Chornobyl today: Disaster area 31 years after the nuclear fallout (Part 1)

Author : Olena Holubyeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Find out firsthand the exclusive facts and photos from the exclusion zone
08:38, 26 April 2017

The journalists of went to Chornobyl to see first hand, how people live and work in a city polluted by radiation.

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April 26 is the anniversary of one of the most terrible technogenic disasters in the history of mankind - the Chornobyl accident. The station was named after the city, 15 km from which it was built. But Chornobyl, whose name has now become synonymous with trouble, rarely is a topic of media reports. continues to travel through the cities and towns of Ukraine, and this time we went to the territory of the 30-kilometer exclusion zone to see the life of the city 31 years after the disaster.

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Only three hours of car drive from Kyiv, and we are at the checkpoint "Dytyatky." This is the southern gate into a zone of alienation and unconditional resettlement. This is a road that is often shown in the Chornobyl chronicles. In April 1986, along this road, endless lines of buses raced: they took the residents of Prypyat and other settlements, which were so close to the station's radiation fire that it was visible from the upper floors of the local houses.

Then the military in rubberized raincoats and gas masks washed from the hoses contaminated with deadly radioactive dust wheels of all outgoing vehicles. At this time in Kyiv all the media controlled by the communist regime were silent. The city was preparing for the May Day demonstration and bike ride by May 9. Only foreign radio stations reported the Chornobyl accident through interferences and stubs.

It is literally 15 minutes of way from the checkpoint to Chornobyl. I have to get out of the bus to show the pass. At the checkpoint, for many years employees have not wear their masks.

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On the shields in front of me, there are maps of the radiation contamination of the exclusion zone. The guide is explaining their meaning to the group of tourists. The guys drive their own transport - a big white minibus with a badge of radiation and a phone number of the office that conducts the excursion. Zones are introduced from the point of view of management. There are three of them. They are delimited by the checkpoint, radiation safety standards operate in each of the zones. The most dangerous, of course, is the "tenth", that is 10 km around the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. It is polluted by transuranium elements, among them plutonium-239, the half-life of which is 24,000 years.

Chornobyl is the third zone, residential. Relatively successful one (Pripyat, by the way, is in the "top ten"). After the accident, decontamination measures were carried out, the new asphalt was laid. But the pollution is still very uneven: here you can even go in the field, and then you will find a couple of points of contamination.

The territory of the exclusion zone is 2.6 thousand square kilometers. This is equivalent to the territory occupied by the smallest state in the US - Rhode Island or the entire Duchy of Luxembourg. The length of the perimeter is 439 km. 155 km of the border with Belarus. The length of the perimeter overland is 402 km, along the water - 37 km. The total length of the roads is 536 km. Number of bridges is 12 (10 - road, 1 - railway, 1 - overpass). The total length of the river network is 260 km, of which Prypyat is 60 km. There are 9 checkpoints in the zone, 5 dosimeter points.


We walked into a cafe along completely deserted streets. There are almost no cars. We have met one or two sightseeing minibuses for all the time of our journey. Around us were the usual five-story houses, the former residential, are now used as dormitories for the personnel working in the zone. Cafe "Ten" is located in the panel house. Coffee costs 15 UAH per cup. Assortment of medium-sized Kyiv cafes of mid-price segment: beer, vodka, wine, sweet water. Sign: "The sale of alcoholic beverages - 19:00 to 21:00." However, you can buy alcohol until 19:00 at a local store.

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There is a hotel. Spending a night in Chornobyl in a single standard room costs 500 UAH.For another 100 UAH you might order the "obligatory breakfast."

Chornobyl has 16 thousand visitors a year. These are just tourists, we are not counting scientists, radioecologists, foreigners...

According to the State Agency for the Management of the Exclusion Zone, in the period from 2015 to 2016, the zone was visited by 36 thousand people (taking into account technical, official and media visits). In 2015, representatives of 84 countries visited the zone, and in 2016 – of 86 countries. Entertainment, incidentally, is not cheap: the prices for participation in a group excursion of numerous travel agencies - from $ 30 for Ukrainian citizens (800 UAH) and 100 dollars from citizens of other countries.

Even the former president Viktor Yanukovych and the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev came to the events by April 26.

112 Agency

In Chornobyl, there is still a monument to Lenin. Old Ilyich with a patched-up bald spot on the stone top.

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A dozen meters from the alley with sculptures, there is the street with abandoned houses. An eerie sight. In Chornobyl, the vast majority of houses are abandoned.

Almost half of the city is one-storey, so-called private houses. Not the same as the abandoned houses in the resettled villages and apartments in Pripyat, ten years after the accident. Then it seemed that people came out of them only yesterday. In the rooms, there were furniture, on the floor were scattered letters left in a hurry, yellowed photos. The houses still had stalled clocks and kitchen utensils. Traces of wallpapers on the walls. Many houses are already frankly falling apart. Their entrance doors are open. They have loosened from old age, so the doors eventually opened themselves, even those that were locked. There are also secondarily abandoned houses that were used for offices, organizations, but they are no longer needed.

First, we see the domes behind the ruined roofs, and then the church of St. Elijah. Magnificent, majestic. This is the only church in the exclusion zone. It contains the original icon of the Chernobyl Savior. There is a mournful bell on the territory. They call it only once a year - on the anniversary of the accident on April 26. In memory of all who fell victim to the accident: children, adults, liquidators, firefighters, employees of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, about tens of thousands of people... There is a bee apiary on the territory of the church.

In a deep ravine, there are hundreds of abandoned houses... With dead windows, with trees that have grown into the walls, which destroy their homeless homes faster than time.

Chernobyl was a city with a predominantly Jewish population. Unlike Prypyat, which was built as a satellite city of the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the history of Chornobyl is about 800 years old.

We come to the building of the synagogue. Its Bolsheviks once adapted it to their office. The walls of the ancient building have already been damaged by the birch roots.

112 Agency

Here we also found the orphanage, to which son of Roman Shukhevych (military leader and general of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was sent the after the shooting of his father.

We leave to the part of the city, where the offices of organizations are located. At one of the buildings, the current scoreboard shows the radiation background at various sites in the exclusion zone. In Chornobyl - 16 microroentgen per hour. For comparison: in Kyiv it is 13 microroentgen per hour.

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