Participants in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident are honored on the day that the construction of the sarcophagus over the destroyed fourth Chernobyl power unit is completed, on December 14. 33 years have passed since the day of the tragedy, and the pain that the country caused to the disaster does not abate over the years.
Thousands of ruined and broken lives, pipe dreams and plans, radiation contamination of the environment and terrible diseases – these are the consequences of that disaster. The Chernobyl disaster is one of the most tragic pages in the history of Ukraine of the twentieth century.
It is the largest man-made accident in the world, the echo of which humanity will experience more than one century. The study of issues related to the Chernobyl accident and the elimination of its consequences, as well as an analysis of what happened in 1986 in the context of the impact of tragic events on the future of humanity, is certainly a very important issue that requires careful study.
For a long time, history has been considered a science of society, which in turn influenced the study of certain historical topics, including the themes of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. At the same time, in the West, history is first and foremost the science of man.
Therefore, preserving the memory of each person, the recollections of eyewitnesses of various historical events, including eyewitnesses of the Chernobyl accident and liquidating its consequences, is becoming increasingly relevant. Such memories act as the main historical sources – not fictional, not imposed by someone from above.
Memories are facts that enable everyone to form their personal attitude to a particular historical event. Until recently, historical research and the study of the memories of the liquidators of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident have been carried out in Ukraine in limited numbers. Time has determined the relevance of this issue.
Alexei Antsiferov, the liquidator of the Chernobyl accident, reports.
Who will refuse an apartment?
“… The first year after the explosion of the fourth power unit was the hardest. I ended up in the Chernobyl zone when I was 29 — I worked as a traffic police inspector on roads in the exclusion zone. For which, subsequently, I paid with his health. Many of the guys I had to work with have long been dead. There are a lot of photographs of that time in my home archive.
And the memories are those that make my hair curl and cause goosebumps. In 1986, I worked as an inspector of the road patrol service in Ternopol. A month after the Chernobyl explosion, I was sent to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where I served for exactly a year. My colleagues and I patrolled the Chernobyl exclusion zone as part of a separate special battalion of the traffic police. By the way, they tried to take mainly those who already had children to eliminate the accident.
They tried not to send young boys, except conscript soldiers. I already had two children, moreover, we were promised that everyone would be provided with apartments after the completion of the emergency response. Who will refuse an apartment? They gathered us together in a red corner, handed out paper and pens, told how to write a report, and the next day we went to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as the so-called “volunteers”.
Initially, we were placed in the village of Glebovka, Dymer district, at a summer recreation center. We were about 120 people, lived in rooms of 10-12 people, had our own dining room, and were fed very well. We had to have arrived in the Chernobyl zone every morning by 8.00. There we were placed at the posts, starting from the entrance to the 30-kilometer zone. Also, checkpoints were at all major intersections that led along the route to the nuclear power plant.
Traffic police had to monitor road safety, which was very saturated in the area of the exclusion zone. Cars were driven in a continuous stream, in one and the other side. Some drove out of Chernobyl, others drove in – they drove labor, conscripts, military, drove cars with building materials, drove concrete and mixers to knead it.
We worked seven days a week, monitored traffic, carried out emergency evacuation of people if the car broke down on the road. There were a lot of accidents. Later, in September, when the concrete sarcophagus was built, we collected radioactive equipment and transported it to the burial grounds. We came to the garage, started the car, clung to the cables …
When Europe began to fill with radioactive ash, everyone stirred up
We understood that all forces were devoted to the liquidation of the accident. Of course, there was talk that “at first they wanted to hide what happened”. But after Europe began to fill with radioactive ash – everyone stirred up. In the world, such a catastrophe occurred for the first time – everyone just talked about the long-term effects of radiation on humans. We knew one thing: 500 x-ray is a lethal dose for humans.
As for 50 x-rays, they said that it was safe. We fastened radiation stores on clothes. But we did not know how much radiation we received. After the end of the shift, we handed over these drives to the laboratory and there the radiologists determined everything, without our presence.
Then, we began to issue individual military dosimeters. But they were weak, up to a maximum of 50 x-rays. As soon as we got into the zone, these devices were off-scale, all of them could be simply thrown away on the spot.
