Thursday, 14 April 2016 13:55

The silence of Chernobyl

Written by  Urs Fitze

Officially, any settlement in the 30-kilometre exclusion zone surrounding the destroyed reactor in Chernobyl is forbidden. But there are exceptions as hundreds of people have come back to live a quiet, solitary existence.

Babushka (grandmother) is what the old woman wants to be called, and she lives in a pretty house in the village of Zamoshnya together with her invalid sister.

She has long become accustomed to the silence. They are the last two people living here; everything around them has been left to decay. The long-evacuated houses are being swallowed up by the sprawling, young forest. Some are in partial ruins, some still preserve the beauty of their simple architectural style. The opens fields where once grazed cattle have become steppes covered with bushes and young trees. Babushka's garden is well maintained. She hardly notices any more that she has to make her way between two collapsed houses.


In Pureshiv, also located in the evacuation zone, 77-year-old Ivan Ivanovich serves his delicatessens in the garden: homemade bread, homemade vodka and even smoked bacon. He returned in 1988 together with his wife Maria, who is the same age as him. They were told that the area had been decontaminated, and 100 of the former 500 residents followed them back. Most have come to regret it: there were no prospects for a good life any more as the collective farm had been abandoned and there was no work. But Maria and Ivan Ivanovich remained: "It was a temporary existence in the outside world. We had no future there. I grew up in this village, it's where we raised our children. And this is where I will die," says the former mechanic. He wife sits silently by his side. She makes her way from the farm to the stables where she's happily welcomed by the domestic pig. A cat joins in and doesn't want to leave her side. She doesn't like to speak, so the popular toast is left out. Vodka is what soothes the soul. It becomes quiet. Even the birds are now silent. It is the silence of Chernobyl.




zum Weiterlesen:

Alexei Wladimirowitsch Jablokov, Biologe und Umweltpolitiker, Russland: „Tschernobyl trifft uns alle.“

Living in the evacuation zone (all images: Urs Fitze)

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Deformed Nature: Spider Webs in the Evacuatin Zone (all images: Timothy Mousseau

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Vassili Alexejewitsch Marchinko: nuclear engineer, liquidator, contaminated by radiation

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Founded in 2012, the Association for Sustainable Journalism on the Internet is committed to high-quality, independent on-line journalism that stands the test of time. The association promotes and runs journalistic websites dedicated to topics that are hardly covered any more in conventional media. Its members include journalists, photographers, designers and web designers.

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Urs Fitze, freelance journalist, reportage on politics, the economy, science, travel and the environment" target="_blank">,



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Without provoking or causing a scandal, wants to shake things up a bit by encouraging society to reflect on a subject that affects all of us: nuclear power. It is a subject that polarises, turning opponents and supporters into ideologues. And it is a subject that divides the informed and the uninformed in a way that creates intentional and unintentional dependencies. Against the background of the current debates on the 'energy transition', we want to contribute a critical discussion for all those who want to more know about nuclear power. And we want to do our bit to overcome the deep ideological divide that separates supporters and opponents. When it comes to this subject, the truth very quickly becomes relative – or is made relative. You move around in an area where experts, opinion makers, ideologues, affected persons, victims, lobbyists, politicians and world saviours jostle against each other. Everyone should be able to have their say, to tell their truth. The truth of the radiation victims as well as that of the power plant operators, the supporters and the opponents. The second objective of the book is to explore the many facets of truth – and remain receptive to all those who want to make it comfortable for us.

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