April 26, 1986, a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant located in Ukraine. About 250,000 people were evacuated from the nearby town of Pripyat and nearby villages. Polluted clouds spread far north, but the most affected areas were Ukraine and Belarus. Even in northern Sweden, increased levels of radioactive deposition from the world’s largest nuclear accident were measured.
This text is from an interview about travel to Chernobyl I gave to university students. I publish it straight off without any edits. Enjoy.
It’s a strange and humble experience to visit a place where time has stood still since 1986. So many people who had to leave their homes and their lives.
The damage caused by radioactivity was both acute radiation damage, but also damage that in the long term causes thyroid cancer. The organs most sensitive to radiation are breast, lungs, red marrow and thyroid. However, it will take many years of research efforts before you can fully figure out the actual impact that has taken place and is still ongoing. A total of 600,000 people have been affected by the Chernobyl disaster, and today, approximately 5 million people live in the vulnerable areas.
In 2016, Anton went to Chernobyl to take part in the legacy of this historic and terrible event for two days, affecting and still affecting so many people’s lives. He tells that the first day they visited places such as kindergartens and hospitals, as well as other different community facilities left. It was a weird feeling of going back in time, while clearly seeing that the years had passed and nature has won the war.
“We had a dosimeter that constantly measured how many microsieverts you are exposed to. One rule is to stay outside lawns and stay on asphalted surfaces. ” He further tells that staying in a group is no danger, but there are some places that still have very high levels of radioactive radiation. It is, for example, the basement of the hospital, where the firefighter’s clothes from the disaster were left. He has maybe been close to high radiation places but that’s another story…
Anton shows photographs after photographs and it is noticed that the Chernobyl experiences were a journey that affected many different levels. He explains that the reactor was filled with a thick layer of concrete after the explosion and shortly after the photograph was taken in 2016, a sarcophagus came in place to incorporate leaking radiation for at least one hundred years. The sarcophagus encapsulates radioactivity, and that in Chernobyl is the largest moving object in the world. He says thoughtfully that it is still difficult to grasp the experience itself and that there must be so many sad lives that we will never know about or even understand.
The second day they visited an 80-year-old man who lives 25 kilometers from Chernobyl. He lives alone and is completely self-sufficient. Ivan is his name and he is a so-called self-settler. Actually, you can not live within a certain radius Chernobyl, but it is estimated that about 300 people have moved back illegally. The authorities have banned it and they are therefore completely self-sufficient because they do not officially exist. Ivan came back in the early 90’s together with his wife.
He loves visitors and it feels important to share his stories so that they are not forgotten.
They had been evacuated to Belarus but wanted to go home and could not imagine staying anywhere else. Their village has been since the disaster remained completely deserted and his wife died in 2016, so today live Ivan here as the only residents. Ivan worked as a liquidator on Chernobyl, flushing radioactive particles from buildings and roads. 26th of April each year, he brings out all the medals he received for his effort. Anton tells that Ivan gave some advice for living a long life, and staying away from the alcohol was his parole. That’s because alcohol makes you passive. It’s better to keep going all the time.