Chernobyl, 30 Years Later: Some Ukrainians Risk Radiation to Avoid Russian Invasion

KIEV, UKRAINE - APRIL 26: People attend a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident on April 26, 2016 in Kiev, Kiev, Ukraine. On April 26, 1986 workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant inadvertantly caused a meltdown in reactor number four, causing it to explode and send a toxic cocktail of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere in the world's worst civilian nuclear incident. The fallout spread in plumes across the globe, covering much of Europe and reaching as far as Japan. Today large swathes in Ukraine and Belarus remain too contaminated for human habitation and strong evidence points to ongoing adverse health impacts for people in the larger region. Slavutych is a new city built after the accident for the workers of the plant and their families and replaced the town of Pripyat, where the workers had lived previously but which was contaminated with high levels of fallout and had to be abandoned. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
“At least nobody is shooting here, and I can freely speak the Ukrainian language,” Doctor Oleksandr Sklyarov tells the Kiev Post. Thirty years later, the radioactive outskirts of Chernobyl are seeing a small increase in population as Ukrainians flee Russian invasion and seek cheap rents and natural beauty. The Post visited the village of Bazar, Ukraine as part of its coverage of the thirtieth anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, a product of Soviet arrogance – the plant’s deputy chief engineer, upon seeing the reactor begin to overheat, ordered staff to increase power levels rather than let it cool down – and disregard for the lives of those living in the affected zone (it took 36 hours for Soviet authorities to decide to make people evacuate due to a “minor accident“). At least one eyewitness, the author Svetlana Alexievich, recalls Soviet troops “running around” the area shouting “What do I shoot?” in response to the disaster. “You can’t shoot physics, or at radiation,” she notes. Bazar is a rarity in the Chernobyl area: a village whose population appears to be growing. Mayor Oleksandr Budko tells the newspaper that Bazar’s population has doubled over the past decade, largely due to the cheap rents and beauty of the