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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid