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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora