Life after Chernobyl
30 years after the Chernobyl’s disaster thousands of people are still living under a threatening cloud. Radiation was detected in previously non-affected areas with devastating implications affecting people and the environment. The radiation is, and continues to be, their invisible enemy.
I travelled several times to Ukraine between April 2015 and March 2016 to find out about the implications of Chernobyl’s accident.
These photographs portray life from the Narodichi Region, 50 kilometers southwest of Chernobyl’s nuclear plant, one of the worst hit areas by the radiation and only detected five year after the explosion. Almost 100,000 people were affected of which 20,000 were children.
Between 1992-1995 two new areas were evacuated, Narodichi and Polinske districts. Narodichi city housed around 30,000 people. Nowadays, 9,000 people live in the city. Building new homes is forbidden as the city has been declared Chernobyl’s Zone 4. Although evacuation was enforced in 1991, many families are still living in Narodichi town and nearby villages such as Krasyatychi, Maksimovichy, Vasivka, Khristinovka, Bolotnitza and Zalissya among them.
What was previously a prosperous area has become one of the poorest regions in Ukraine today. The effects of radiation, alongside the collapse of collective farming due to the fall of the Soviet Union, have had tragic consequences for the local people and their land.
Though evacuation was enforced in 1991, many families are still living in Narodichi town and nearby villages. The evacuation process was poorly organized and in some cases, never took place. Thousands of people returned to evacuated villages fleeing poverty and war in former Soviet Union countries. They believed in their land, refusing to accept an invisible radiation that is less tangible than their sense of belonging.
People were advised not to eat produce from their land but poverty has left them with no option but to return to farming forcing them to bring up children in areas where radiation still remain. This has lead to birth’s malformations, cardiovascular diseases, weak immunological system effects, and an increase in various types of cancer and infant mortality.
Local people complain the authorities are not doing enough to ensure a safe environment, especially in remote villages where people have limited access to hospitals and doctors. Many of those families rely on international aids for medical treatments.
These photographs are a testimony to the communities living with the poisonous legacy of Chernobyl.