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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid