Photos of life in the Chernobyl exclusion zone
Meet the residents who defied all government and safety advice and refused to move out of their crumbling family homes – located in the exclusion zone of the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Chernobyl: for most, it is a name that evokes images of nuclear hazmat signs, fleeing crowds and deadly radioactive fires, as brought to life by the compelling HBO report of the deadly catastrophe that was broadcast earlier this year.
For others, Chernobyl simply means home.
Striking images capture the hardy souls who refused to leave the traits that their families have inhabited for generations. Photos include a cold-looking but stoic resident standing in front of her worn-out wooden house; the utilitarian decor in the irradiated houses; and the poor kitchen of an octogenic Chernobyl steadfast.
These photos show the hardy citizens who decided to stay in Chernobyl despite all the government and security advice that told them to leave. They remained as the houses had been in their families for generations
Between 150 and 300 people remain in the Exclusion Zone, which covers an area of about 1,000 square miles around the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine
Maria Masha, the last person in her remote village, can be seen in her daily newspaper that is more remote than everyone else. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 left uninhabited villages in the Exclusion Zone. Clouds with radioactive material carried through Europe and destroyed thousands of people, even those thousands of miles away
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 left behind a ring of ghost villages as residents fled for fear of radiation poisoning. But some people – around 150-300 – refused to go.
On April 26, 1986, Chernobyl & # 39; suffered the world's worst nuclear disaster. An experiment designed to test the safety of the power plant went wrong and caused a fire that radiated radiation for 10 days. Clouds with radioactive particles floated through Europe and caused dozens of years of destruction for hundreds of thousands of people, both near the epicenter and thousands of miles away.
Those who lived close to Chernobyl – more than 100,000 people – were quickly removed from the scene. A 20-mile exclusion zone was imposed around the damaged reactor. This was later expanded to cover more affected areas.
Ivan Ivanovich (photo) sits in his bedroom in the house he refused to leave after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. After those near the epicenter of the explosion were evacuated, a 20-mile exclusion zone was imposed around the damaged reactor . This was later expanded to cover more affected areas
Sophia Biz outside her worn-out property. Over the years almost 250,000 more people have moved, but the people depicted here refused to leave
Canadian photographer Robyn Von Swank ventured into the depths of the Exclusion Zone to take these never-before-seen photos of the people who defied the warnings of the government to leave. The Zone is deemed unsuitable to live in and it is against the law to do so. However, dozens of people still live their daily lives in the forbidden area
A further 234,000 people were relocated in the course of the following months. Almost all left in a hurry. Some only had a few hours to pack all their things. Others were told that they would only be away for a few days, but were never allowed to return. Some simply locked their doors and waited for the fuss to ease.
In recent years, Canadian photographer Robyn Von Swank has set out on an adventure in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. She initially expected to photograph a city full of ghosts, but was surprised that not everyone left the toxic zone, although it was considered unsuitable for human habitation. Ignoring safety issues and the fact that it is actually illegal to live in the red zone, dozens of people still go their daily lives in the shadow of the abandoned reactor.
After Robyn's first trip in 2016, she wanted to come back to document those who defied the government and never left. She hired a private guide and he took her to parts of the Exclusion Zone where not many people can go and she saw many deserted villages.
Robyn said the people she met, who were mostly in their 80s, were warm and welcoming when they got there
During her visit, Robyn said that the greatest risk to her safety were wild animals. She added that the area has become a breeding ground for wolves and other species because there is no risk of them being shot and eaten by humans
Bizarrely, it was not the radiation that posed the greatest threat to the Canadian photographer, although thousands of people died as a result of the nuclear disaster (estimates range from 4,000-27,000 deaths).
While Robyn explored one of the abandoned cities, she saw footprints behind her and discovered that a pack of wolves was following her.
"Fortunately, predators already have an abundance of prey to eat, as the Zone continues to grow as a forest of biodiversity where animals no longer worry about being killed by humans," she recalled with a smile .
Those who decided to stay in the exclusion zone have little access to support and services in Ukraine and live in crumbling and derelict homes
Many of the residents are older, in the seventies and eighties, but some are much younger.
Traveling to the local supermarket for a bottle of vodka by bus can take the residents hours. In recent years, several families have moved to the quiet, overwhelmingly cheap neighborhoods around Chernobyl
Some residents survived the Nazi invasion during the Second World War, the Chernobyl accident and the Soviet government over Ukraine. An estimated 4,000 to 27,000 people have died since the disaster
Some residents survived the Nazi invasion during the Second World War, the Chernobyl accident and the Soviet government over Ukraine.
Robyn visited the re-settlers who were all older than 80, except for two who were in their fifties. The Canadian arrived just in time for the Russian New Year and was invited to the homes of the locals to enjoy a feast of cabbage rolls, pork fat, pickled mushrooms, blinis, potatoes and more Ukrainian dishes.
& # 39; The people were warm and welcoming and spoke openly about their history. Some sobbed when they talked about the incident because they were so personally affected, & Robyn added.
One of the residents, Maria, is the only living person in her village and miles away from someone else – but she will never leave her house. She survived the Nazi invasion in World War II, the Chernobyl accident and lived under Soviet government. Another resident, Baba Olga, was an old woman who never had children, so she had few visitors. But once she had a lively social life with the other residents. When Robyn left her house, Baba Olga filled her bags full of sweets and apples and lovingly embraced and kissed her.
Somewhat paradoxically, the population in the exclusion zone is growing. Several families have moved to the quiet, overwhelmingly cheap neighborhoods around Chernobyl in recent years, many fleeing the war that rages between Ukraine and Russia to this day.
Baba Olga (photo) was an old woman who never had children, so she had few visitors. But once she had a lively social life with the other residents. When the photographer Robyn left her house, Baba Olga stuffed her bags full of sweets and apples and lovingly embraced and kissed her
After Robyn's first trip in 2016, she wanted to come back to document those who defied the government and never left. She hired a private guide and he took her to parts of the Exclusion Zone where not many people can go and she saw many abandoned villages
For those who refused to leave, life still goes on. Despite the lack of access to services and the distance to local amenities, people have chosen to remain in the Chernobyl exclusion zone
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