There is a village surrounded by forests in the extreme south of Belarus, right near the Ukrainian border, in the heart of the "exclusion zone" that surrounds Chernobyl. Thirty-one years after the nuclear disaster of April 26 1986, its land has a contamination of 31 curies for square kilometre. Its inhabitants - 312, including 88 children - have inside their bodies more than one millisievert (unit of measurement for radioactive energy absorbed by human tissues) beyond the norm. Yet there is no trace of checks or checkpoints. This village exists only for its people. For everyone else it is a ghostly place: too contaminated to be inhabited. For several years, for humanitarian reasons, I went back to Kirov to give help to the children and the families who live there. The obstinacy of those who continue to live there, burying their deads and planting their seeds in that land - as if that was the only possible place to call "Home"- continues to amaze me every time. Kirov is the theatre of a black fairy tale. In school, in church, in houses with fences painted in bright colours, moved just a few meters beyond the point where they stood before the disaster, you breathe a mysterious energy. Kirov contains a secret: how and why do we continue to live in a place of death? Kirov is a space out of time. Here past is too heavy to remember and future too difficult to imagine: what will be the consequence of contamination on these people's health over the years? A glimpse of the resilience and the obstinacy of those who continue to live in this village on the edge of the impossible, burying their deads and planting their seeds in that land - as if that was the only possible place to call "Home".
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