Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.*
Twenty years. Wow.
Of course, the region hasn’t even begun to recover. In fact, if they don’t replace the crumbling “sarcophagus” that protects the remains of Reactor 4, things could get much worse. As I mulled that over, I was reminded of a website I first saw a of couple years ago.
It’s the personal photographic account of Elena Filatova, a Ukrainian woman who documented her travels through the Chernobyl region on her motorcycle. It received international attention after it was Slashdotted in 2004.
Now I should mention that there’s some question about the validity of her story; many people now view her site as a hoax, saying that she was merely a tourist on a guided group tour, rather than a rogue photographer roaming the barren countryside on her motorcycle.
Whether or not that is true, I think her site is still worth visiting, not only for the photos, but also for Elena’s unique insights into the worst manmade disaster our world has ever seen:
The sarcophagus will remain radioactive for at least 100.000 years. The age for the pyramids of Egypt is 5,000 to 6,000 years. Each cultural epoch left something to humanity, something immortal, like Judaic epoch left us Bible, Greek culture- philosophy, Romans contributed law and we are leaving Sarcophagus, the construction that going to outlive all other signs of our epoch and may last longer then pyramids. [link]
Children had to part with their favourite toys. People had to leave everything, from photos of their grandparents to cars. Incredibly, people had homes, motorcycles, garages, cars, country houses, they had money, friends and relatives. People had their lives. Each had their own niche. And then in a matter of hours , their entire world fell to pieces. After a few hours trip in an army vehicle, they stood under a shower, washing away radiation. Then they stepped in a new life, naked with no home, no friends, no money, no past and with a very doubtful future. [link]
-Elena Filatova [Wikipedia]
-Chernobyl Disaster [Wikipedia]
-Chernobyl…18 Years Later [Slashdot]
-Latest Chernobyl Motorcycle Photos [Slashdot]
-Chernobyl: 20 years ago this month. [Boing Boing]
-‘Voices of Chernobyl’: Survivors’ Stories [NPR]
-New Sight in Chernobyl’s Dead Zone: Tourists [NYT]
-Chernobyl - Tschernobyl - Information
-Chernobyl Children’s Project International
*Incidentally, it’s also my parents’ 31st wedding anniversary. Which wouldn’t be quite so weird if Three Mile Island hadn’t happened on my dad’s birthday seven years earlier. I guess this is where I could make a joke about my nuclear family…