Chernobyl tales: a story of illegal visit to the exclusion zone

Author : Oleh Karpyak Anastasia Hrybanova

Respondent : Markiyan Kamysh

Source : 112 Ukraine

Markiyan Kamysh, writer and illegal exclusion zone tourists, talks about his regular trips to the abandoned villages, encounters with law enforcers, about animals and radiation
11:48, 20 April 2016

People know me as a man who illegally goes to the exclusion zone "for tourism purposes," as I write in the administrative protocols, when detained. In the area, I find my peace and get inspiration for my texts.

It all started with when I wanted to go there once or twice, to collect material for a book. And now, five years have passed in the rhythm, when I go to the area, or come back from it, or prepare for the next outing in the area.

Why do I go back again and again? The answer to this question does not exist. And why do people have sex? Why take drugs? Why go to a rock concert? Because that is life.

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My method is based on the literary obsession and endless repetition. It is like a cult of the cycle, the god of death and birth, sunset and sunrise. I am back there because I needed to get tired. I wanted to achieve "eternal pose of face palm." Only then will you know what should your text look like.

My first trip to the area was in September 2010. It was autumn, the golden time. I checked on the Internet at one forum, and people with experience took me there.

It was the first time when I saw "Chernobyl-2" - a giant military radar station, which had no opportunity to be launched. I have not read anything special about this place, did not see the photos and did not even think that there is such a thing. At night, when the stars shone brightly, they brought me there, and I realized that now I need to climb. 153 meters above the ground. We climbed for about an hour. My hands fall off from fatigue. On the last stage the stairs were a bit damaged by the winds, it was very dangerous. I  was born for the second time.

And then I started to go to the zone myself.

Prypyat city and villages

Prypyat is not a dead city. There are constantly barking dogs, some men climbing, riding a white minivan and the tourist bus. There are also "metalists" (illegal immigrants, who take out of metal from the zone - Ed.). But in the evening Prypyat dies and really turns into a ghost town.

Therefore, to truly feel alienated, I go to the village, the village is not on the tourist routes: Denysovychs, Maszewo, Chapayivka, Gorodchan, Kryva Hora, Koshivka, Staroselie, Usov, Zolotniyiv.


Encounters with animals occur constantly. The most common animals here are boars. If it happens at night, it is like preinfarction state, because this animal is sleeping, resting, and then it is suddenly awakened. If you meet them during the day, you are thinking, where's my camera.


Wolves also are here. But they are afraid of people more than vice versa. In the woods you can hear them howling, then there is nothing to be afraid of, because if the wolves are howling, it means that they are not in the hunt. At least I think so.

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Moose, it is a separate issue. They are often met in September. Once we were sitting in the house with broken windows, and on one side of the street there was a moose who wanted to mate, and another moose from the other side wanted to mate. And they walked around the house. And as soon as the sun went down, a terrible roar began. There were cases when people heard the sound, climbed a pine tree and called the police from the checkpoint.


Illegal immigrants are frequently caught. I was caught six or seven times. Three times we just came in a police canteen at Chernobyl, where they all eat, and bought the food. Illegals are caught, because they do not know how to properly enter the zone.

What happens when you are caught by the police? The primary search. They can steal something insignificant, a knife, for example. But this happens rarely. In fact, the cops there are much more humane than in the cities. Then is the questioning. Then they deliver you to Chernobyl, and there is a secondary search. They may leave you for the night, because, for example, they do not have the key to the safe protocols. Not to say that this is dressing down, but sometimes it is fun.

Once we were caught by the border guard, who watched through the “imager”. It was before the ATO, and the word "imager" was known by some people. They were hunting for some smugglers on a white "Niva," which escaped from them picturesquely. But instead of smugglers they have caught us.

If you steal nothing (like fish, mushrooms, or metal), they will write a normal administrational protocol. It is like you’re caught because of drinking beer in a park. They will write out a fine, but usually it does not come. I still have not come to any penalty.


I have ever had a dosimeter with me. Before 30 years, the man rarely thinks about what happens next. It's like Zhadan: "Death is like an alarm, you create an alarm for six in the morning, and when it wakes you with its satanic strum, you are bagging for another five minutes, just five minutes."

I understand that it is harmful, but it is not as harmful as many people think. There are a few rules: do not drink water from different pools, wipe your hands before eating, not to eat berries from there.

I try not to go to those places which you really do not need to visit. I am talking about the famous basement. Some fools have picked souvenirs with them, a helmet of the lifeguard who worked that night there. Perhaps we should say that this helmet is a concentrated death. This is just a lifetime Darwin award.

Or cellar of Prypyat plant "Yupiter." In the basement, there is a box in which as many people think, are some pieces of graphite, which is taken off from the reactor at the time of the explosion. In five years, I've never been down there. But there are people who go there and dig there, wearing the respirator. And it's like to stand against a high-speed train and open the umbrella.

Holy cow

I used to think that illegal stay in the zone is not the subculture. Rather, it was a circle of interests. However, today it is a subculture.

How do we call ourselves? I call it illegals, because this is a purely Ukrainian joke. There are other words: pedestrians, stalkers. However, stalkers is ironic. It means tourists-clowns, Pokémon camouflages, in the gas mask, take photos against the backdrop of a broken-down shed. This is a stalker.

10% of the illegals are girls. They are more hardy. There are girls who were everywhere in the Chernobyl zone, but there are no interviews with them.

In general I do not say the zone is the sacred cow zone. I do not like all this pathos, even though I am tolerant to it. We cannot cry the whole life and fall on our knees. We need to change something.

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