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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Living with the aftermath of Chernobyl

Chornobyl (also Chernobyl), site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is one of the most radioactive areas on the planet.

According to an April 26, 2006 article in The Guardian, the fallout damage was roughly the equivalent of 400 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. 

When the core of reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded on April 26, 1986  it caused fires, a nuclear meltdown, and sent out a radioactive cloud that blanketed Ukraine, Belarus, Scandinavia and Western Europe.

The official Soviet death toll was 31 people. However in reality, the actual toll is more likely in the area of 250,000 and rising.

Soviet authorities had hoped (and tried) to keep the world ignorant of the accident. However, word soon began to spread via amateur (HAM and shortwave) radio, confirming the source of the sudden and substantially increased amounts of radiation in the atmosphere.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster drastically transformed the lives of thousands of people in Ukraine and Belarus. Even today, Ukraine continues to cope with the long-term health, economic and environmental consequences of this preventable disaster.

Ukrainian American writer and film-maker Irene Zabytko is the author of The Sky Unwashed, a novel about the the elderly people who insist on living, as they always have, in their homes in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, the highly irradiated 30 kilometer area surrounding the site of the 1986 explosion. (Available through Amazon.)

She has also spent several years documenting this tragedy on film, featuring their lives in a documentary film she is spearheading, called Life In The Dead Zone.

Irene and her film crew at Wheat Street Productions, Inc. have already released an award-winning film short, Epiphany At Chornobyl, based on the soon-to-be-released documentary. Here's the trailer:

More information about the film can be found at the film's website.

Irene is still in need of funding to complete her project. Please consider supporting her efforts with a donation.

On May 1, 2011, Irene was a guest on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio. We talked about her film and her travels to the Chornobyl Dead Zone to research and shoot the film. You can listen to the interview here.

Today is the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Human beings are not good at learning from the mistakes of the past. But at least on this day in history, once a year, let us not forget ... and let us not make light of the awful legacy it left behind.

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