to carry out a certain amount, and took them out”.
There was a lot of work during the liquidation of the consequences of the accident, therefore, each liquidator has his own special memories of his participation at each labor line.
The testimonies of the participants in those events say a lot, in particular, about how they worked not only in the 30 km zone, but also at the station itself, in the territory of maximum radiation pollution, in the places of deployment of the liquidators, in the settlements that remained empty as a result of evacuation residents, and so on.
The attitude towards the participants in the liquidation depended strongly on which category each of them belonged to, therefore – what work was performed, what site was located, and the degree of radiation pollution of the work site. A certain algorithm of actions was used in hazardous areas, directly at the station itself. In particular, during the decontamination of the third power unit, they acted as follows:
“… From the covered cars in which we were transported, we ran into the administrative building, dressed in overalls and a protective kit, woolen gloves were pulled on our hands and rubber gloves over them (later the woolen gloves ended, only rubber ones remained). Before going to the facility, we were given the scope of work and allotted time, usually 15 minutes, for which it was necessary to complete everything. The radiation dose was measured each time, and the so-called “accumulated doses” (one for several people) were given out at the time of the immediate amount of work. After graduation, the dosimeters measured the background of the clothes, sent us to the shower, then again went to the dosimetrist. If it “was off the scale” – we went again to a shower, dressing in clean clothes. Everyone who scored 10 x-rays had to write a report so that they could get a replacement. It was NOT allowed to dial over the prescribed dose (25 X-rays), they were not allowed to go home until the replacement arrived”.
One of the sites for soldiers of military service was work at the burial grounds:
“… We completely buried two villages. They were not very wealthy, but the people who lived in them, nevertheless, wept bitterly and with difficulty in their hearts watched the destruction of their homes. Many residents tried to break into their home and take at least something out of things. But we, those who guarded the villages affected by radiation, were inexorable – the irradiated things could cause even greater harm to the population”.
Law enforcement officers also worked at cemeteries. We find the following facts in some recollections:
“… I was the commander of the unit, and my task was to organize the repair of “prepared”units and units of equipment. Local police returned to work upon completion of the evacuation. Together with my colleagues, I was surrounded on the border of a 30-kilometer zone, in the village of Dityatki – there ended the zone of radiation pollution. Also, among the main tasks of law enforcement agencies at that time was to prevent offenses, thefts, looting, monitor drivers on the roads, who often tried to fight radiation in the most primitive way – with the help of alcohol”.
“… Villages were assigned to distributed groups of policemen. Each house had to be walked around every two weeks and checked whether everything was in place and everything was in order. Almost all abandoned villages began to cause pity a month after the Chernobyl accident, weeds that were above human growth grew around. In June, we found a grandfather in one of the villages, he did not want to leave his native land and, hiding, secretly continued to live there. I had to take him out of there several times. However, each time he miraculously returned to his house. Whether he is alive now – it is not known”.
“… There was another task before us, police officers – ensuring order, the fight against looting and abuse. There was plenty of wishing, taking advantage of another’s grief, to be enriched. They were not stopped by radiation, they were not afraid of radiation sickness. They destroyed and robbed. Just during my stay in the accident zone, residents were allowed to take things they left behind on special passes. People came to their apartments, loaded cars and tried everything to take everything they could. But each machine at the exit was checked by dosimetrists, and if the background of the loaded things did not exceed the established norm, they allowed the export. I must admit that among the background checkers there were cunning guys who demanded a considerable amount of money after stopping the car. If you don’t pay, we’ll set a high background and you won’t take anything out. If you pay, you may go. It is possible without measurement. And how many outrages were happening in the nearby villages. Ripe apples, grapes and other agricultural products – milk, eggs – nothing could be taken out of the radiation zone. But the “Chernobyl products” came to markets through various illegal means where people bought them without suspecting anything. Almost no one struggled with this”.
The understanding of the magnitude of the tragic consequences that arose as a result of the Chernobyl accident began to come consciously much later, when they started talking about the events in Chernobyl around the world as an environmental disaster.