This year marked the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident. I traveled to Chernobyl (Ukraine) to document a village which was never evacuated. When I drove through the settlement, I noticed homes that had been left destroyed and abandoned. The place was desolate against a grim backdrop with smoke coming from the chimneys of a few homes scattered in the distance.
Lida and Misha lived in a small, wooden farm house in the center of the village. Pensioners, they grew up in Redkovka and got hitched after high school. Lida was the girl next door. During the Soviet Union, Lida worked as a nurse and Misha as a farmer. Redkovka at the time had a functioning school, sugar factory, police station and a post office. About 1,000 people lived there. This would change overnight when the Chernobyl disaster occurred on April 26, 1986.
The village was contaminated with radiation. It is classified a “nuclear zone 2” – its levels of radiation are too dangerous to live in. But it was only years later that the villagers of Redkovka were evacuated. And this couple and four other neighboring families never left. I wanted my piece to focus on their survival and love for their home. Redkovka may have long been abandoned, but the pensioners living there continue to work to maintain it. There is a small church, which Lida tends to every morning. Once a week, a small congregation gathers there to pray. A small store at the edge of the village provides the basics of bread and sugar. It is not much – but for a family that has seen famine, war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, they say it is just enough.
(Diana Markosian | Chernobyl’s Desolate Zone, PRIVATE 55, pagg. 14-17)