Viktor Pinigen, surveyor and liquidator, Belarus

„The silence. It was like a vacuum."

Viktor Pinigen is a surveyor. A the end of May 1986, he was deployed as a liquidator in the 30 - kilometre eclusion zone.

"Medal for the deserving work of the liquidators"

"It had to be at the end of May, around one month after the reactor disaster in Chernobyl, but I can no longer remember precisely. I was called up as an army reservist and had to set out immediately. Why and where exactly I would only learn later. Together with five other men, I travelled in an empty train in the direction of Gomel. We thought we might be going to war. There we were met by the chairman of the Executive Committee. All the doors in the administrative building were wide open, hardly anyone was there. We were told that we had arrived in Naroulia, a town near the Ukrainian border. We received quarters at an inn and were the only guests. But we still didn't know what was going on. The inn was only around 100 metres away from the Pripjat River with a very beautiful, sandy shore. So we bathed. We were finally picked up and driven to a deserted village located in the midst of the 30-kilometre exclusion zone around the destroyed reactor in Chernobyl. Our task was to conduct surveying activities in several villages. Large, heavily contaminated areas were to be paved over – but we only learned that much later.
I still know by heart the names of the villages where we worked for the week: Bely Bereg, Danilejewka, Lichownja, Grushevka. And I will never forget the silence. It was dead quiet. No singing birds, no buzzing bees or flies, only the occasional stray cats and dogs, all of whom were later shot dead. The villages were deserted, doors and windows boarded up, the wells filled in. And the silence. Like a vacuum. One afternoon they had forgotten about us. We simply weren't picked up. So we walked 15 kilometres back to our inn through a beautiful, uninhabited landscape. At the boundary of the exclusion zone, I saw firefighters and soldiers in protective suits and protective masks, and a policeman was washing every car that drove out of the zone. We worked in our civilian clothes, which no one seemed to care about. And we didn't have a dosimeter, even though everyone who worked in the exclusion zone was actually supposed to carry one. I still don't know to this day how much radiation I was exposed to. Six years later – and after quite some insistence – I was acknowledged as a liquidator and received a nice medal. It shows a drop of blood and the alpha, beta and gamma rays. But unlike other countries of the former Soviet Union, I have never received any compensation or a pension. In Belarus we were celebrated as heroes, but that was all. Today we're no longer even that. Instead we're now regarded as victims. However, a right to compensation therefore still doesn't exist. But I'm also not a victim. To the contrary: I'm proud to have played my part in tackling this disaster. And I'm still alive. Three of my former comrades have died.
 



 

 

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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 www.alpenmagazin.org, www.mangel-und-moral.org, and the latest creation: www.mensch-und-atom.org.

About

Publisher:
Association for Sustainable Journalism in Internet,
Neugasse 30,
CH-9000 St. Gallen

 

Editor:
Pressebüro Seegrund,
Neugasse 30, PO Box 445,
CH-9004 St. Gallen,
Tel. +41(0)71 671 10 73,
www.seegrund.ch,

 

Website design and programming:
Eveline Arnold Ukaegbu, Proclamation,
Zypressenstrasse 138,
CH-8004 Zürich,
www.proclamation.ch

 

English translation:
Elana Summers

 

Russian translation:
Alexej Scherbakov

 

Local interpretors: Galina Kovalch (Belarus),
Irina Gasanova (Ukraine), Chikako Yamamoto (Japan)

 

Authors:
Martin Arnold, freelance journalist, author and media entrepreneur for the past 30 years
Urs Fitze, freelance journalist, reportage on politics, the economy, science, travel and the environment" target="_blank">www.seegrund.ch,

 

 

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Without provoking or causing a scandal, www.society-and-the-atom.org 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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