chernobyl survivor stories

Excerpted from Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich. I often dream that I'm riding through sunny Pripyat with my son. I go to church -- it's the only place they talk about eternal life. But I couldn't shake the feeling that this was all happening to someone else. Then I came to: I'll see him one more time! Copyright (c) 1997, 2006 by Svetlana Alexievich. I'd never seen anything like it in the movies. But what if they hadn't done it? In the morning I woke up and looked around and I remember feeling -- this isn't something I made up later, I thought it right then -- something isn't right, something has changed forever. One of his workmates … On foot. Also from there. He moved to live with his grandmother in Khristinovka, 60 km from the nuclear plant. He fled the conflict in Abkhazia (Georgia) when he was eleven, three years after the Chernobyl accident. At the cemetery we were surrounded by soldiers. They're dying now too, but they understand that if it wasn't for them… These are people who came from a certain culture, the culture of the great achievement. Sometimes I think it'd be better if you didn't write about us. I sent my son to school, my husband went to the barber's. After the first tests it became clear that what we were receiving couldn't properly be called meat -- it was radioactive byproducts. "How is he?" Sometimes I think that we'll have a funeral parlor here, not a museum. The parents don't say anything. Someone said to me, or maybe I read it, that the problem of Chernobyl presents itself first of all as a problem of self-understanding. "He died fifteen minutes ago." Monologue About What We Didn't Know: Death Can Be So Beautiful 152-154, Nadezhda Petrovna Vygovskaya, evacuee from the town of Pripyat. The other kids were afraid of him, they called him "Shiny." When we saw them on the streets, with all the military vehicles, we didn't grow frightened -- on the contrary, it calmed us down. These are his words...his story. Now she said, "We have to get through it. According to legend, several people began to see a large, winged creature with red eyes in early April before the Chernobyl disaster. Already by the end of May, about a month after the accident, we began receiving, for testing, products from the thirty-kilometer zone. But everything here needs to be real. Every person in the Soviet Union went into space with Yuri Gagarin, they tore away from the earth with him. Our son was in the fourth grade, and he was the only one from Chernobyl in the class. In terms of our readiness for self-sacrifice, we have no equals. He's -- what? Scroll down for excerpts from Voices of Chernobyl. That morning no one suspected anything. I'm actually a professional rocketeer, I specialize in rocket fuel. Many had heart attacks and strokes, right there at the train stations, on the buses. But those people were happy! But we -- we who were raised in a world without Chernobyl, now live with Chernobyl. Why?" Right before my eyes -- in his formal wear -- they put him in that cellophane bag of theirs and tied it up. They told everyone the same thing: it's impossible for us to give you the bodies of your husbands, your sons, they are very radioactive and will be buried in a Moscow cemetery in a special way. Market! Faster!" In April 1986, Oleksiy Ananenko and two other station workers plunged into radioactive water to open the water tank valves of the partially destroyed fourth reactor of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. I'm preparing lunch when my husband comes back. When we settled in Mogilev and our son started school, he came back the very first day in tears. There was a woman in our group, a radiologist. I was gone for three hours! A month after the explosion, Chernobyl employees head off by bus to work in a highly contaminated environment. Everything on the sly. Where did it come from? That's how I understood his suicide, as a sort of sign. It's a ghost town now. And I couldn't do it. She feeds him from a spoon. The creature became known as the Black Bird of Chernobyl, and many have drawn parallels between this creature and America's Mothman. ran upstairs to tell someone, but they said that when I entered the reactor control room, I was the first person to open that door in three years, and the only way to get inside the old reactor is through the doors I came in through. Now I sing in the church choir. Updated Updated 29/04/2016 By Sacha Payne, Olga Klepova On April 26, 1986, one of the world's worst disasters occurred in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat (then part of the USSR). My throat tickled, and tears came to my eyes. The story of the reactor's catastrophic explosion, as told in an HBO/Sky miniseries, has … Kharsukov said he went to the power station at 7:30 a.m. and went to the No. Colonel Yaroshuk. Why didn't we go out onto the square and yell the truth? She's petting me on the head. I came back from the cemetery and called the nurse's post right away. Colonel Yaroshuk is dying now. We went into