Two pills for fear: on the roof of the 4th power unit of the ChNPP
Two pills for fear: on the roof of the 4th power unit of the ChNPP

The number of soldiers who in the summer and autumn of 1986, visited the roof of the 4th reactor of the ChNPP is decreasing every year. Most of them died young. Those who are fortunate to survive don’t consider such a life to be lucky. There is practically no place left on their bodies, which hasn’t been affected by radiation exposure. Their life is like the series of senseless events around doctors, pharmacies and hospitals. But everyone knows the outcome in advance. The following are some recollections of a person whose life was divided into BEFORE and AFTER by the 4-th reactor.

From the memoirs of Andrey Kulish, the Colonel and a veteran of the Armed Forces.

“… One gloomy September morning in 1986, three motorized rifle companies lined up with the sign “P” near the central entrance to the administrative building of the ChNPP. The soldiers shuffled their feet awkwardly, listening to the “sermon” of an operational headquarters officer. His shoulder straps weren’t visible under the trendy white “station” outfit with a doctor’s cap. So that all the fighters could hear clearly, he provocatively threw his respirator around his neck.

Then, we heard that today we will go “to the roof”. Some civilians with large sanitary bags were walking furtively behind us. They looked for company commanders, called them aside and gave 3-4 medical bottles. When it came to me, I received the same pharmacy bottles and read the typographic sticker: Bemitil.

The physician rattled off: “Distribute to the soldiers. It’s protocol! Take at once, two pills per person, wash it down with water.” I returned to duty. At that very moment, a soldier’s hand advanced from my back. I gave a couple of pills into a handful. The blond “partisan” threw them into his mouth and washed down from a flask. A minute later, he indignantly declared: “Hey, company commander, these pills are bullshit! It’d be better if they poured vodka.”

REFERENCE: Bemitil increases the body’s resistance to stress. It accelerates the body’s recovery after exposure to extreme factors such as stress or physical exertion. It may be prescribed to improve the adaptation of the body to the effects of extreme factors. So, this is indicated for improving performance, including in conditions of high physical and emotional stress. Bemitil doesn’t contain a narcotic component and is a neuropsychiatric stimulant. It has no radiation-protective properties.

A minute to survive

It was rather hot after the morning rain. But it was still wet on the roof of the station. The roof was almost knee-deep covered with a layer of debris between the third and fourth reactors. Most of the debris was nearby the deep ruins of the exploded reactor. Pieces of concrete with reinforcement, soot, broken charred bricks, a lot of different iron, torn and twisted pipes were lying around. But the most terrible thing hid imperceptibly. They are pieces of graphite and fuel rods torn to shreds.

Thin zirconium tubes-fuel elements and heat-emitting elements protruded in the places of rupture of these thick pipes of the packages. Black and brightly shiny uranium tablets were visible from their curved, torn ends. Some even thought: why not take a uranium tablet as a souvenir? Moreover, there were pieces of absorbing graphite rods, burnt and dirty silver, among the “nuclear” debris. They had the correct cubic shape. But the explosion cracked and broke them. The rods were excessively “off scale” by ionizing radiation, because they flew out from the very heart of the reactor.

It was rather difficult to recognize graphite immediately in piles of such rubbish. However, no one was looking for it on purpose. “Bio-robots” had to shovel everything in a row. You had to scoop up the debris on a shovel and run to the edge of the roof. You needed to throw it from a height to the ground. Some soldiers worked in pairs and carried the radioactive rubbish out on a stretcher. Such a pair had to load the stretcher within a minute and make a “walk” to the edge of the roof. That’s why they didn’t walk slowly on the surface of the roof, but ran quickly.

Bulldozers, sheathed with thick lead, shoveled the radioactive debris on the ground under the walls. After that, leaded dump trucks carried the hellish cargo to the storage of nuclear waste. Also, “bio-robots” assisted bulldozers. They were soldiers from ground groups. To be honest, there was nothing unusual or awful on the roof. We didn’t feel it then… Some naively thought that they got this courage from “two pills for fear”, taken before the start of the assignment.

They returned from hell

After completing a minute, the shift returned under the roof. The next group of volunteers was already changing clothes in the large dim space of the corridor. They hummed dully through respirators, asking the experienced ones: “Well, what’s there? How is it there? Creepy?” Those, in turn, waved their heads approvingly, demonstrating that all organs were normal. After some time, everyone could see the changes in his own body. Guys had a headache, a sore throat and a nasty metallic taste in the mouth.

On the same night, some “bio-robots” felt sick in the location of the regiment. This is how clear signs of overexposure appeared. Such people were loaded at night on a stretcher in “nurse cars” or GAZ-66, taken to the airfield “Cup-1” on the outskirts of Chernobyl. From time to time, Mi-8 helicopters took off from there. They headed for Kiev. I heard that the overwhelming majority of those who left then died from a month to half a year.

Stronger ones held on. They couldn’t sleep at night because the body ached in the first three days. Gloomy men silently divided their specific “drug” in dark tents. This was a local moonshine into aluminum mugs. Everyone listened to their comrades anxiously: how are they? Everyone knew they had returned from hell. But at that time, no one suspected how to live with this further.

As it became known later, alcohol had no anti-radiation properties. Red wine, which the doctors recommended to us, didn’t have such properties too. Those two “magic pills” taken before going to the roof of the 4th power unit were probably “a pill for show”. They didn’t have any effect on us, except that my tooth stopped hurting. In the future, there were no teeth left. They crumbled at a young age.

Life was divided into BEFORE and AFTER almost for everyone who visited the roof of the 4-th unit in the summer of 1986. For some, this happened almost instantly and almost always tragically, while others have to suffer. Why? I ask myself… Probably to tell the truth about Chernobyl to those who believe that “two magic pills” will save them someday.