The Chernobyl NPP: evacuation through the eyes of eyewitnesses
The Chernobyl NPP: evacuation through the eyes of eyewitnesses

The problems of the Chernobyl tragedy in 1986, the study of its causes and consequences for society, remains relevant today.

There are individual events in this material that occurred in the process of eliminating the consequences of the accident, through the prism of memories that were preserved in the oral heritage of the inhabitants of Ukraine three decades after the disaster.

One of the memoirs describes in more detail the conditions under which the liquidators had to work:

“… We had to work in special protective overalls, but radiation still did its job. Hoarse voices and red faces – all the liquidators have already acquired such signs on the third day of work. Radioactive particles settled on the skin and vocal cords, causing burns. We stayed for the night outside the zone, on the river bank, at first, we prepared food ourselves from the products and water that we brought from the house. The doctor advised us to drink alcohol in small doses, which at least somehow protected from radiation”.

Neither then, in the tragic year of 1986, nor now, after more than 30 years, there is no doubt that it was thanks to the dedicated work of people who were at the forefront due to various circumstances, primarily professional duty, the most important events were carried out to overcome the consequences of the accident.

For many, they cost undermined health or even life. Moreover, now, decades after the accident, according to the results of numerous studies, it is possible to adequately realize not only negative consequences, but also the heroic work of the liquidators. Risks were minimized thanks to their work, and even greater mistakes and large-scale complications from this disaster were not made.

The liquidators recall: “… It is hard to imagine what could have happened if we had not put out the fire, not pumped out water from under the reactor, had not buried radioactive waste, and much more. Today there would not be a single healthy person, either in Europe or in Asia”.

Tens of thousands of people fulfilled their duty, eliminating the consequences of a planetary catastrophe. Among them are fighters of the first front line – firemen. The mean words of the reports “localized”, “liquidated”, “stopped” say almost nothing. The young guys were then 22-24 years old, they were full of strength and hope, had the right to happiness and love.

More than 6,000 Ukrainian firefighters passed through the hell of Chernobyl. Many of them have already gone into eternity. 12 people were awarded the high title of Hero of the Soviet Union for the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, of which eight were firefighters who were awarded this award posthumously.

The police officers at the forefront

The lion’s share belongs to the police among the many recollections of eyewitnesses to the emergency response and evacuation of residents, both local and arrived immediately after the accident from different regions of Ukraine.

One of the main tasks that they performed was the work of evacuating the population. When transporting people from the disaster zone, with the purpose of them, as was initially supposed to be temporary resettlement, huge human reserves and material resources were used. Evacuation, no doubt, was large-scale and resembled “a huge migration of peoples.”

Everyone who was involved in it has his own memories and his own life experiences of habitation and living through tragedy. Local residents stood on one side of the evacuation process, representatives of numerous state bodies stood on the other, most of them were police officers:

“… We had to reassure everyone and inspire hope that they would return to their homes in three to four days. Having received a car with a trailer for loading property, and a bus for people, we went home and helped the elderly, persuaded them to go, because many of them categorically did not want to leave. ”

Whenever possible, residents of the contaminated area independently tried to take care of the safety of their children. Most residents of the Chernobyl region took their children and left for relatives. A lot of equipment and, accordingly, drivers were used to transport people:

From the memories of the bus drivers: “… Our primary tasks were the evacuation of the victims of the accident and the transportation of goods. I noticed columns of buses along the way. Unfortunately, in some cases, the equipment was not enough, for example, during the evacuation of more than five hundred children from the village of Novosepelichi. They promised to send people transport vehicles for evacuation, but the promised buses for the removal of residents did not arrive, then Maria Buzarova, who was a resident of the village, began to act independently without wasting time. “Collected” and “caught” buses and big cars with booths in which you could transport teenagers to a safe place. However, there were many children, and all, alas, did NOT fit. At the same time, we agreed to let our residents produce their own cars, but on the condition that each transport owner should have 3-4 children. Therefore, a column of about 400 m was created. Having traveled 10-15 kilometers, Maria Buzarova checked the column – is everything normal with the kids. But when we arrived at the appointed place where the children were to wait and meet, there was nobody there, and no one knew about it. Therefore, we, the drivers, had to deal with their resettlement ourselves”.

Evacuation: who needs us?

On Sunday, April 28, buses began to take out the remaining residents of Pripyat. Mainly experiences of the following content are contained in the memoirs of the evacuated population: about the evacuation process, about temporary resettlement, about the development of a new place of residence, about the experiences associated with the former small Motherland:

“I was especially worried and confused when the evacuation was announced. What to do? What to bring with you? Where to go? Who is waiting for us there? How long? I, along with many other people, were evacuated from Chernobyl on May 5, 1986. We were told that the evacuation was temporary, for several days, but it turned out for life. All residents of our city of Chernobyl were first evacuated to the village Borodyanka. Everything happened as in some terrible dream. We were placed on people. We ate then mainly in the Borodyanskaya canteen. We had to stand in long lines for dinner. We all gradually got used to the fact that for society we became a kind of new group of the Ukrainian community called “Chernobyl people”. It was a shame, some even turned away, some felt sorry, warmed up in every way, but the main thing – it’s not clear what will happen to us next? ” We read this information in some letters.

Another negative perception of the Chernobyl accident, which is often found in eyewitness accounts, is the spread of the spectrum of radiation pollution. No one really spoke to people about the extent of what happened, nor about the consequences. The main thing for the party leadership then was to provide temporary shelter to the migrants. The first thing that catches your eye is the huge amount of housing that residents evacuated from the disaster area received. How this happened can be found in the following plot:

“… We were summoned to the city committee of the party, where the secretary of the city committee and the chairman of the district executive committee informed us of the tragedy at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. A command was given to business executives and chairmen of village councils – to prepare houses for the reception of immigrants. We had a 24-apartment building ready for delivery. It was all given to settlers for habitation”. It was recalled by Konstantin Loboda, the former head of one of the village councils of the Borispol district of the Kiev region. After a while, many began to realize that the new homes given to the settlers would remain with them forever. And the chance to get housing in the Soviet state was leveled for a huge number of ordinary Ukrainians”.