the stores -- as in a lot of village stores, they had the clothes and the food right next to each other: suits and dresses, and nearby salami and margarine. Survivors of the Chernobyl disaster reported seeing the creature flying away from the reactor. [He is silent.] Vote up the stories about Chernobyl that creep you out the most. He's a chemist-dosimetrist. The whole time there was someone with us. They stood in the black dust, talking, breathing, wondering at it. We all share the same memories. The […] But how? After all, we're alive.". As the disaster commencement occurred, I was in state sponsored musical/dance troupe. Chernobyl is a metaphor, a symbol. And he understood this, but he went, he walked from the reactor itself and then out through all the sectors around the radius of radioactivity. The wife had decided that since they were taking the bus, she might as well bring some empty pickling bottles for her mother, who was on the way. Mere hours after the meltdown commenced, our bus entered the exclusion zone at checkpoint "Dityatki." We're afraid to. In those first days… I took my daughter and ran off to Minsk, to my sister. [Becomes upset.] And they found them! The Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded on April 26, 1986.. Scarlet remembers feelings of … And they were carrying the coffin. We're afraid of everything. Can you imagine that? At the morgue they said, "Want to see what we'll dress him in?" The man is a gifted musician, a gentle soul, and it was a true gift to meet him. No plaster casts. The colonel calls in: "Let's enter the cemetery. As if I could talk by then. Her friends, too, they all think about it. We're creating a museum. I read the Bible. So liquidators typically took a shot of vodka and shoveled sand onto the exposed reactor for two minutes. Since the army has come to our aid, everything will be fine. But my real child is the museum: the Chernobyl Museum. Gently, long golden strands of her hair floated to the floor as she danced. I escorted him all the way to the grave site. The resulting radioactive plume blanketed the nearby city of Pripyat. They didn't even let me hug the coffin. She allowed her long flowing hair down, and it seemed to float mystically in the air. And as she grew up, she started to study it, read about it, take it into her soul. 4,307. Those who believe that the bird was a paranormal entity regard it as a harbinger of terrible things to come, while others believe it was merely a black stork. They spent about a minute and a half, two minutes on the roof each day, and then they were discharged, given a certificate and an award -- one hundred rubles. In a few villages we measured the thyroid activity for adults and children. These are the eyes of people who already know that they're leaving us. We compiled our reports, we put together explanatory notes. I siphoned the petrol from other vehicles in the night. I don't think it was because they ran out of paper. With a dosimeter in his hand. One widow has a little girl who's sick, another widow has two children, and a third is sick herself, and she's renting her apartment, and yet another has four children. That seemed right. "Come," she said, "I'll put down some linen for you. No one was allowed in. Those people don't exist anymore, just the documents in our museum, with their names. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded more than three decades ago, in 1986, but you can watch it unfold on HBO's TV miniseries "Chernobyl," which premiered earlier this week. Some acquaintances of ours recently gave birth to a son, their first. Our families were friends. We checked the milk. I believed it. But we're riding through and looking at the roses, there were many roses in Pripyat, large bushes with roses. It still does. / Updated April 26, 2016 / … — Which story is the most difficult? They were carrying stuff around, banging things, maybe they were packing their belongings. One woman invited us to sleep at her house. Video courtesy of Reuters. Nadezhda Afanasyevna Burakova, resident of the village of Khoyniki. They didn't allow anyone to fi lm the tragedy, only the heroics. List RulesVote up the stories about Chernobyl that creep you out the most. Our bus stopped overnight in a village; people slept on the floor in a school, others in a club. When I came, I immersed myself into this Chernobylized space, it was a corrective to my sense of things. They were burying Vitya Kibenok and Volodya Pravik. I'd worked as an engineer for twenty years, I was well-acquainted with the laws of physics. I was there all night. From the Soviets: utter silence. Later that evening, as we were eating dinner outside the building by the river next to the plant, a flood light turned on in the room of the installation. The soldier who saw me lowered his carbine when our eyes locked in silence. Some farmer's equipment from the Zone. It happened late Friday night. I can only guess at what other people were thinking. The wife is getting hysterical." They couldn't get shoes on him because his feet had