Chernobyl: Footprints of Disaster

Uploaded by GrenadeLawnchair on 26.04.2012

The idea of visiting Chernobyl was born from the plan to make a road trip through Eastern Europe
with final destination Chernobyl.
I've always been fascinated by the zone, so I pushed this question rather hard,
and got the other members with me on my crazy ideas.
After considering the road trip idea, we realized that it wasn't so good,
but we still wanted to go to Chernobyl.
So instead we flew down.
In November we finally got away.
We went by train from Karlstad to Oslo.
We spent a night there and then we flew, via Munich, to Kiev.
Then we went the last 200 kilometers by car.
When we finally found a travel agency that could help us, everything went painlessly -
until a month before departure when our flight was cancelled. But we made it anyway.
When we got off the train in Lillestrøm the next problem was how to get to Gardemoen Airport.
Is it here...? -It says Airport Express Train.
-Yes. -That's right.
There's "e-tickets". There's "tickets".
There! -There?
Yes, there. -Okay.
So what are we buying? -Tickets to Gardemoen.
The question is how.
We can't... yes, we can pay cash.
"Airport". -That's where we're going.
130 NOK, what the...
Are they serious?
Yes, they're serious. It's Norway, what did you expect?
Over 15 years? There it is, "Youth".
When we had tickets we boarded Gardemoen Express, and 8 p.m. we got to the airport.
After an hour of waiting we caught a bus, which took us to the hostel.
Now we'll go to the bus. -We're now going to the bus, as Adam says.
We're outside the hostel in Oslo, and we're now going to take the bus to the airport.
And then go to Munich. -And from Munich to Kiev.
And from Kiev to Bropropnypol.
We're going to have to run like fools in Munich to be able to make the connection to Kiev.
This is going to be a blast, but did they say if the luggage would make it?
We didn't ask about the luggage.
Our plane to Munich was 45 minutes delayed.
Since the total connection time only was one hour we were really short on time once we landed.
<i>Passengers with connecting flights please contact station staff at the gate.</i>
But we made it aboard anyways...
Happiness! -Stress!
...and finally we landed in Kiev.
Well... it's grey.
But I already knew that.
Take for example just the weather. -There are some shades of green too, and some brown.
Just look outside. There are some different hues.
But they're not many. -It's not Rainbow Land.
I understand what it says there: "Kr..." -It says Kiev, it says so right there.
Yeah, I know.
When we arrived to Kiev we were a bit worried
because we didn't know if our luggage had made it from Munich.
So we got very happy when we saw our bags on the carousel.
After picking up our luggage, and exiting the airport, a taxi took us to our hostel in central Kiev.
I have to admit that it felt a bit weird getting in what seemed to be a private car
with a taximeter in the dashboard
and just go into Kiev.
It was a real cultural clash.
We went up early the next morning, packed all of our stuff and left the hostel.
We stood there and waited for our driver.
Finally a guy in ordinary clothes came, and said "Chernobyl?". And we went "Yeah, that's us".
He showed us his big, white van with tinted windows. "Yes, this is probably it".
In central Kiev it looked pretty similar to home.
Everything was clean and in order, like we have it.
But when we got out on the countryside it was rather different, if you put it that way.
After about one and a half hour we reached the 30 kilometer limit.
There, there was a checkpoint.
We had to turn off all of our cameras, and they wanted to look at our papers and permits and such.
When we were given green light from them it was just to continue into the zone.
The first thing we noticed after the checkpoint was the absence of people.
It wasn't until we reached the town of Chernobyl we started to see some life.
It's in this town the 3000 men and women who work in the zone live.
After a tour through the town we arrived to our hotel for the night.
Just put the luggage in here. -Okay.
The first stop on the tour was a monument dedicated to the firefighters
who gave their life to prevent a second explosion.
Should that have occurred large parts of Europe would have been uninhabitable today.
"To those who saved the world."
On our way to the power plant we stopped at what once was the village Kopachi.
At the cooling canal we got our first view of the reactor.
So, now we're here.
Over there you have it - the Chernobyl reactor.
Number four, that is, the one that exploded, or was destroyed by a meltdown.
Apparently they were building number five and six over there.
They were never finished, but the cranes still stand.
It felt very strange seeing the nuclear power plant in real life.
You've seen it in pictures so many times and read about it, and suddenly you stand there.
I became slightly frightened when we were on our way to the reactor
and Mykhailo's Geiger counter suddenly started beeping.
So this area is called the Red Forest.
