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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More