We Will Become Silhouettes

Filed under: — Kate @ 6:54 am EST

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:

Our Pyramids
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]

New Beginning.
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]

Here are the links to her two photo essays about the Chernobyl disaster: Ghost Town and Land of the Wolves.

Further Reading:
-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…

8 Responses to “We Will Become Silhouettes”

  1. daveT Says:

    she was really on the back of ewan macgreggor’s motorcycle… j/k

  2. Stan Says:

    Well thanks for that ray of sunshine, Kate. Cause you know life doesn’t suck enough without rehashing old tragedies. Sorry if that sounds angry. It’s been a rough 24 hours.

  3. Kate Says:

    DaveT, lol, I also thought of that. Long Way Round, I think it was called. I loved that miniseries/documentary. And that has absolutely nothing to do with my complete and undying love for Ewan McGregor…

    Stan, since you don’t pay attention to the news, it’s my job to educate you! Seriously, though–Chernobyl is not an “old tragedy;” It’s a tragedy that continues to this day, which makes it all the more important to remind people about it. And besides that, it’s quite fascinating.

    Sorry you had a rough couple of days. :-(

  4. Stan Says:

    Eh, it’s ok. I’ve had worse, I was just grumpy this morning. Still, I think sometimes, people looks for reasons to be depressed. This post is a good example.

  5. Kate Says:

    I didn’t write this post because I was looking for a reason to feel depressed (for an example of that, see I Was So Much Older Then). And I didn’t feel depressed while writing it either, although I do admit that it’s a bit somber. My thoughts were mostly influenced by morbid fascination with the awesome amount of power the meltdown unleashed, and the sheer magnitude of the consequences.

    There are many depressing and unjust things in this world, and everyone responds to them differently; some with outrage, some with sorrow, some with ignorance, some with indifference, some with avoidance, etc. But no matter how you view the world, we are doomed to keep repeating our mistakes if no one wants to learn from them.

    I’m not pointing fingers here. After all, everyone is guilty of this from time to time, so what would be the point? I’m just trying to provoke a few thoughts now and then.

  6. Ashley Says:

    I found the account of Elena Filatova fascinating, especially the part (if memory serves) about the radiation-heavy forests that glow red at night and were deadly to enter. Was pretty disappointed to hear much of what she said was made up. :(

    >> I guess this is where I could make a joke about my nuclear family…


  7. Stan Says:

    I guess it sounded that way, but I wasn’t accusing you of looking for something to be depressed about. It was more applicable to people in general. This post/article was a good example because I know there are some people who woudl focus on it for long periods of time and immerse themselves in the misery. These are the same people who bounce from one reason to be down to another without a breath of fresh air in the middle. Man, I’m such a downer on this post. Sorry guys. back to just train wrecking everything with nonsensical comments. :)

  8. Stan Says:

    But no matter how you view the world, we are doomed to keep repeating our mistakes if no one wants to learn from them.

    Couldn’t agree with you more. For all my apathy, I’m glad that there are people out there like you, Holz, Kamin, and Ash who care about our world enough to stay informed. COme election time, I know I’ll be leaning on you all heavily for info.