First, we read the data from the drive, and then they said: “Guys, if this is all counted, then you have to write off it for a long time, because you have already gone through all the rules. And if you want to get what you were promised, then work silently while you can.” Someone had to work, we thought, but there weren’t enough people. We were given only a gauze mask from the means of protection, and when we wanted to smoke, we removed it.
Everyone began to get sick massively within two months. People began to become deaf, teeth crumbled, the voice disappeared or changed, the nails got off – strontium displaced calcium from the bones, the entire skeletal system began to blur. Of the 120 arrivals, 20 healthy were left in the battalion. We continued to work because we wanted housing.
However, we worked for a year and nobody gave us anything. I got an apartment after I retired on disability in 1999. I was lucky, initially the body was strong, so it was easier to tolerate radiation. By the way, my voice also disappeared, my ligaments and lymph nodes swelled, and my head hurt almost constantly.
The experience affected subsequently
Today, I am a disabled person of the second group, I have a lot of diseases. After a year of service in the Chernobyl zone, I wanted to return to work in Ternopol, but there was no longer any place. I was offered Bila Tserkva, they promised an apartment there. I had to go there. I lived in a dormitory, working as a district police officer, but my family stayed in Ternopol.
I returned home three years later, in 1991, I worked as a district police officer in the regional police department, and then as a senior inspector for the protection of critical missions in the internal affairs department. After that, my health problems began, and I underwent surgery on the spine. Later, I had two more operations.
Now, I often recall the Chernobyl zone – to what extent there were rich places, beautiful nature, a lot of fish in the rivers, berries, mushrooms in the forests. We regularly went to rest for the weekend in the direction of Pripyat Kiev.
After the Chernobyl explosion, the birds disappeared in the forest, the silence became dead. People were evacuated, but cats and dogs remained in closed apartments. While patrolling the city, we passed such houses or apartments, saw cats rushing at the windows. It was necessary to break the glass with stones to let the animals out, but this hardly saved them from imminent death.
People could be understood
There were many looters – the whole shops were robbed in the villages. They usually took vodka and canned food. Some tried to steal cars, spare parts, but we did not allow this — all the equipment was contaminated with radiation. People tried to take out their things, household appliances, televisions, but all these things were emitting radiation.
We had to take a crowbar and break a lot — the cry was terrible. I remember one man carrying a bag of muskrat skins. And they all were emitting radiation, I doused them with gasoline and burned, although this could not be done. If someone put on such a hat, “I would punch him.” You could understand people – this is a lot of money, because you could buy 2 cars for skins at that time.
In the 10-kilometer zone, all roads were constantly watered with a decontamination solution. In hotel places, road sections were poured with a special liquid substance, allowed to solidify, and then after 3-4 days the resulting film was rolled up and dumped into large pits, which were subsequently poured with concrete.
I witnessed a helicopter crash from which photos and videos were taken of the most dangerous area – directly the crater of the fourth power unit, which was formed during the explosion of the reactor. The crash occurred on October 2, 1986. The helicopter screwed on the cables of the crane, which was involved in the construction of the sarcophagus — the whole crew died.
Animals such as foxes, deer, moose and wolves, began to return to the zone only closer to autumn. Until that time, there were no animals at all. Only in some places there were shabby feral dogs, a thin cow was seldom come across. The first crows appeared in November, although they say that they carry radiation. And storks arrived in the spring of next year.
Prior to this, not a single bird chirped, not a single wild beast ran for the whole summer of 1986. There was a bunch of mushrooms in the forest. I could collect two bags of porcini mushrooms in 20 minutes. We were afraid to eat them, but really wanted to. We boiled them three times. Once the general came. He saw what we were eating, stamped all the mushrooms with his feet, but we washed, boiled, fried and ate… ”
The bottom line remains the conclusion: by recording, studying, analyzing the eyewitnesses’ memories of the events related to the liquidation of the Chernobyl accident, it becomes possible to see from a new angle all the heroism and tragedy of the Soviet people who took part in the liquidation of the consequences of the accident.