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Donald Weber | Bastard Eden, Our Chernobyl


From PRIVATE 51 – Global Report 2, pp. 08-16

[S]ome 20 years after the nuclear reactor incident of April 26, 1986. Chernobyl lies 100 kilometers north of the capital city of Kiev, in a boreal forest of winding rivers and dark bogs. This wilderness was known as the Pripyat Marshes, the historic refuge of the Slavic people from foreign invasions. That first morning, as the plume of radioactive debris fell across the land and into the rest of Europe, the authorities evacuated the city of Pripyat and created a 40-kilometer Exclusion Zone around it. The 50,000 residents had 15 minutes to leave, and never returned.

Today a ring of silent fire surrounds these pine woods and abandoned apartment buildings. People are not supposed to live here; wild boars, rabbits and deer thrive in the lush greenery. Even the steppe wolves have returned.

Don Weber began visiting this region, as he says, because he wanted to see what was there. He had little interest in theories of history, or root causes. His question was simple: What was daily life actually like, in a post-nuclear world? What Don found was a haphazard community of survivors, and emigrants from other cities, who told him they preferred Chernobyl’s rural peace to the urban blight of Ukraine’s industrial zone. They were all exiles. A self-imposed exile, to the nation’s peasant past, and the relative safety of its prehistory.

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