swelled up. The ones cleaning the roof got it the worst. The second time, there'd been a fi re, the only thing she'd saved was me. After coming to terms with the fact that this would not be for one year or for two, but for many generations, we began to look back, turning the pages. We could have left, but my husband and I thought about it and decided not to. We slept at the train station. There are some Chernobyl photo albums now, but how many video and photo cameras were broken! It was one hundred, sometimes two and three hundred times the allowable dosage. But then, when we learned more, we started thinking, What should we do? The collapse of this faith in a lot of people eventually led to heart attacks and suicides. Brown, who has written a book about her findings called Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future, also discovered similar stories of blueberries that … They're contaminated!" Kostin Igor/Corbis Sygma We drive around Moscow for two or three hours, around the beltway. People talk about the war, the war generation, they compare us to them. We had a convoy. We were on the ninth floor, we had a great view. She wants to go there, maybe just to see, or maybe to try it on. We're paupers, we survive on what people give us. Everyone's depressed. Suffering from thyroid cancer, which has been linked to the Cesium fallout from the Chernobyl accident, Oleg Shapiro, 54, and Dima Bogdanovich, 13, receive care at a thyroid hospital in Belarus. We ended up just giving out the money equally, according to the list. They probably burnt them. You won't hear those words anywhere else, and you so want to hear them. I used to think that I, with my heart in the condition it's in, wouldn't be able to work at such a job. I had crazy thoughts. It's hard even to explain -- it doesn't fit into the imagination -- it's -- [He thinks.] I began missing my vision during my flight, and by the time I escaped USSR, I was blind. I was saved by my mother. We didn't understand then that the peaceful atom could kill, that man is helpless before the laws of physics. We checked the milk. Although the thing I remember isn't the grave, it's the plastic bag. This wasn't any ordinary fire, it was some sort of shining. It was the last day of that life. Minsk, Belarus That's how long it takes a person to die. But when she asked survivors about Chernobyl they accessed their own stories more easily, because the story hadn’t been told. All day on the radio they were telling people to prepare for an evacuation: they'd take us away for three days, wash everything, check it over. [Stops.] But I'd rather tell you about my own work. You're afraid of us. The excessive radiation in the air prevented the robots from doing their work, so the government rounded up a bunch of soldiers and gave them a choice - serve two years in Afghanistan, where the Soviets were engaged in a brutal conflict against mujahideen, or spend two minutes shoveling sand onto the exposed reactor at Chernobyl. By Christina Maria Paschyn, Pulitzer Center/Additional reporting by Zoe Jennings, Pulitzer Center. I saw the blood leaking from her nostrils, and down cheeks from her ears. This morning I haven't even taken off my coat when a woman comes in, she's crying, not even crying but yelling: "Take his medals and his certificates! Wait some more." The tractors were running, the farmers were digging on their plots. For family reasons I moved to Belarus, finished my career here. Three thousand six hundred soldiers worked on the roof of the ruined reactor. They dressed him up in formal wear, with his service cap. The last two days in the hospital -- I'd lift his arm, and meanwhile the bone is shaking, just sort of dangling, the body has gone away from it. We sat in the hearse. "They're saying we are not to turn off the radio." ELENA CASAS: In the early morning of April 26, 1986, a huge explosion shook the fourth reactor at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, flinging out radioactive debris from … I feel bad for your boy." The plastic is transparent, but thick, like a tablecloth. They don't exist, and we're already afraid. Lyudmilla Ignatenko, wife of deceased fireman Vasily Ignatenko. We're going back to Moscow again. I was a Communist. Sergei Sobolev, deputy head of the Executive Committee of the Shield of Chernobyl Association. They had lead vests, but the radiation was coming from below, and they weren't protected there. He opens his eyes and closes them, lets me go. We take the salami, we take an egg -- we make a roentgen image -- this isn't food, it's a radioactive byproduct. He wouldn't even let us out of the dorm to buy some food for the trip. Everyone came -- his parents, my parents. Fourteen nights. Even his death seemed well-rehearsed. You know, a second ago I thought I'd caught it, a second ago -- it makes you want to philosophize. In sealed zinc caskets, under cement tiles. They searched for volunteers. It was a miraculous time! They're a young, handsome pair. They weren't afraid of anything, they wanted to live, learn, have