80km West (Part 2)

March 2011.
Narodichi district, Ukraine. 80km West of the the city of Chernobyl.

It’s the 11th of March, when an earthquake with a magnitude of 9,1 strikes Japan. The following Tsunami waves hit the coast and damage the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant causing a chain reaction and another level 7 meltdown, almost 25 years after the Chernobyl catastrophy.
The Company running the Fukushima Power plant refuses to show the true scale of the catastrophy, but has to give in and order the evacuation of some 150.000 residents in a 20km radius around the destroyed reactor.
I am traveling in Russia at the moment, when I hear the horrible news.
I wonder what people in the Chernobyl exclusion zone think about the events in Japan so I am stopping by for another visit, one year after my last encounter with the residents of the zone…

The city of Narodichi lies at the edge of the contaminated area.
The map (located in front of the city museum) shows inhabited settlements (circled dot), half abandoned (black half circle) and uninhabited settlements (black) in the region of Narodichi district.
The city’s inhabitants were evacuated at first, but after a few month it was dicided that people could come back to their homes since radiation levels were barely acceptable for living. Nowadays the city is more than half abandoned, with little infrastructure and very few possibilities to find work. Even selling vegetables isn’t quite lucrative for the locals because everything that goes to Kiev’s market places has to be labled with the district it was grown, and buyers are still very sceptical with vegetable from that infamous region.

Lenin overlooking the central square of Narodichi
The faded pictures of the Кращи люди району, the “Most honorable People”, were removed from the memorial in the city’s central square.

The only direct road in the direction of the capital Kiev forms a dam to stretch over the wide valley of the river Унс. A vast area on the other side of the river had been badly contaminated and was therefor evacuated completely after the accident. North of Narodichi the border to Belarus is very close.

Many people still suffer from sicknesses, but the old lady where I spent the night in Narodichi got it the worst. She lost both of her sons in the following years of the disaster: One just went missing suddenly, the other one died of Leucemia after he solved as a cleanup worker (Liquidator) at the reactor site.

“Kulinarija”, abandoned food store.

Старе Шарне, abandoned village near Narodichi

In the Marshrutka on the way back to Kiev, I finally get to ask a local about the events in Japan. The woman waves her arm and says in Ukrainian, something like: “As if anyone would have honestly thought that Chernobyl was the very last time..”