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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs