Antonin Kratochvil, Chernobyl, from PRIVATE 37 – an Ecological Question
2006, Chernobyl, Ukraine
It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster: the explosion of Chernobyl’s No. 4 nuclear reactor in Ukraine on April 26th, 1986, spread a huge cloud of radioactive dust over much of Europe. Some 15,000 people are believed to have died as a result of the tragedy, while another 50,000 to 70,000 people were crippled. It is estimated that up to 5 million people, including more than 1 million children, have been exposed to radiation.
Years of decay have taken their toll around the doomed nuclear plant, which was officially shut down in December 2000. Entire villages, schools and hospitals lay abandoned, nature slowly taking over. Forests are overgrown, and signs everywhere warn of contaminated waste. But there are signs of life, as VII photographer Antonin Kratochvil discovered on a visit in occasion of the 20th anniversary of the nuclear disaster that stunned the world. Farmers continue to toil their fields, elderly residents return for the harvest festival, and drunken men gather in empty villages for another drink. Then there are those that never left, like Chernobyl resident Natalya Kornenko and her son, who still live in the radioactive exclusion zone. And there are those that can’t keep away, like the woman who returned to her abandoned village to be with her son, who is buried in the backyard. A victim of Chernobyl.