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Living in the radioactive wasteland

In the warm spring night of April 26, 1986, the biggest nuclear tragedy in the history of atomic energy had happened. One of the reactors of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded twice releasing nearly 3 billion curies of radioactive debris including vaporization of about 190 tons of rare and inert gasses. Only when 36 hours passed after the first explosion citizens of Pripyat the nearest town were asked to take documents and leave the city for three days. At the present time we know it was a lie of Soviet government designed to omit panic. Whole Pripyat population was evacuated in 4 hours. Other towns and villages in the 30 km Zone around the power plant were resettled in 6 months. A really great number of around 300 000 people were forced to leave their native lands.


Soviet Government closed the Zone after last inhabitants left but that was not the end of the story.

The economy of Soviet Union together with European countries lived through after-effect shock.

2.35 billion euros needed for completion of really safe shelter to the damaged reactor. Health care regulations were needed for former citizens and liquidators, workers of the plant, firemen etc.


Seven million people in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia are still receiving benefit payments that in common vary from 3% to 6% of the annual budget in the countries mention.

Great financial attention was also needed for developing of the international monitoring system of radiation levels. All that including resettling of 330,000 inhabitants of Alienation Zone foreshadowed changes in lives of millions in Post-Soviet countries and Europe.

Former citizen’s lives after the Accident

It may be surprising for foreigners to know but first people who were evacuated from Pripyat were sent to homes of randomly chosen people all around Ukraine. Hosts were given notices by local district executive officers and were housing their Chernobyl guests as best as one can. A lot of people after the day or two headed to nearest relatives they have, in those days if you tell you're from Chornobyl city everyone would try to help you get where you need.

Half a year after the nuclear accident Soviet authorities agreed the project of new city – Slavutych, which was built on 2 meters of new, uncontaminated soil. Architects and designers made 8 districts of the new city in a style of one of the 8 former USSR republics: Azerbaijan, Lituania, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and Russia. The city was built outside of 30 km restricted zone. That is where many families of plant workers from Pripyat and Chernobyl moved. Today only every third person in Slavutych will be a former Chernobyl liquidator.


Those who did not return to the Slavutych were given apartments all over the Soviet Union, but thousands of mainly older people failed to adapt to big city's life and started to return to their houses inside the Zone. They were called "samosely” or in English – “self-settlers” as people returned to live in the contaminated area in disregard of Chernobyl Administration’s prohibition.


Back in 2013, their number came to 2 thousand self-settlers but in 2017 the number decreased to 2 or 3 hundred. Most of them live outside 10km area which is still greatly contaminated. Samoselys are often supported by administration workers and by tourists who have a tradition of bringing some food, cloth or even money to Chernobyl locals. All of them are hard working and really nice people, they are are feeding on their fruit and vegetable garden, also there are those who have cows, chickens and rabbits. People live in harmony with nature on one hand but struggling sometimes from wolves and wild boars which attack their gardens and pets.