Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chornobyl + 24 years: Villages slowly die off

Nivetske, Ukraine – The residents of the little village of Nivetske, located just west of Chornobyl, are literally living on the edge. It’s not just the edge of the so-called “alienation zone,” a 30-kilometer area where people are not supposed to settle. Somehow, Nivetske is also on the edge of decent living standards: they have regular power blackouts, health care is out of reach, and there is no easy way to commute to the bigger towns nearby. The list of daily challenges for the villagers, whose lives are still affacted by the world’s worst nuclear power accident on April 26, 1986, is long. “It used to be a nice prosperous village before the Chornobyl explosion. We had a big collective farm and were known for their cattle,” said Anatoliy Oborsky, a Nivetske native. “There used to be more than 100 households and a population of 800 people.”Most of them left after Chornobyl’s fourth reactor exploded 24 years ago, and they never came back. The accident’s consequences will probably be forever debated – how many died early because of radiation poisoning, and how many are still suffering from consequences to their health.This village, near the scene of the catastrophe, is a good place to assess its toll. Initially, villagers were evacuated further away from the epicenter of the disaster. They then moved to Pushcha Vodytsia, a recreation area west of Kyiv. “We were given a free 30-day voucher to one of Odesa resorts, but my son could not stand the hot climate, so we returned back here,” Oborsky said. About 300 villagers returned after those vacations, but the once buzzing village has lost many of them over the last two decades – to death, or just to the search for better lives elsewhere.
The whole article is available at