That's because all the trees died after the accident and the leaves turned red.
It's one of the most radioactive places in the world.
When we got to the power plant we were allowed to switch the cameras back on,
but we were only allowed to film in one direction; towards the power plant itself.
So this is as close as we get.
It feels a bit unsettling though, and with his Geiger counter going "beepbeepbeep"
-Yeah, we went through a part of the Red Forest.
And it beeped when we left the car as well. - It did?
Yes, yes..
-Okay. It's not a really good sign if the Geiger counter...
Not so much as in the forest though.
The thing is that organic material absorb radioactivity,
that's why we're not supposed to walk on the grass or anything.
We're only supposed to walk on stone and concrete.
But they had a lot of that in Soviet, so it's cool.
It's so big! -Yes.
It's good that they have limits around the area. I don't think I want to get closer anyways.
This is close enough.
"It's big, it's humming and it's radioactive." - Adam Fredriksson
And it's rusty.
I'm completely moved by this.
We went to the building to the right, and there we got a run-through of the accident.
After visiting the nuclear power plant we were going to Pripyat.
That was one of the oddest experiences of my life.
So we thought that we are driving on a small forest road somewhere in the zone.
But it turns out that we were on the main street of Pripyat.
How does it feel, Erik?
It feels improbable.
It's surreal. I don't know how to describe it.
Simply just surreal.
What hit me most was all the vegetation in the city.
Even on the eight floor of the hotel there was a tree.
Look, there's a tree growing there!
It's so quiet again. Not a single sound.
It's strange when you think about it - 25 years ago people lived here.
It's even stranger when you think about that 25 years ago people died here.
The city is so big, I didn’t expect that. I thought it was mostly these houses.
I mean, the pictures you've seen...
On our way down from the penthouse we got to look around in the hotel.
This, this is sick.
This is completely surreal.
So sick...
The glass here's intact. -Yes.
One of the most iconic buildings of the city is the culture center.
There's a spotlight.
You can go in here, there's a dressing room back there.
It feels so wrong walking on people's clothes.
It feels that you're making some sort of sacrilege just being here.
Out here is a dance hall.
Well, it was a dance hall once, 25 years ago. -Parquet floor.
You can see what it looks like now.
It must have been nice then, with the light coming in from everywhere.
And now everything is destroyed.
On the topmost floor of the culture center was the city's library.
I can say that it even made my room look tidy.
It feels wrong being here.
- Walking on all the books... What's this, by the way? Tables and stuff.
Maybe... CCCP. -SSSR.
One rope still hangs.
Well, I'm not trying to see if it can support my weight.
Watch out.
It's easy to forget where you are.
But as soon as the Geiger counter started beeping you get a reminder.
This feels wrong. -Wrong? Yes.
I always have a hard time with abandoned amusement parks.
It's supposed to be so nice and joyful.
Just abandoned and ruined.
And it's never been used.
Right, it was closed down..
-The accident occurred four or five days before the opening.
Not even a week.
So no one has ever played here, no one has ever had fun here.
It's simply tragic.
We're standing in Pripyat.
I mean, I've seen so many pictures, played games, and now we're standing here.
It's indescribable.
It's so overpowering, I can't even... no.
I'm completely moved.
There's the gymnasium, this right here.
And there's the hotel.
And then all these are just apartment complexes.
Contrary to common view the zone isn't completely deserted.
There are still some villages that are inhabited.
One of these is Paryshiv, where we went to visit Ivan and Maria.
<i>Good evening, good day.</i>
My Russian is very bad. -Good, good. I understand.
Good evening. -Good evening
They're going to show us some mushrooms which they have gathered.
They live partially on mushrooms.
Ivan offered some mushrooms, and I couldn't refuse. -Thank you.
Adam is eating contaminated mushroom.
What does it taste like? -Edible. Nothing wrong with it.
Though the mushroom where about as covered in dirt as Ivan.
So we said goodbye to Ivan and Maria, and then Erik got a dietary advice.
After visiting the village of Paryshiv we went back to Chernobyl, where we visited the river port.
Unlike the first day we were going to spend the whole second day in Pripyat.
The contrast between what we saw and what Mykhailo showed us in the pictures was huge.
Silent and deserted. -Very disturbing.
It's supposed to be so nice here. But it isn't.
Close to the public bath was one of Pripyat's schools.
They are children's sizes, all of them.
They're so small.
So many children who have been here, I mean look at all the gas masks.
Who have gone to school... -...and lived here.
Here so many children have sat and talked, just like we do. Eating and having fun.
