November 14, 2010


since i first heard about the chernobyl disaster, i have been fascinated by it and it will continue to intrigue me for years to come. prypiat is a city in the ukraine, which was built to house the thousands of people and their families who worked at the chernobyl nuclear power plant. today, it is nothing more than a ghost town where time has stood still. a 30km zone of "alienation" surrounds the once bustling city, which is now home only to death, nuclear waste and silence. prypiat was founded in the 1970's, only lasting a decade and a half and not long enough for the completed amusement park to be opened to the public. instead it stands empty and desolated, weathered only by time; and the songs of the swings sung only by the deadly radioactive winds. a giant ferris wheel towers over the park, serving as a gruesome reminder to how quickly the death cloud swept over the city. the city was built with grandeur and no-holds barred as a testament to the soviet era. the elaborate squares and statues, now only add more eeriness to the desolate city. the hundreds of buildings are empty shells and the winter snow competes with the summer grass for the streets and walkways.

prypiat was home to more than 50 000 people prior to the disaster. homes are left un-touched, the contents frozen in time. books lie open on tables, songs are half sung and laughter is forever removed from the city. the disaster was responsible for an estimated 4000 deaths, hundreds of mutations and a radioactive half-life which will only decay in 500 years.

when reactor number 4 exploded on the 26th april 1986, it caused the biggest radioactive fall-out in human history, a hundred times stronger than an atomic bomb. the burning reactor took ten days to extinguish, releasing a constant stream of deadly radiation. the helicopters, airplanes and fire-engines used during the clean-up have been permanently scrapped in "burial grounds", as their high levels of radiation have deemed them inoperable. in 1986 only 3% of the radioactivity was released into the atmosphere and the rest lies hastily buried in the unstable reactor. reactor 4 is covered by a large sarcophagus, which was quickly built after the disaster. 20 years on the cover shows signs of wear with the western walls swelling and showing visible cracks.

olga gavrilenko returned to her home 10km south of the reactor one year after the accident. she lives in the same home built by her grandparents, she refuses to leave the only place she knows. at 80 years old she is a widow suffering from rheumatism and solitude. olga doesn't know where her neighbors and friends are: "at night, that's when i feel most alone."

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