BASTARD EDEN

BASTARD EDEN

Mon, 09/01/2008 - 12:48

Explore the social and psychological fallout of the Chernobyl meltdown, Communism's biggest coverup

Chernobyl1.jpg
Julia Kosenchuk, aged nine, sits inside her home in the village of Zorin in Chernobyl. Her poor family makes a living picking mushrooms and potatoes, and the oldest children hunt for rabbits in the forest or collect scrap metal in the summer

On 27 April 1986, tests discovered radioactive particles on workers' clothes at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden. The source? Not that reactor, but another one, 1,100 km, or 684 miles, away, in the heart of the Soviet "ideological information blackout zone". Those living in the West found out about the 26 April disaster in Chernobyl days before those in the Eastern bloc.

The explosion at Chernobyl caused the most extensive radioactive contamination in history. Fifty-six victims died as a direct consequence of the meltdown and experts estimate that it indirectly killed another 10,000 people in the vicinity of Chernobyl. Millions of people all over Europe have been affected by the fallout.

While democratic countries took precautionary measures, citizens of the East bloc wouldn't learn anything about the tragedy until a week after it happened. On 1 May Bulgarians marched in mandatory parades celebrating labour Day – while radioactive rain showered down on their heads. The Communist rulers hid the truth to avoid mass hysteria – and to avoid shaking what little faith was left in the Communist order. Of course, they took measures to protect their families, who either went abroad or received special packages of iodised food and mineral water. The Bulgarian Communist Party's Politburo wouldn't admit until 13 May 1986 that the level of radiation had increased. It was as late as a fortnight after the incident that it decided to take measures to protect the population's health – without revealing the source of the contamination. Some Bulgarians, however, learned about the Chernobyl disaster from the Bulgarian services of the BBC and the US Radio Free Europe.

Today, it is impossible to measure the exact consequences of exposure to the radiation. Nevertheless, the leukaemia rate in Europe has purportedly increased 60-fold over the past 20 years.

The burned-out reactor at Chernobyl and the nearby city of Pripyat remain the only memorial to the tragedy. The city is a true ghost town, since living there is forbidden. Its evacuation began after the incident, but people still live nearby.

chernobyl

A young teenager crosses through a hole in the fence demarcating the exclusion zone in the village of Dityaki in Chernobyl. He was visiting his babushka who lives just a few kilometres walk into the zone. Many people pass through holes in the fence as they are not officially allowed to cross back and forth without bureaucratic hassle

Chernobyl

Sergey Chernenko, 32, watches television in Chernobyl. Chernenko is a former lorry driver at the Chernobyl plant, but had to quit his job four months ago due to heart problems related to Chernobyl working conditions. He believes vodka can cure his disease and has no money for medicine. His wife, Nela, 27, doesn't work as she has to take care of the children, Sasha, aged six, and Anya, 10, who is blind. They exist on a pension of 300 grivnas, or roughly $60, per month

Chernobyl

A man stands inside a room in Pripyat, just 3 km, or 1.8 miles, from the reactor in Chernobyl. Pripyat was built for workers and was considered a "Workers' Paradise." A few days after the accident people were ordered to evacuate at an hour's notice. They left behind everything they owned, except what they could carry. The town is forbidden to visitors as it still is highly contaminated with radiation - and will stand empty until it crumbles

Chernobyl

A man prepares to hunt for wild boar in Pribirsk. Since the Chernobyl incident the boar population has exploded in the forests around the region. Wild boar hunting is illegal except during September and October, the official hunting season in the autumn. Many residents say the best hunting is in the winter. The meat from the animals helps sustain many families whose monthly income is as little as $40. The men could potentially end up in prison if caught, but say that it is worth the risk to feed their families

Chernobyl

Evgeni Kravechenko, 14, eats his one meal a day under the watchful gaze of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko in the village of Pribirsk. Originally from a village outside Kiev, Valentina Kravechenko and her three children moved to Pribirsk, a village in the Chernobyl region, because it was cheaper there. A year after moving in Evgeni contracted a heart problem and requires surgery that will cost $800. His mother receives a pension of $85 a month. Without the money Evgeni will not be allowed to have the surgery

Chernobyl

Family and friends gather at an Orthodox funeral service for a village elder in Zorin. This region was heavily affected by the social and psychological fallout of the Chernobyl meltdown

Issue 24

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

communust-bulgaria-exhibition.jpg
COMMUNIST BULGARIA GOES TO HUNGARY
Through vivid and at times poignant images Communist Bulgaria shows what has remained of this country's Communist material heritage.

mummer and girl.jpg
MUMMERS & MORE
Yambol, in southeastern Bulgaria, has been a hub for various folk traditions for many centuries. Nowadays, alongside Pernik in western Bulgaria, it is thought of as one of Bulgaria's capitals of Kukeri, or mummers.

greece.jpg
UNKNOWN GREECE, PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY ANTHONY GEORGIEFF
Yet Greece is a lot more than the well-travelled destinations such as Cassandra and Kavala.

FRONTIERS BRINGS THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST TO BULGARIA
The exhibition was organised with the support of the American Embassy in Sofia. Ambassador Eric Rubin opened the event, together with Amelia Gesheva, the deputy minister of culture.
Imperial Sand Dunes, California.jpg
FRONTIERS: THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
"There are many such places," he continues. "Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary… For myself I'll take Moab, Utah.

JEWISH BULGARIA EXHIBITION IN SOFIA
The exhibition covers some of the mesmerising and atmospheric remains of Jewish heritage in Bulgaria: from the mosaics of a 2nd century synagogue in Plovdiv, to abandoned and crumbling synagogues and cemeteries, the only reminders of the Jewish presence in
the magician.jpg
MUMMERS, CATS AND CANARIES
For over 10 years Yambol, the city in southeastern Bulgaria, has been the host of a major street festival attended by dozens of groups of mummers from all over Bulgaria.

tihomir stoyanov.jpg
TIHOMIR STOYANOV
Photography has of course changed beyond recognition since the digital revolution.

Durness, Sutherland.jpg
YOU'LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD
The open road is unpredictable, it could take you anywhere and a return ticket is not guaranteed.

jewish tombstone photos.jpg
JEWISH BULGARIA EXHIBITION GOES TO LONDON
Bulgaria, one of Europe's least known lands, famously did not deport about 48,000 Jews during the Second World War.

guerassim dichliev.jpg
OUT OF PLACE
In Vagabond we usually don't cover theatre owing to the language barrier.

Nicole Simmons.jpg
NICOLE SIMMONS, ON TRAVELLING IN BULGARIA, NOT VISITING THE SAME PLACE TWICE AND COLLECTING ART
Nicole is also an epidemiologist and international health expert with 20 years of experience managing and developing technical assistance, training and research projects.