News / USA

    NYC Photo Exhibit Shows Resilience and Hope at Chernobyl

    Katya Nosova is 16 and wants to be an artist. Her parents Sasha (left) and Lesya (right) hope to send her to a private art institute in Kyiv. Katya is growing up in Borodyanka, Ukraine, where many Chernobyl evacuees were resettled.
    Katya Nosova is 16 and wants to be an artist. Her parents Sasha (left) and Lesya (right) hope to send her to a private art institute in Kyiv. Katya is growing up in Borodyanka, Ukraine, where many Chernobyl evacuees were resettled.

    Multimedia

    Peter Fedynsky

    American photographer Michael Forster Rothbart recently spent two years in and around Chernobyl in Ukraine to show that life in the area goes on despite the catastrophe at the Soviet-built nuclear power plant there 25 years ago. His work is on display in New York City alongside a children’s art exhibit related to Chernobyl.

    Chernobyl, April 1986: a helicopter flies over the doomed reactor. Fast forward 25 years: like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the plant, a little boy is tossed in the air by his father whose family now lives in a nearby town.  

    The image is from a series of photos taken by Michael Forster Rothbart who spent two years on a Fulbright scholarship documenting life today in areas irradiated by the disaster.

    "Life goes on in Chernobyl. People meet and fall in love and get married and have children and raise the next generation. I really wanted to emphasize that it’s not all doom and gloom in Chernobyl.  It’s like life anywhere. There is suffering as well as hope," he said.

    Forster Rothbart's photos are exhibited in two New York venues, the Ukrainian Museum and the Ukrainian Institute of America.

    An estimated 400 mostly elderly people have returned to the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the power station. Some 3,800 people work in the zone.  Tens of thousands live in areas just outside, in areas of elevated radiation levels.  

    Dovetailing with Forster Rothbart's images at the Ukrainian Museum is an exhibit of drawings by Ukrainian children about an angel who had only one wing; the result of a mutation caused by Chernobyl. He could fly in heaven with no gravity. But on Earth, the angel had a problem.  The story has a positive message similar to Forster Rothbart's. It is published along with the drawings in a book sponsored in part by a New Jersey Charity, the Children of Chornobyl (Ukrainian spelling of "Chernobyl") Relief and Development Fund.

    Ghost Town Remains 25 Years After Chernobyl Disaster (by VOA's Diana Markosian)


    Founder Nadia Matkiwsky compares today’s children’s drawings with those in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

    "There were flames that looked like devilish figures; distortions of people. And you see today, smiling faces, angels dancing around healthy children because this is how the present generation in Ukraine envisions Chernobyl," she said.

    Recognizing the invisible, but real dangers of radiation, the exhibit asks visitors if they lived in Chernobyl, would they move? Rothbart says Ukrainians live there for various reasons, among them, lack of alternatives, a sense of duty and decent jobs. Another, he says, is a deeply felt connection to the land and to ancestors who lived there.

    Andrei Balta throws his 15-month-old son Vanya in the air during a summer evening in Slavutych, Ukraine. Andrei and his wife Anna both work at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, as do over 3,800 residents of Slavutych.
    Andrei Balta throws his 15-month-old son Vanya in the air during a summer evening in Slavutych, Ukraine. Andrei and his wife Anna both work at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, as do over 3,800 residents of Slavutych.

    Forster Rothbart says that for Americans, who are a highly mobile people, those ties are not as strong.

    "I grew up in Ann Arbor [Michigan], and if there was a nuclear accident next door, I would leave.  I would miss the place, but I wouldn’t look back.  But for people in Ukraine and Belarus, it’s those connections that are most important to them," he said.

    Forster Rothbart says he applies the lessons he learned at Chernobyl to Japan’s recent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

    "Their lives will never be the same, from what I’ve seen in Chernobyl. They’ve evacuated. And even those that can go home will experience, as they say in Russian, 'radiophobia,' fear of radiation. Once the genie’s out of the bottle, you can never put it back in," he said.

    Forster Rothbart says Chernobyl today and perhaps Fukushima in 25 years are places where visiting photographers will find what they’re looking for.  He found hope and resilience.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora