On April 26th 1986, the world witnessed one of the most catastrophic accidents in history that took place in Pripyat, Ukraine when the No. 4 reactor was being tested for safety. The reactor became unstable at low power due to a lethal flaw in design, but little to the knowledge of the operators that night, they removed the boron rods as well to power it up again. The series of blunders caused the reactor to explode through the roof and turn the walls rubbery, as Yuvchenko, one of the workers at Chernobyl that night, recalls.
The place was surrounded by steam and a persistent hissing noise throughout.
In the chaos that ensued, 50 tons of radioactive material was released into the surroundings, the plant workers and firefighters received more than 5000 times the annual radiation dose, a graphite fire followed and a part of the core had melted. The real numbers of the affected people were released later since the Soviet Government attempted a cover-up and was reluctant to acknowledge the extensive impact of the disaster.
About 350,000 people had to move away from their homes; the people who went in to check on the reactor died very shortly after; some people were sent off to Moscow for a specialized treatment.
Those who suffered a quick death were the lucky ones of the lot. Yuvchenko recalls that the aftermath caused people to get burnt from the inside out. Nobody felt anything at the time of the disaster, but after a couple of days the symptoms started setting in.
Their noses were filled with rubbery mucus, bodies were covered with crusty rashes and people were vomiting severely. Yuvchenko and a few others were given blood transfusions and skin grafts to tend to the part that was burnt off from the radioactive repercussions. He was advised not to have another child (it was likely that he is infertile as well) because the child could develop leukemia.
A liquidator at the plant confirms that the Soviet Government kept liquidators way above the safety limit. Many of his peers had developed heart, kidney problems and had even died on the job. This proves that the plant was not adhering to the safety guidelines, and the Chernobyl disaster was impending owing to a series of sloppy upkeep. Moreover, the lack of proper heed to the situation by the Soviet government made it into a bigger predicament.
Lovisa’s daughter was born with multiple aplasia. She recollects that she was not a baby but a “sack”, and underwent several operations. Mothers were afraid to conceive because they were exposed to so much radiation that they were born with medical anomalies. The ones that did, did not live very long.
The children recall seeing a black shroud over the city, like Death had come to Pripyat. They were locked in cellars, the birds and trees withered and died. There were no flowers or beauty left. The village was evacuated and the remains were buried in temporary sites.
Leukemia, Lymphoma and thyroid cancer remain the most common consequences of the disaster. The numbers still remain conceited and the actual figures are very contradictory but Belarus, Russia and Ukraine remain the most affected areas.
The Babushkas of Chernobyl returned to their homeland after the disaster, endangering their health and livelihood. They insist on clinging onto their ancestral homeland even though it is deemed as the most toxic wasteland because they refused to accept their fate. They were desolated in living in strange lands, feeling out of place. They returned home, about 2-3 of them, they were happy in their confined community and interdependence on each other. Even if it meant that they would die soon, they would die happy.