Friday, 18 March 2016 11:48

The suffering of the liquidators

Written by  Urs Fitze

In 1986 and 1987, around 800,000 predominantly young soldiers were deployed at the destroyed reactor in Chernobyl as liquidators to limit the extent of the disaster. Of the over 350,000 Ukrainian liquidators, only half were still alive in 2011, according to official figures.

In 1986 and 1987, around 800,000 predominantly young soldiers were deployed at the destroyed reactor in Chernobyl as liquidators to limit the extent of the disaster. Of the over 350,000 Ukrainian liquidators, only half were still alive in 2011, according to official figures. Well over 100,000 are now invalids, with over 90 per cent of them suffering from predominantly chronic diseases. Angelina Nyagu, a doctor and president of Physicians for Chernobyl, says: "Chernobyl is far from over. It's not just about the health of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the disaster. It's also about their lack of economic opportunities, their social and mental stress and their dignity." In the meantime, the remaining compensation is slashed for liquidators and evacuees. "The elimination of free medical services in particular hits people the hardest. For some it is a death sentence. Like many war veterans, we are left only with free use of public transport," says Nikolai Isayev, president of the Ukrainian Chernobyl Party, the political arm of the liquidators. Just one-twentieth of the actual needs of the 'Chernobyl invalids' are covered by state benefits. In many cases, the disability pensions barely cover more than the bare minimum needed to survive, "if at all". Isayev was once committed Soviet citizen. The 59-year-old had belonged to a select elite, he enjoyed privileges , earned as much as "a manager in the West today" and was convinced by what they were doing. All that changed with the nuclear disaster, which helped bring on the downfall of the Soviet Union. "Today I really only fight against forgetting." But even today the engineer still doesn't have doubts nuclear energy: "We need the atom, despite all the risks."


Read more:

Viktor Pinigen, surveyor and liquidator: „The silence. It was like a vacuum."

Liawon Grischuk, painter and liquidator: "Everyone is dead"


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.

Pressbüro Seegrund, which was founded in 1989, is firmly established in the media landscape. Its focus is on feature reports, reportage and non-fiction books. It has launched a number of online magazines in recent years including,, and the latest creation:


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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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