We imagine children fast asleep and their parents drowsily watching the flickering lights of television, all waiting for the morning to come to resume their daily rituals. Suddenly, at 1:23am one of the greatest environmental and human tragedies of all times razed the city to the ground. On April 2, 1986, the fourth reactor in the nuclear plant of Chernobyl ended the lives of 8 million people in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia.
Panic ensued, and people scrambled to leave the city because the radiation skyrocketed to unprecedented levels. The city that once brimmed with life, children, schools, hotels, and parks was extinguished in a matter of hours. It was a complete and utter Apocalypse.
The area has been completely closed off to the world. No one goes in or out without authorization. It is a forgotten place that lives on in the memory of the survivors. It is a place where the dream of a world progressing and thriving under nuclear power ended. Only journalists and researchers are allowed in and military surveillance surrounds the perimeter of the city.
Inside, it is a whole different world and it serves as a warning to us of the dangers of destroying this planet we call home. There is no life in this empty city, and its ghosts remain in the abandoned belongings of those who left.
A range of illnesses has arisen from this catastrophe, respiratory, digestive, blood diseases, cancer, and congenital malformations. The survivors and former inhabitants live in a deserted area under the shadow of what used to be considered a utopia.
These families live in the outskirts of the region, having survived thirty years eating and drinking contaminated products. It is a barren landscape that history and the world has forgotten. The harvests grow, the seasons continue, and so do the citizens, because according to scientists, both plants and humans have the capacity to adapt to those levels of radiation. The disaster continues to be keenly felt and radioactivity lie in every leaf and dewdrop.
Two photographers decided to document the disasters of Chernobyl and the strength and permanence of the community that lives in its outskirts. The first is photojournalist Paul Fusco, whose main drive is to expose the lives of these people, so the world can pay attention once again. His black and white project, Chernobyl Legacy documents the horrors the inhabitants have experienced. The many illnesses are painfully exposed in these monochromatic photographs, capturing a lifestyle of those who have become pariahs of the world.
In the space of three visits, he was able to capture the lives destroyed by radiation. Their suffering stems from man’s overarching desire to conquer the world through technology, and with painful irony we see that they have never enjoyed the fruits of technological advancement. Each frame shows the iron will of survivors who live on while the error of this catastrophe will forever haunt the scientists and engineers of this place.
These photographs were taken in 2000 and still they continue to hit hard. The voices of the survivors and those who were left behind to pick up the broken pieces must be heard. The second photojournalist who decided to trace the effects of Chernobyl’s disaster in Belarus was Jadwiga Bronte. She discovered that hundreds of people in Belarus live in institutions and are hidden away, living as remnants of the disaster. While the government pays for these hospices, orphanages, and asylums, they are woefully underfunded.
She decided to begin this project since as a child she was aware of the terror that occurred that fateful day on April 1986. Born in Poland under the rule of the Soviet Union, and after discovering Fusco’s work, she decided it was also her duty to photograph those who continue to suffer. Bronte set out to these communities and discovered the true, and one of most beautiful aspect of the human spirit: despite their many illnesses and setbacks, these people continue to study, work, and contribute to society. A harsh happiness, but, a true happiness nonetheless.
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Fuente: Cultura Colectiva