But now... Now they're all gone.
No one has been here for 25 years.
It's just been here, decaying...
Here someone stood, cooked food and served children. -This book looks older...
25 years ago.
We can go in here as well.
It's hard to imagine. It feels so post-apocalyptic; it feels like a film studio.
In here there’s just a big ducted fan.
The nature is very present all the time.
Wild and unkempt nature. -There's asphalt here, you wouldn't think that.
Under this there's probably asphalt, yes.
And all these trees grew up through the asphalt.
It's a schoolyard. It could have been like Älvkullen's.
And now it's become a forest.
I think we spent more time in the school than in any other building.
I think it must have been a junior level or intermediate stage school,
since there were toys and school books scattered on the floor.
They were in a surprisingly good condition,
when you compare them to how decayed the rest of the school was.
Is there anything you would like to say to the camera?
Something I would like to say?
Yes, now when you, the cameraman, is being filmed.
That it's sick. That's about it.
It's difficult finding the right words for everything you see.
-You get so speechless.
Precisely. -It's so overwhelming.
So much...
One day per year, usually in May, former inhabitants are allowed to return without any permits.
The most common thing they do is that the go to their apartments and cry.
I can imagine if Karlstad was abandoned. Coming back to your house then - that wouldn't be fun.
17 000 of the city's 50 000 inhabitants were children.
Now we're entering a kindergarten.
The kindergarten was to me one of the toughest experiences on the tour.
To see all these dolls, clothes, toys and teddy bears... It was very unpleasant.
I think it's easy to become against nuclear power when you see the consequences of the accident.
What you have to understand is that for this type of accident to occur a lot has to go wrong.
It's partially Soviet's incompetence when it came to handling the accident, and partially the bad communication.
There were many factors which lead to what happened.
It's not nuclear power itself that's dangerous; it's how you handle it.
You don't know what to find, that's the thing.
Or what you're going to see.
Oh... take a look in here.
Inside the apartments it felt like we were trespassing.
This is so wrong, people have lived here.
Now we're in what sometime was someone's home.
And still there's someone...
It feels like we're in someone's apartment, and we are,
but they haven't been here for 25 years.
It feels a bit wrong. -I feel the same.
It's almost like you have to see it to understand.
We've only been inside maybe five apartments.
The whole entire is filled with apartments just like these.
Every house, filled with these apartments. Gone, destroyed.
This is the city limit, but behind us there are so much...
There seems to be some sort of park down there.
They are all just as abandoned.
After visiting the apartments we went to Pripyat's hospital.
This was a doctor's journal, where they wrote things they did, I assume.
The last post here is 6-8 a.m. April 27:th, that's just some hours after the accident.
On the morning after the accident.
No, wait.
The accident occurred on the 26:th, on the morning.
1 a.m.
That's right, so this is about 30 hours after the accident.
Six hours before the evacuation.
There you can see the last post in the journal.
And there's the 26:th, '86, 6-8 a.m. -Directly after the accident.
Precisely. This is on the morning the 26:th.
One thing that was rather interesting was that on another floor we found some boxes with ampoules,
and they were in surprisingly good condition.
What does it say?
There are still quite a lot of bottles here.
Still in their plastic packaging.
What is it?
This feels so wrong.
That is very wrong, unopened.
What is it? Ammonia? -I don't know.
"Ammino...". I don't know...
It's Italian. -It could be amino acid.
This is wrong; it's unopened.
That's strange.
This is probably the scariest place I've been to here.
It's not a place you would want to be in at night.
There's a closed door over there I would like to open.
So you want to open it without any reason? -It feels somewhat like Pandora's box.
There's a wet rag on the handle.
Watch out for the glass.
Medicine, still in its packaging.
If you didn't know, we're not allowed to bring anything with us, so that's why we don't take anything.
And it would feel very disrespectful taking things.
This is after all a disaster site; not a tourist attraction. -No, rather a cemetery.
No one has staged this, this is how it has become because of an accident.
We still have to show the people who lived here some respect.
And we'll have to respect the rules that apply here.
There are things we're not allowed to film, and we'll have to respect that.
There are places we can't go into, and there are things we can't see.
We'll have to respect that. We have still seen a lot of things, and will see even more.
We spent quite some time in the hospital, and it felt a bit like being in a horror movie.
It was scary yet fascinating.
Now we're heading for Pripyat River Port, the port in the river Pripyat
which is a tributary of the Dniepr River.
It's within walking distance, so we walk.