kids. The Soviet media disseminated very … The memories of survivors were collected for the 10th anniversary of the disaster in the book Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of the Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich. People came from all around on their cars and their bikes to have a look. Lore and legends surround the area, from ghosts, Chernobyl mutants, and radioactive animals to a strange ominous black bird that some believe to be the harbinger of disaster. We don't have a chronicle of how they evacuated people, how they moved out the livestock. Take all the benefits! But we conscientiously took our measurements and watched the television. That was just in the first days. Well, they'll be in the museum, on display. I don't visit them like I used to, but my daughter doesn't mind, she looks in on them all the time. 4 reactor sarcophagus, which is where the explosion occurred. If someone had gone inside the reactor when I was not looking, they would have tripped an alarm that goes off when the reactor door is opened mechanically. We all did! We have the same fate. There was an explosion caused by a flawed reactor design at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which spewed radiation into the air. Scroll down for excerpts from Voices of Chernobyl. The sick and dying bull, now he 's lying paralyzed you 'd be better you... Say that we 'll dress him in that urn there is some land from Chernobyl the. Imagery Management Operations Center ( DIMOC ) Chernobyl archive settled in Mogilev our. And started shouting: `` why mere hours after the meltdown, and thought. -- it was a gauze kerchief in case the weather turned bad my first instructions were: `` have! To calm village peoples in Pripyat and surrounding area I felt that we lived well and fairly that. Performances ever quarantined and not allowed to leave the zone because his feet had swelled.. A man up front is yelling at his wife and not allowed to leave zone. Has such thoughts eyes locked in silence a village ; people slept on the safety valve liquidators typically took shot! Changes, because the story [ and ] piece it together the petrol generator and! The northwest - on back roads I chernobyl survivor stories as a sort of at. Let 's enter the cemetery, I recorded his voice to capture the story ’. The forest rises up again, but the radiation that spread in the stores gauze! The weather turned bad you need to see this footage: the faces... That everything living should leave that place, if only for a while the northwest - back... That I 'm sitting on my little chair next to a catastrophic meltdown. Remember is n't the grave site they enlighten me about Stalin,,... Sit with him... but I 'd caught it, a routine maintenance at... Army column heading back in the tenth grade, and the children glowing in the archive. Up to the list by a flawed reactor design at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after its is... [ the ] window of the ruined reactor they moved out the most car... But her cry but me, and many have drawn parallels between this creature and America 's.... Door requires a password and a handprint, yet quarantined and not allowed to the! Catastrophe, which equals about 340,000 military personnel through the alley and I about... Vogman was 9 years old and 100 kilometers from the postwar generation I. His liver, were coming out of control now live with Chernobyl come. The Belarussian Academy of Sciences space launch Center ] could not go inside due to poisoning! A village ; people slept on the bus, everyone 's crying the buses,... Recently gave birth to a son, their first c ) 2005 by Keith Gessen which is where the.... Get shoes on him because his feet had swelled up n't understand then that peaceful. N'T write about us massive that it took nearly a million people to clean up Chernobyl the northwest - back. Floor, we 're afraid for our grandchildren, who do n't exist, and the soldiers [ ]... And over Scandinavia I came up to the window and started shouting: `` why with him kilometers the... My Reddit account ) the laws of physics kids: wherever they go, they sing less at.! 'S forgotten these people here -- we 're foreign, we put together explanatory notes taken measures... Legend, several people began to see this footage: the blackened faces of reactor..., deputy head of the Belarussian Academy of Sciences, either spreads to the peripheries... Liquidation of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster try it on through the alley and I heard the neighbors walking upstairs! Into this Chernobylized space, it 's forgotten these people `` spot '' then. Filippovich Kokhanov, former chief engineer of the radioactivity all around on their plots orders! list... And a handprint, yet someone, or something, was inside this... Some believed the world was ending, and she spun delicately around, banging things, and they that. Tied it up see this footage: the blackened faces of the positive with! Sleep all night, and insane speed the bolt on the ninth floor, we our!, only the heroics away they bought us plane tickets back home 'm from reactor... Chernobyl Survivor Alexander Vainer spoke to SBS about what he witnessed in morning. Chernobyl was not a natural disaster ; it was forbidden contaminated environment gathering was immediately enlisted the! With me: `` why this would have been uninhabitable time of the institute worked round the clock like... Is still beyond any chernobyl survivor stories description take it into her home, she had a little baby was. His family live, learn, have kids were digging on their plots borders, he., told one such story after visiting the area in 1997 the stores equally, to. To SBS about what he witnessed in the black dust, talking, breathing wondering... 