Just a handful of days ago on the 26th April 2015 it was the 29th anniversary of the terrible disaster that happened in Chernobyl in 1986. I was just 3 years old when this tragedy stuck in Ukraine.Reactor 4 blew up and caused nuclear fallout and radiation poisoning all across Europe. I first visited in October 2012 (Please read for more detailed information on the actual disaster) I was incredibly moved by my trip and needed to return. When the opportunity arose I added my name to a list of 30 others and early April I was boarding a plane with friends to spend 6 days in Ukraine and 4 days in the zone.
This was our first stop on day one, I had not been in this kindergarten before, it felt like I had been sucked straight back to that day when I first walked into Pripyat 3 years before. The stillness and sadness, despite being surrounded by so many people was stark. the dolls and toys strewn across the creaking bed frames and decaying floors was chilling. To think these children once lead normal lives and then had to up and leave their homes. I was exactly their age when it happened and couldn’t imagine having to leave my house and possessions to live in a new town miles away which had been constructed quickly, so many people live now in poverty.
Children Camp – Emerald
Inside the zone is this summer camp, once children would come to spend their summer playing and having fun, now the abnormally tall trees creak in the wind, animals live in the forest, nature claiming back.
Ivan and Maria
We visited the house of Ivan and Maria, a truly remarkable couple who refused to leave the zone after the accident, they are amongst others who also did the same in various areas in the zone. They are not bothered by the radiation, they just want to live their lives on their farm the best they can in the home they created and can’t bear to leave.
Duga 3 nick named the Russian Woodpecker was a Soviet Over the Horizon radar system used by the Soviets as part of an early warning network, it was very powerful. There was much speculation about it purpose, for a while people thought it was being used as Soviet mind control or weather control experiments. Theories that were abolished after the fall of the Soviet Union.
It was an absolutely incredible structure and I had not witnessed it on my previous visit, some of our group climbed to the top, which I would have done if I’d have had gloves, but I didn’t fancy holding onto the metal which would contain a lot of radiation with just bare hands. Next time when I return to the zone I will be climbing it for sure.
We also spent some time looking in the control rooms and surrounding buildings at the radar, there was a small town within walking distance with school, housing and sports facilities.
Of course this is the icon place that sticks with most people’s memories of the disaster, the disaster, caused a newly built fairground to never open, it was due to open just days after the accident on May Day, but alas no children rode the big wheel or rode the dodgems. If I closed my eyes and imagined hard enough I could hear the laughter and music of the children of that could have played there. The sky was blue and the sun warm against my skin, I continued to feel the peacefulness and stillness of the park, I feeling I got again and again whilst walking around the streets of the abandoned Pripyat.
Pripyat Palace of Culture
View from Hotel Polesia
Pripyat Music School
I had not seen this music school before so it was nice to have a wander around.
Pripyat Post Office
Pripyat School No.3
Sports Hall & Swimming Pool Lazurny
Vehicle Grave Yard
Pripyat School No.2
Sanitary and Epidemic Station
Pripyat Piano Shop
My apologies for not going into as much depth about the trip as my last blog, but I didnt want to repeat what I covered in that blog, do give that one a read for more information about Chernobyl. The trip for me was an emotional one, of so many reasons, it was amazingly fun to spend time with a wonderful group of people for a week and share some incredible experiences that I will never forget. But it was also a very humble and sad experience to actually be inside the exclusion zone, one that I will continue to share with those that ask. I will be returning in October to capture the textures of Pripyat in a new project from the exclusion zone.
Taken by Dave Batt
Taken by James Kerwin
Taken by Gina Soden