Meeting the Survivors of Chernobyl December 7, 2016 elizabeth.wasson I first encountered Lyubov Sirota in 1990, through her poems about the experience of surviving the Chernobyl disaster. Since then I have been fortunate enough to see her poems translated into English and other languages, printed in several publications, and even set to music and used on film. We also corresponded regularly over the next 20 years, but I was not able to meet her until I traveled with my wife, Paula Elliot, to Kiev in September, 2011. We were warmly received and treated with great generosity by Lyuba, her husband Victor Grabovsky, and by various members of the community of Prypiat survivors now living in Kiev. What follows are are a few photographs from that visit. Their own account of the encounter (in Ukrainian) and other photographs may be found here. For other photographs of this visit to Kiev not directly related to the Chernobyl survivors, see my Picasa account. First mounted October 10, 2011. All photos copyright Paul Brians. Paula and Lyuba as we start our morning walking tour. We had told Lyuba that were were interested in old churches. She began by taking us to St. Vladimir’s. Inside Lyuba lit a candle. Lyuba also took us to the Golden Gate, built under Yaruslav the Wise and commemorated as “The Great Gate of Kiev” in Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Paul & Lyuba in front of the statue of Yaruslav the Wise. That afternoon we were given a tour of the very impressive Chernobyl Museum. It makes clear not only the devastation caused by the reactor disaster, but the hopefulness of the survivors for building a better world. We were struck again and again by the Chernobyl survivors’s dedication to preventing similar disasters and affirming life against death. Note that although on this site I use the standard American spellings “Kiev” and “Tchernobyl” Ukrainians themselves prefer “Kyiv” and “Chornobyl.” One feature of the museum is a horrifying model of the ruined reactor. The next morning I visited Lyuba and Victor in their apartment, and met Tamara Krasitskaya, President of the Chernobyl survivors organization (left). Lyuba provided tea, delicious treats, and a number of mementos, including works by Victor, who is both a poet and a translator. She also gave me copies of the beautiful illustrated version of her poems which was about to be published in a new edition. To reach the Fund of Tchernobylers “Countrymen” of which Ms. Krasitskaya is president, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lyuba and Victor also presented me with this beautiful embroidered traditional Ukrainian shirt. After a formal reception and discussion about my work with Lyuba, I was taken to the official “Heroes of Chernobyl” memorial, which depicts Prometheus returning the fire to heaven, conveying the idea that humanity has not learned how to use it safely. With my reception committee in front of the memorial after laying flowers at the memorial. Left to right: Deputy Head of the Desnyansky District of Kiev City State Administration Yuri Titarenko, me, Deputy Head of the district Department of Labor and Social Welfare Kateryna Tyutyunnyk, and Tamara Krasitskaya. Tamara with Olga, the translator who made our long conversations possible. They are posing in the kindergarten room which the Chernobyl survivors organization uses as a meeting place. We had a very nice leisurely lunch, discussing environmental and political issues. They were very curious about Seattle and Bainbridge Island, where we live. The next day they took us on a wonderful day-long tour of the huge Pirogovo Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine. Olga takes a snapshot of Paula among the flowers. Paula and Paul in front of one of several little churches on the museum grounds. A side view of the church. This cembalom player was performing outside one of the houses. Paula took a turn, picking out “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. On our last day in Kiev, Lyuba met us at our hotel with farewell gifts and good wishes. We are deeply grateful to her and all the other people in Kiev who made our visit such an enjoyable and memorable one.