Chernobyl Is 22
Academician Valeri Legasov: What we see is the tower of the second leg. To the left is the block…the central hall of Block 4. Turn it on! Hither, higher! That’s it! Keep it right on that spot! Keep it! Keep it where the smoke is, where the smoke is. Keep it just like that, just like that.
Narrator: You’re watching a rare footage. Those are spots of red-hot graphite rods. Their high temperature created a strong upward stream, which lifted radioactive particles off the reactor’s shaft.
On Saturday, April 26, 1986 at 01:23:40 a.m, I was a 6-year old asleep in Kyiv, a mere 80 miles away from the scene of the world’s worst environmental disaster.
I remember those days quite vividly. It was sunny. It was summer-hot. My friends and I would play soccer. As rumors began to spread, my parents would ground me. I remember staring out the firmly sealed window, consumed with jealously, watching my buddies playing out in the field. I stayed in Kyiv until May 8.
When I grew up, I learned that in Prypyat they had five or six weddings on April 26, 1986, with radiation already reaching lethal levels. Evacuation began 30 hours after the accident. The first Soviet news report came a week after the event, in a newspaper article the size of a classified ad in a contact magazine.
Chernobyl exploded the myth of the Soviet system’s humanity and reliability, a revelation that, amid perestroika, accelerated its demise.
According to one report, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, the communist leader of Soviet Ukraine, pleaded with Mikhail Gorbachev to keep May 1 celebrations to a minimum. Gorby said no, sending thousands of people to bake on the streets of Kyiv.
The UN’s new policy puts Chernobyl as fine for human habitation, despite the fact that most of the radioactive elements there still haven’t reached their half-life. No wonder the UN Secretariat have not rushed to spend their summer vacations in the Chernobyl zone, in what was, prior to the disaster, one of the most popular recreation zones for Kyivites.
YouTube offers a variety of Chernobyl videos, some of them with creepy dance soundtracks. There’s a Greenpeace video with animation that belongs on MTV, as opposed to a documentary on the world's worst technological disaster.
Still, one can find a few decent videos.
Click here for a wealth of photo reports from the ghost town of Prypyat, and here for Russian-language documentaries on Chernobyl. You can also visit an entire site devoted to Prypyat.
By the way, Chernobyl (Чернобыль) is the Russian name. Chornobyl (Чорнобиль) is the Ukrainian one. This is perhaps the only case when I adhere to a Russian-based transliteration of a Ukrainian geographic name. Chernobyl signifies a historical event rather than a mere geographic name. It is a product of the Soviet system, and one of the top Soviet "brands" at that.
May we never forget the sacrifice of people who gave their lives in cleaning up the mess of Chernobyl. May we never forget the suffering of children who died because of Chernobyl.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Chernobyl Is 22