It's really a special experience.
It's like you said before.
It doesn't feel like you're walking in a city with trees, but in a forest with houses.
As opposed to Chernobyl's port this port wasn't a cargo port.
It was a port where people went to have a picnic, eat and enjoy themselves.
So this is the river port down here and the café up there.
You can see a couple of boats aswell.
Here it's really completely silent. -Yes, I can't hear a thing.
If there's a building it's not a small building but a very big one.
People didn't live in house areas.
But it was cost-efficient. -I guess it was.
The city was built in 1970 to house the workers at the nuclear power plant.
A so called "Atom city".
Normally a city grows from a city center, but here they built everything at the same time.
Pripyat was 16 years old when it was abandoned,
but the village of Chernobyl, where we live, is just over 800 years old.
It is so big.
I've said that before though... -Imagine this street 26 years ago.
Here people have been driving cars, there have been children running around. In the music hall people...
...studied music. -The music school...
...and in the cinema right next to it which we didn't enter but...
...people have been there watching movies.
And now we're entering into the square again.
The first time I recognized myself was when we came back to the square.
Without our guide I would easily get lost.
We had been going up and down this street a number of times, because it's the way in and out of the city,
but I never even considered that it was the main street.
Something that bewildered us a lot was the curved concrete plates.
I think it was benches.
Unusually wide benches.
It could be some sort of fountains...
...or it might just be something esthetically, but we never got to know.
You become a slightly worried by just walking here.
Irradiated the entire time. Trees everywhere. We're walking on moss.
I'm happy we don't have a Geiger counter so we don't have to see how much we're exposed to.
Now we're going from Pripyat.
We've just left the city and we're going to Pripyat's railway station a bit further away.
Then we're going back to the village of Chernobyl. -Then we're going back to Kiev afterwards.
But now we're leaving Pripyat for good.
I have to say that it's probably one of the most bizarre experiences in my life so far.
It's among the strangest things I've experienced too.
It's not a normal experience. It's not really your normal vacation.
No, it's... it's crazy. -It's simply weird.
I can't find any better words to describe it.
It's not normal.
It's a city where humanity one day just disappeared, and then it's just been standing there
left alone for so long.
It's not a small city.
It's big.
And to go street up and street down and there are apartment complexes on both sides of the road.
And they're all equally abandoned.
Collapsed windows, gaping doors.
Abandoned. And it's... It's hard to convay using only words.
It's something that has to be experienced on location to be understood properly.
Now we're pulling in on some kind of industrial area. There's a truck over there.
All marked with the sign of radioactivity.
The last train that departed from here was going to Moscow 8 a.m.
..on the 26th of April -'86.
After that they used it to... -To haul radioactive waste.
Simply just away from here to bury it.
Just look at them. They must have been hauling the waste.
Considering the signs.
I guess most is said.
I think you have to experience it to understand it.
But we'll try with the help of this documentary.
As best we can.
The railway station was the last we saw of Pripyat.
After that we went back to Chernobyl and Mykhailo showed us a map of the zone.
The zone is bigger than what many may think.
From the village of Chernobyl to the power plant it's about 20 kilometers,
and from the power plant up to Pripyat it's another 4 kilometers.
So this is where we slept tonight, or what our hotel room looks like here in Chernobyl.
And then a small TV or whatever-room.
Living room with high quality Ukrainian TV.
Then me and Erik slept in an identical, but reversed, room and we had a bigger TV.
Every visitor to the zone who stays over night will be living in this house.
It's been an incredibly amazing trip!
I was very surprised by the fact that there were so much people living in Chernobyl.
I had imagined the zone as completely dead, but that wasn't really the case.
It's been a fantastic experience!
Now we're back in Kiev, and one and a half, two hours from the zone.
We're in a traffic jam somewhere in Kiev, we don't know where.
The traffic here is chaotic. -People drive differently from what we're used to in Sweden.
It's hard to imagine that 200 kilometers north of here you have this zone, which for most parts is pretty dead.
And it's not far to Pripyat from here...
...and here there's actually people in the houses. -Cars everywhere.
No gaping holes and it's not as silent down here in Kiev.
It's a very big contrast compared to the silence in Pripyat.
Independence Square. -Oh yeah, right, there.
The square goes all the way from...
When we came back from the zone we spent four days in Kiev. It was an interesting city to visit.
It was a different city and a different culture. It was very interesting.
The zone is a place I've wanted to visit for a long time so it feel great to finally have been there.
It's an experience we'll remember for the rest of our lives.