Kopachi was a thriving village in 1986 when the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster happened. The village was evacuated and was heavily contaminated. The entire village was demolished and buried. All that remains today is the slowly crumbling kindergarten and ware memorial.
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Abandoned Kopachi Kindergarten
Located just a few kilometres south of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is the remains of Kopachi Village (Копачі in Ukrainian). As with all of the villages in the area it was thriving in 1986. It had a young population and was home to 1114 people on the day of the disaster.
As a result of its proximity to the power plant it was heavily contaminated. The villagers were evacuated and all of the wooden buildings were torn down. The remains of the buildings and the contaminated topsoil were buried in hastily dug pits. However this was not an ideal solution. The buried buildings and the contaminants they held were washed through into the water table and allowed the radioactive isotopes to permeate deeper into the ground.
The village of Kopachi now consists of the kindergarten and another brick building along with the war memorial which is tended by the power plant workers. Around the area are a series of mounds topped by an international radiation symbol. This is the only evidence of the location of other buildings within the village. The kindergarten stands silent. The beds used for daytime naps are rusting, toys and clothes scattered as they would in any child’s bedroom. The only difference is the desolate and cold feel the dust coated toys exude.
The soil and water surrounding the village is still radioactive and contains high levels of plutonium, strontium-90 and caesium-137. There are a number of hot spots in the area including one at the base of a tree by the kindergarten. No-one lives in the area as the radiation levels are relatively high (compared to other areas within the zone).
Kopachi is one of the key locations on many of the tours to the exclusion zone. There are lots of things to photograph even as you head through the small woodland from the road. Remember not to kneel down or touch anything. Your guide will remind you if you do forget!
Within the kindergarten things appear to move around. You should not touch anything to place it or stage it. This would risk contamination. Others do move the toys, but it is not recommended.
Using a shallow depth of field the objects within the kindergarten can be photographed with a pleasing blurred background. To do this take your ‘f’ number to 4 or 5.6. It can be quite dark inside the kindergarten so increase you ISO a little or use shutter priority mode to get the shutter speed as fast as possible.
How to Find Kopachi Village
Visiting the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone can only be done as part of an organised tour.
Theses tours can be booked online and depart from Kyiv in Ukraine, about 2 hours drive from the first checkpoint into the Exclusion Zone.
Find out more about planning and booking a tour to the Chernobyl Exclusion zone