News / Europe

Chernobyl Evacuees Re-Visit Former Home

A plant worker walks by construction site in Chernobyl, (VOA - D. Markosian, April 2011)
A plant worker walks by construction site in Chernobyl, (VOA - D. Markosian, April 2011)

Multimedia

Oksana Lihostova

In Ukraine they call them ‘Chernobylites’.  People affected by the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in then-Soviet Ukraine.  Residents evacuated after the April 26, 1986 disaster lost their homes as well as their health.  And the workers sent in to clean up also developed health problems.

Now that access to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has become possible, some evacuees are returning to visit their abandoned neighborhoods for the first time since those tragic events of 25 years ago.

Twenty-five-year-old Ivanna was just 6 months old when Reactor Number Four exploded at Chernobyl, and Pripyat - founded in 1970 to house workers for the plant - was evacuated.  Over the years, she heard many stories from her parents about the city where she was born.

"I wanted to go there," she said. "I was drawn to that place. I would ask my mother - ‘Mama, when can we finally go?’”  

At the time of the Chernobyl disaster, Ivanna’s older brother Yevhen was seven years old.  "My childhood was very happy there, in Pripyat. Then came the constant moves, visits to clinics," he said.

The Makarevych family now lives on the outskirts of the capital. Kyiv.   But mother Nadiya, who worked as a medical assistant in Pripyat ,and father Vasyl, who made cement blocks at the plant, still cannot forget the town where they were so happy.

It was paradise on earth. We had a river nearby, woods nearby, multitudes of children all around, all young. There were many flowers. It was so beautiful," she said.

This former paradise is now known as the Exclusion Zone.  Scattered throughout the area, the family finds checkpoints, barbed wire and stations that measure radiation levels.  

To get to their apartment, the Makarevych family needs a special pass.  They will also need to overcome quite a few physical obstacles.

The family finally arrives at the apartment.  The door easily gives in and memories come flooding back. "This is the frame of my crib. My father made it himself, by hand," she said.

Coming Home to Chernobyl's Desolation Zone, photo gallery by VOA's Diana Markosian


The morning of the accident, Ivanna’s crib stood below an open window.  No one knew of the explosion or the radiation leak, and no one said anything.  That morning Nadiya had sent her son off to school and was set to wash the windows and paint the balcony in preparation for May Day celebrations.  

Having visited their own apartment, the family goes next door.  After the evacuation, they lost contact with their neighbors, so they scratch their telephone number in Kyiv on the wall - just in case.  

Ivanna searches for her birth records in Pripyat’s Maternity Ward without success..  But her brother Yevhen finds his teacher’s grade book in the building where he went to school.

"Here I am, here I am ! Makarevych:  3, 3, 3, 5," he said.

Even the date of the accident April 26, 1986 has been entered: Makarevych, Yevhen - present.

At the end of the day, these Pripyat evacuees stand alone among the abandoned buildings of a ghost town. They came here with the intention of leaving behind their fears.  But it appears they only re-opened old wounds that have held them captive for a quarter of a century.  

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid