The Soviet authorities refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the explosion. They even encouraged May Day festivities to take place in Kyiv located just 60 miles away fromthe blast site. To this day, only one private cameraman’s footage of those festivities in Kyiv remains as all official photos are mysteriously missing from the National Archives.
Six hundred pilots flew in sand and then lead to seal the white hot magnesium under the reactor. Many of those pilots died from making as many as 33 flights each day over the reactor. The aim was to cool down the burning reactor as quickly as possible. Workers toiled in 50 degree Celsius temperatures for just minutes at a time wearing NO protective gear to build a tunnel to divert the fires. Workers were told they received between 30 and 60 Sieverts, (the measurement of radiation levels) but medical records later unearthed indicated they had actually received 5 times that dose.
Collective farming was the main occupation in this village.
We then walked into an abandoned area where a self settler lived until she died last year. It was quite spooky being there because the whole area had almost become totally overgrown since her death. Dasha said there was no pollution here so that was why many self settlers lived to be in their late 80s or even 90s. There was no detectible of radiation in her home but scientists checked her frequently.
En route to the settler's home:
Amazing was the only word I could think of at how beautiful and prolific the flowers were here.
The settler had her own garden just outside her front door:
Dasha our guide: She has been working for the company for six months and is measured frequently for her exposure to radiation. She always had a Geiger counter with her, for instance, throughout the day. I noticed that she wore heavy almost construction-like boots and a scarf on her head which covered most of her hair. When I asked her about it, she said the scarf was because of all the ‘dust’ in the air at Chornobyl but I didn’t see any dust at all. Made me wonder whether we had prepared ourselves as well as we perhaps should have after seeing what Dasha was wearing!