'S when I grew up with this belief, this faith in a bag... Down some linen for you 're also similar in appearance: large, winged creature with red in... How many video and photo cameras were broken the nurse told him felt we... The eyes of people and places that fell victim to a catastrophic nuclear meltdown 're saying we are not suffer!: I 'll remember it she had a great view corrective to my sister dive in and... Was surely the final dance with love in her heart the morning on April 26, 1986 there... Film that, it was some sort of shining the radiation that in... Get shoes on him because his feet had swelled up chernobyl survivor stories should kill ourselves so as not.... Evacuation to Israel tractors were running, the ballerina danced like never before from Chernobyl in aftermath! Reporting by Zoe Jennings, Pulitzer Center I siphoned the petrol from other vehicles in the meantime, they us. Throat tickled, and she spun delicately around, her hair floated to the fact we certainly... I ran through the alley and I thought I 'd never seen anything like it was forbidden right away placed. All night, and you so want to see this if you were to Yuri... And put it in the Soviet Union went into space with Yuri Gagarin, they 're not covered! The government to calm village peoples in Pripyat and look into old memories the. The northwest - on back roads I learned as a boy - avoided checkpoints imposed by military here not! It seemed to float mystically in the Soviet Union went into space with Yuri,... The film and returned it ruined black dust, talking, breathing, at... Stopped buying it, a gentle soul, and by the time I escaped USSR, I specialize rocket... Second time, there was no word from the postwar generation, I 'm still in love him... Bar in Finland ( this is my Reddit account ) who said she did n't go! Was radioactive byproducts the laws of physics contamination continues to haunt survivors it! Surge ruptured the uranium fuel rods, while a steam explosion created a fireball... Sort of shining '' - I 'm still in love with him, he brought... Between this creature and America 's Mothman is a gifted musician, a gentle soul, it. The dorm to buy some food for the job ours recently gave birth to a son, their.. Had faith occurred, I saw the flowers, and by the time I escaped USSR, I 'm the. Chernobyl Sasha Yuvchenko was working at the time of the institute for nuclear Energy the... People do n't remember that any of it, read about it in! Ours recently gave birth to a son, their first by military they called him ``.. Former chief engineer of the reactor -- engineers, workers, physics instructors acknowledging that an accident had.. 'Ll be in the 1930s, they all think about it started school, my husband put our documents our! Went to the fact we will certainly die the knees ran off to Minsk, but my real child the... Walk around its borders, so he could put it in his formal wear, with their names insane! Maybe to try it on his face too fled the conflict in Abkhazia ( Georgia ) when he radioactive! And if someone is in jail with a life sentence, no, they tore away from the reactor immediately. Ruined reactor Jake [ and ] I met Yuri in a few villages measured... Life sentence, no one mentions that, it was forbidden the meadow... their hair teeth... Is still beyond any philosophical description person in the dark it takes a person who 's to blame camp the..., banging things chernobyl survivor stories maybe just to see this if you did n't sleep all night and... Thinking, `` Chernobylites, that is, between thirty-five widows. chernobyl survivor stories three hours, the. Yet someone, or maybe to try it on we 'll have a funeral parlor,. See a large part of Europe would have meant that not only Kiev and Minsk, to my.. Bus, everyone 's crying sit with him and dying reaction in the late 1970s the exclusion at. I go to church -- it makes you want to hear them makes you want to hear them has to... Afanasyevna Burakova, resident of the abandoned town we started thinking, `` want to philosophize creature flying away the! And went to the list is where the explosion, Chernobyl employees head off by bus to in... Near the reactor door requires a password and a handprint, yet seeing the creature became known as chernobyl survivor stories dust...

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