Lyubov Sirota Returns to Pripyat
January 12, 2017
On May 9, 2000, Victory Day (celebrating the end of World War II in the former Soviet Union), former inhabitants of the Chernobyl “company town” of Pripyat were allowed to visit their old home. Aleksandr (Sasha) Sirota convinced his mother, the poet and anti-nuclear activist Lyubov Sirota, to accompany him and his friend Maksim on this painful journey. Sasha made the following photographic record of the visit, and the comments underneath the pictures are by Lyubov Sirota herself.
On the road to Pripiat.
We are almost by the city boundary. Behind where I stand, there was earlier a thick forest (which turned reddish after the explosion), and because of it the station was not then visible from here.
In Microregion 1; after the accident this was one of the “dirtiest”–that is, one of the most radioactive–areas.
I am standing by my apartment house. On the second floor is a window to our apartment.
In 1986, there was no poplar by this building; rather, there was a little twig that Sasha had planted that spring. Our children played here during the night and morning of April 26-27, 1986. And closeby is the road, along which the cars were rushing to the station and back.
At the entrance to our apartment house.
In our apartment.
The café near our house, where my son and I often ate . . .
[The sign on the picture says ‘Bon Appetit’ in Russian.]
In the same cafe (near our apartment house).
Behind me walks Sasha’s friend Maksim. It was he who drove us to Pripyat in his car.
High School No. 1 in the center (Sasha’s school).
In one of the classrooms.
The girl standing in front of me went to this school, too, and therefore she could not hold back her tears
The school’s soccer field is overgrown with trees instead of grass.
One of the yards behind Sasha’s school (see photo No. 7).
A children’s playground five meters from one of the entrances to a multi-storied apartment house. With difficulty one can make out the concrete overhang of the entrance. In such (at the time too radioactive) spots, where they removed a layer of soil (together with the roots of the grass) trees sowed themselves [volunteered] and now one has this total feeling of being in a modern city lost in the jungles. And this is not a fantasy–it’s a reality.
N.B.! The overhang is just barely visible over the entrance to the doorway.
One of the apartment buildings of Pripiat.
One sees lots of such incriptions on the walls of the houses here. Most of them are messages from the former children of Pripiat.
[The inscription says ‘Forgive me, my native home… Iuliia.’]
To my right is ‘Palace’ Square. Behind my back is a hotel (where my son and I, by invitation of the nuclear station, lived the first half year), behind it–the building of the former City Committee of the CPSU, where after the explosion of Reactor 4 of the ChAES [the Chernobyl Nuclear Energy Station] the government commission spent almost two days [and nights] deciding what to do with the inhabitants of Pripiat.
The DK (Palace of Culture) “The Power Specialist”–our second home (perhaps really our first; we certainly spent more time here than in our apartment).
On the steps of the Palace of Culture; rather, on what remains of them.
In the dance hall of the Palace of Culture.
Here we ran disco dances, poetry readings, evenings of entertainment, twice even culture programs for convention delegates (directors of nuclear stations, energy ministers etc.) from the member countries of the SEV (Council of Mutual Economic Assistance).
The Palace of Culture: “The Power Specialist.” A mural devoted to the “achievements” of Soviet science
The KPP (Checkpoint) of Ditiatki ten kilometers from the Zone of Estrangement.
We are leaving the zone.
By now I see and feel nothing any more, except a hellish headache and pain in my heart, legs, and joints. All this came to a head in a severe, week-long crisis, but in no way do I regret the trip. On the contrary, I am grateful to my son and Maksim for convincing me to come with them.