Pripyat was an unremarkable small town in the Ukraine, founded in 1970, with a population of about 49,000. Until April 1986, when an explosion at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant contaminated the city and a large chunk of the surrounding territory with radioactive particles. The town, originally built to house the workers of the nuclear power plant and their families, was so close to the plant you could see the fire from the roofs of the buildings. The residents of Pripyat were not alerted of the deadly disaster that had occurred just a few miles away. The first responders thought they were going to put out an ordinary fire—and were rewarded with fatal doses of radiation that killed a number of them within weeks.
In the following days, the entire city was evacuated. The residents (whose average age was 26) were not permitted to bring anything except the clothes on their back because of contamination. In the one day they stayed in Pripyat after the accident, many of the residents were exposed to near-fatal doses of gamma rays. To this day, because of heavy censorship by the then-Soviet government, there are no statistics of how many of them still survive. The official death toll is still around thirty people.
Almost twenty-eight years later, the town remains as it had been the way it was abandoned, a place frozen in time. Houses and apartments are still filled with their owner’s abandoned things, books, clothes, pictures on the walls. On May 1st a May Day march was supposed to take place, a customary Soviet celebration—posters all over town proclaim glory to the communist regime, some twenty-three years after that regime ceased to exist.
I’ve heard of “eco-tours” into the Chernobyl-Pripyat zone, but the place remains highly dangerous, with pockets of radiation
scattered randomly throughout the town and the surrounding territories. To this day, the trucks, firetrucks and helicopters used by the liquidators of the disaster are abandoned in the zone; a cemetery where the radioactive graphite is buried is one of the most toxic places on Earth. With the years, the infrastructures have begun to erode and the buildings are no longer safe to approach.
It is estimated that the zone will remain contaminated for about another 300 000 years—that’s right, three hundred thousand, longer than human civilization had been around. Looking at the photographs, you can practically feel the eerie silence. There’s no phone service, no cell phone signal, the clocks have stopped—as if the town was literally frozen in time, an eternal monument to human stupidity and pride.
Source: Elena Filatova