|The picture perfect Socialist Utopia - Chernobyl|
Just the word Chernobyl sends a shiver down the spine of anyone aware of the catastrophic explosion in 1986 of one of four nuclear reactors near Kiev, Ukraine. The blast sent a toxic mushroom cloud high in the sky raining nuclear havoc as far away as Sweden. It was the stuff of science fiction. Surely people would die excruciating deaths from radiation exposure and mutant species would crawl from the contaminated cooling ponds.
Thousands of deaths did occur and health problems continue to plague generations to come. I am not sure about seven-eyed toads, but I don’t doubt they exist. And now the Senior Nomads were off on a jolly tour to visit ground zero - the epicenter of one of the biggest disasters in modern history.
We'd signed-up online before we’d even reached Ukraine for a day trip with one of just two local companies that have permission from the government to take tourists to the site. Here’s the link to their website: Chernobyl Tours where they offer an “An eye-opening experience of a post-apocalyptic world.” Now who wouldn’t want to see that?
|Good to know.|
The next ten hours was nothing short of a cram course on what happened on April 26, 1986 when reactor number #4 exploded. We had a map, background materials and watched a grainy film on the bus called “Chernobyl Uncensored - a Documentary” that can be found on You Tube. We also signed some rather ominous release forms.
Here’s the recap: On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred at Reactor No. 4, which is widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. As a result, Reactor No. 4 was completely destroyed and is now being enclosed in a concrete and lead sarcophagus to prevent further escape of radioactivity. Large areas of Europe were affected by the accident. The radioactive cloud spread as far away as Scandinavia. Here's a site full of information: Knowledge Glue
Our first stop was the 30 km Exclusion Zone. We stopped at a heavily patrolled crossing point where we submitted our passports and passed through security and our names were checked against a list submitted in advance by the tour company. At this point we were also given personal geiger counters so we could track our exposure to a broad range of ionizing alpha and beta particles as well as gamma rays that may be emitting harmful levels of radiation. Right.
|He looks happy now - but he was wheezing for a week after the tour.|
Finally we were getting close to the two cities that were evacuated 40 years ago and never occupied again. We would not, however tour and of the 200 villages that were also evacuated because they were hastily plowed under - each one covered with a sea of cement and mounds of earth. Also off-limits were forests where thousands of trees were also buried - the new growth is contaminated.
|Our guide showing a before and after shot of the supermarket.|
|A baby shoe I found sitting in a dusty corner of the nursery.|
|There were eerie scenes like this in every building.|
|The community center basket ball court|
|The government opened the holiday amusement park a day early to distract residents from the blast. Hundreds of people spent a pleasant day outdoors with their children getting saturated in radiation.|
If you are interested there are many documentary films and lengthy reports on the cover-up and tragic aftermath of this event. The long term health issue alone make your blood curl - no horror film needed: The Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 premature cancer deaths occurred worldwide between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination from Chernobyl.
|Thank you for visiting Chernobyl. Have a nice day!|
Safely back in Kiev, over the next few days we stood on the very square where the Orange Revolution took place in 2004. Then, 9 years later, the same square was filled again for the Euromaidan when over 1 million Ukrainians occupied the square twenty-four hours for months on end braving sniper fire and brutal beatings, burning buildings and freezing weather and there were many deaths along the way to finally wrestling real independence from the grip of a still-corrupted government.
|One of many memorials in Kiev dedicated to those who died fighting for independence.|
|Michael and a vendor at the market sharing pictures of home.|
Thanks for following along,
Debbie and Michael Campbell
The Senior Nomads