When Life
Gives You Chernobyl...

Dateline: 18 January 2015

Here in the early months of 2015, doom-and-gloom prognostications proliferate. Some of the scenarios are way out there. Like, for example, there are people who think that the 100 nuclear power plants in the United States are succeptible to a Fukushima-style disaster.  Well, that’s pretty crazy. We all know that nuclear power plants are all perfectly safe. Right?

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. 

The fact is, there are a multitude of bad things that could happen, and sometimes bad things actually do happen to people. Take, for instance, the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine back in 1986. If you lived around that place, your world was turned upside down very quickly and unexpectedly by an event that you were totally at a loss to protect yourself from. 

Radiation and fallout from the Chernobyl accident was so significant that the Russian government created an “exclusion zone.” Here is an excerpt from the Chernobyl Wikipedia entry:

An area originally extending 30 kilometres (19 mi) in all directions from the plant is officially called the "zone of alienation." It is largely uninhabited, except for about 300 residents who have refused to leave. The area has largely reverted to forest, and has been overrun by wildlife because of a lack of competition with humans for space and resources. Even today, radiation levels are so high that the workers responsible for rebuilding the sarcophagus over the reactor are only allowed to work five hours a day for one month before taking 15 days of rest. Ukrainian officials estimate the area will not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years.

Other accounts say that 160,000 people were evacuated from the 1,062,400 acres of land surrounding Chernobyl. Many of these people were rural farmers and peasants, living in small, rustic communities. 

Where did all the people go? My understanding is that they were herded into hastily-constructed apartment complexes and given government stipends.

But did you notice in the Wikipedia quote that 300 residents refuse to leave an area that “will not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years?” 

What’s up with that? Those 300 people must be crazy, right? They must be living in total misery, right? 

Well, it turns out that those 300 people are not living in total misery, and I don’t think they’re crazy at all. Fact is, I think they’re more sane than their friends and neighbors who are crammed into the “safe” apartment complexes.

The 300 people who refuse to leave actually did leave, at first. But they missed their homes and the land that sustained them. So they left their apartments and dug under the fence around the exclusion zone to get back to their homesteads.

You can read all about these ‘self settlers' in This Article. It is well worth reading. 

And after you read that article (or even if you don't read the article) watch This Kickstarter film clip for the documentary movie that is being made about them.

If you want more insights into this story, watch This TED Talk from one of the people making the documentary. The thoroughly-modernized woman giving the talk does not share the experience of being rooted to a home and place, but she recognizes that it is something special, and vitally important. She sees that the settlers are better off than the apartment dwellers.

I think we can learn a lot from the example of these old people who are defying authority to live their lives bravely and joyfully in a radioactive no-man’s land. 

This Link takes you to the Facebook page for the movie. You can watch a movie trailer there.


Gail said...

I have no words...very valid points and I do not know which way I would choose until I have to do so.

SharonR said...

This makes me think of the post you made that is on the right bar where the woman said that if the gov't tells you it is safe in the city, go to the mountains, and if they say it is safe in the mountains, go the other way. That may be one of your links. These people, sounds like, were just as wise.

RonC said...

I remember Ty Bollinger's, "The Truth About Cancer" series that you alerted us to a few months back. People with a cancer diagnosis are faced with three choices. 1) They can follow the conventional wisdom and go through the hell that is chemotherapy and then die within 5 years. 2) they can refuse all treatment, and live out their remaining days, months, or years relatively comfortably, or 3) They can change their lifestyle and seek out alternative treatments and maybe even beat the cancer. These women are faced with a similar choice. #3 might not be an option, but they just might luck out by going with #2. #1 is for the apartment dwellers. I wouldn't want to be one of them.

I believe in a God who watches over me and protects me, and when He decides it is my time to go, then all my struggles will not buy me another second of life. I don't doubt his capacity to protect these women from the effects of the radiation if he so chooses.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hopefully you (we) won't have to make such a choice. But the contrarian in me loves that these women have bucked "conventional wisdom," and decided for themselves how they will live out the rest of their days.

I thought the same thing. "Esther Stermer Was a Conspiracy Theorist" tells the story of another woman who thought for herself and refused to be herded.

Ron C.,
Good analogy. I agree completely.

Anonymous said...

No young folk there, thats a good thing. Same thing happened at Fukushima, but the Japanese have taken better care of their citizens than the USSR.

Good thing Moravia is outside the 50 mile radius of the Nuke plants in Oswego and Rochester... ;) Just outside...



Herrick Kimball said...

Yes, I've looked to locate the nuclear power plants around me. Everyone should do that. Thanks for the link.

But what that map does not show is the two Canadian nuclear stations across the lake from Oswego.

I understand Fukushima is still contaminating hundreds of tons of sea water EVERY DAY!

Lisa @ HappyinDoleValley said...

Thanks for the links, Herrick. I did read the entire article and am inspired by these Babushkas.

Susan Humeston said...

This goes to show that we don't know everything about the effects of radiation. My take on the women that went back is that they are older. They figure they have so many years to live anyway - might as well live them the way they want and where they want. To be herded into hastily built apartments, which, in Eastern Europe means totally unacceptable living conditions by our standards - is like death, I think, after having lived off the land in such a beautiful place. I would go back too and take my chances.