Pripyat is now empty. It was once the model town for workers at the newly developed and expanding nuclear power plant. There were just 4 tower blocks of 16 storeys built when the disaster occured.
From the roof of one block it is easy to see why this city was so badly affected when the power station disaster occured. The remains of the reactor is now covered in a metal sarcophagus, containing the radiation still being emitted, but it is close to the city. This proximity really isn’t evident until you are stood on the rooftop looking at the buildings, the ferris wheel and the river beyond.
The apartments within the tower block are now empty. The liquidators who risked their own lives to clear the city made sure that very little remains. Doors have been removed to make life a little easier to remove furniture quickly and all that is left is the random cooker and small, personal belongings missed by the rapid clearances.
Liquidators in Pripyat
The liquidators were army personnel and specialists brought in during the months that followed the disaster. With very little protection and for some, little awareness of the risks they were working under they attempted to reduce the consequences of the disaster. Numbers are difficult to find but it is estimated that between 600000 and 800000 people were involved in the process. Many now suffer from life long illness and shortened life expectancy.
Radioactive dust within the city was one of the problems (and still is today) that needed to be reduced. Streets and buildings were washed down with a substance called “bourda” and in areas such as Kopachi and the Red Forest, buildings and trees were buried in an attempt to contain the dust. The Red Forest is adjacent to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and all the pine trees were burnt by the radiation turning red and yellow giving the area its name. The trees contained such high levels of radiation following the disaster that the only solution at the time was to cut the trees down and bury them before the clear up to contain the dust could begin. The Red Forest Area, despite its natural and flourishing appearance today with new young trees, is still one of the most contaminated areas within the exclusion zone.
Entering this very personal world was difficult. Looking through windows into someone’s home, it felt as if you weren’t really meant to be there. It was hard to imagine the emotions that the residents felt being given a few hours to collect a small number of belongings. They were told it would be for just a few days, but history tells us otherwise. Standing on the rooftop in the afternoon sunshine it is also hard to comprehend the task that that liquidators were faced with; a vast city coated in radioactive dust and debris that needed to be reduced.
The lift in the block no longer works and glass and debris crunches under foot with every step. Walls have collapsed and doors that were once the pride of the home owners hang off their hinges. The ornate leather padding torn and shabby. It is impossible to imagine what the residents lives, the tower block and the city would have been like today had the disaster not have happened.