Allow some time for this tour through the nuclear deadzone around the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. The guide is a young woman named Lena, riding on a “kawasaki zzr 1100 cc sport touring motorcycle.”
Here’s part of her introduction:
The word CHERNOBYL scares holly bijesus out of people here. If I tell someone that I am heading in “dead zone”… you know, what I hear.. In best case- “are you nuts?” My dad used to say that people afraid of a things which they don’t know. Dad is nuclear physicist and he also says that of all dangerous things he can only think about one, which is riding on fifth or sixth gear on my bike. In any way, dad and their team work in “dead zone” for last 18 years. They doing researches from the day when nuclear disaster happened. The rest of guys in a team are microbiologists, doctors, botanists.. etc. I was 7 years old back then and in a few hours after accident happened dad sent us with sister off with the train to Grandmother. Granny lives 800 kms from here and dad wasn’t sure if it was far enough for us to stay away of troubles. We had communists at power those days and they kept silence about this accident and then people start learning by themselves and real panic began in 7-10 days after disaster. Dad says, that in those first 10 days exposure to radiation was so powerful that one day of staying in Kiev those first days was equal of 1 year of living in Chernobyl now.
She rides the asphalt roads, where she travels for miles (sorry, kilometers) without meeting another car. The level of radiation is safe (comparatively) on the asphalt. It multiplies when you step off the road.
Abandoned homes, with family photos on the mantles, schools, new apartment buildings where no one ever lived, barges that are too radioactive even to be used for scrap, fields of rusting cars, farm equipment, firetrucks, helicopters — Chernobyl is a disaster that keeps giving. An enterprising tour guide charged visitors $210 to visit an abandoned city. They couldn’t stand more than 15 minutes of the silence. Sometimes her photos seem like the scene after the end of On the Beach.
I’ve summarized, but I haven’t captured either the narrative or the effect. Go and see it.
Thanks to The Politburo Diktat for linking to it.