First dates; that diving certificate that never came in handy; a city’s central promenade grown over with weeds. 30 years later, the Ukrainian town of Prypyat still echoes with the ghosts and memories of one of humanity’s great self-inflicted disasters—the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
What have we learned? Where do we go next? How about the former residents, many of whom will never be able to call another place “home”? Many other photographers have tackled this subject, but locally-born photographer Alina Rudya’s beautiful book touches on the usual themes with particular, personal poignancy. Look at her photos and read her text below. And then seek out this book—and a way back to Prypyat…
These photographs document people who, like me, were evacuated from Prypyat (Pripyat), Ukraine in April 1986 after the Chernobyl disaster.
In 1986, I was evacuated from Prypyat, Ukraine, following the nuclear power plant catastrophe in Chernobyl. I was only one year old. My father, an engineer, was working in the plant on the night of the accident. He was then 28 and my mother 23.
At the time, the average age of residents in Prypyat—a small town just 3 km away from Chernobyl, built for the families of those working at the nuclear power plant—was 26 years old. But when the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded during a systems test, it released a cloud of highly radioactive emissions into the atmosphere and over an extensive area. And so every resident (almost 50,000 people) had to leave the town less than two days after the disaster. Today, it still stands as the biggest nuclear disaster in modern history.
In 2011, at the age of 26, I revisited my hometown for the first time—a town I never knew and never will. The accident at the plant drastically and radically altered my parents’ lives and also my own. In many respects, all of my desires and passions sprung from the ruins of Chernobyl. Countless people who I miss are gone because of it (my father died 10 years ago, his health influenced by constant exposure to radiation. I returned again in 2012, to finish the self-portrait part of the project.
Now, that the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl approaches, I went back to Prypyat to concentrate not on my life, but on lives of other people. Those who were evacuated from the Zone back in 1986.
Some of them are my age, some are older. Others have children themselves—but all of them were somehow influenced by the disaster. I wanted to see how Chernobyl changed their lives, so I returned back to Prypyat together with them, to mark the starting point—ground zero—of their current life.
The crucial part of my work was photographing these people back in Prypyat, in their abandoned apartments and the familiar surroundings from their past and hearing their stories about the city they’ve left behind.
Prypyat Mon Amour
By Alina Rudya
25 x 20.5 cm (landscape format)
82 color and b/w images