Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 5 Wandering in Pripyat

Pripyat 25 Years After Chernobyl

Pripyat Cafe Stained Glass - Jan Smith 2011

There are discreet spaces in Pripyat where things are hardly touched since they were abandoned. This is a small sample of my most recent work and some of the stories from the buildings I entered. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 5 Wandering in Pripyat”

Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 4 Disaster Porn

Disaster Porn in Pripyat

Room with a View in Pripyat - Jan Smith 2011

Stalker and Call of Duty in Pripyat and Chernobyl

I saw first hand, and later heard my guide laugh at how many people actually ask if there are mutant monsters running around Pripyat. Perhaps this is due to the influence of games like Call of Duty and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. that take place in Pripyat and Chernobyl.  I also noticed that most of the visual work since the accident  is tainted by making the desolation and evacuation of the city seem like the result of a nuclear bomb rather than a nuclear accident. In any form, radiation is invisible and deadly, but it does not blow-out windows and destroy buildings.  The broken floors and crumbling walls are mainly the scars inflicted by a massive clean-up operation, but not of the accident itself or of the ensuing evacuation. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 4 Disaster Porn”

Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 3 Computer Games and Denial

Video Games and Pripyat

View of Pripyat from Watchtower - Jan Smith 2011

Computer Games in Pripyat and Chernobyl

In the Ukraine, I was surprised at how nobody who was organizing the trips had actually been to Chernobyl.  Perhaps this has to do with the high cost of visits in relation to local salaries. What most people were familiar with, and they kept on mentioning to me was “stalquer”.  It took me nearly a week to realize that they were saying “S.T.A.L.K.E.R”, a well know, Russian developed computer game that takes place in Chernobyl and Pripyat.  Gradually I realized, that although most had been affected directly or indirectly at the time, for the Ukrainian generation under 30, much of what they knew about Chernobyl after the fact was through association.  Computer games, outside media, and foreign interest fill a void left by the lack of an established Ukrainian educational system and an older generation that was often quiet about the topic. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 3 Computer Games and Denial”

Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 2 Accidents Happen

Chernobyl Memorial, Mitino Cemetery Moscow, Jan Smith 2011

Chernobyl Accident – How It Happened

Until I traveled to Chernobyl I never questioned the cause of the accident.  I imagined some critical component malfunction, and I remember the bad jokes that quoted, “What’s this button for?”.  Sadly, the latter is closer to the truth. An article written by Boris Gorbachev in 2003, reviewing causes of the accident, quotes a plant manager describing the lack of care among employees, saying:

“Can you imagine – it was possible to see an operator sitting on the control board. The one with buttons, tumblers….

– How can it be?…

– That`s how it was. He just sat down. Sat down on the control board. No kidding”. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 2 Accidents Happen”

Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 1 Correcting Misconceptions

Chernobyl, Diorama Chernobyl Museum Kiev, Jan Smtih 2011

Chernobyl – 25 Years Later

“When I was invited to come work in the Exclusion Zone, the first words that came to mind were: Chernobyl, radiation, mutations, and cancer.” — Max relating how he came to work in Chernobyl.

I found those four words to be common associations made by many people when I mentioned I was embarking to document Chernobyl 25 years after the accident.  In this sense there are a few misconceptions worth correcting about Chernobyl. Continue reading “Chernobyl 25 Years Revisited – Chapter 1 Correcting Misconceptions”