Accounts from Those Present
I absorbed 710 rads that night. I was on duty as an engineer at the 8th turbine, where they were running some tests. I came on my shift when the tests started. The turbine was turned off, but still rotated. I heard an explosion. The roof of the machine hall began to collapse over the 8th turbine. Shocked - we stood around Slava Braznikov - he was dead. At first we did not realize what had happened. We were scared for a moment. The lights died. A could of dust appeared. Then the lights came back on. We were no longer scared. The work started. All the emergency pumps were switched on and the routine to shut down the turbine began.
(Volodymyr Makyha worked at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant as a security officer for the communist party. Today - because of his experience in Chornobyl he is a priest of the Orthodox Church. -- Interview "Chornobyl Tragedy and Hope")
Recently I buried my friend Victor - who worked as a dossimetrist after the accident. Before the accident - his job at the plant was as a welding inspector. He worked in the construction division of the plant. After the accident he became and invalid as a result of his participation in the clean up of Chornobyl. In our cemetery alone, we have buried 175 cleanup workers. These are those that I knew personally.
People often say that the administrators were protected. In this cemetery Hundar is buried, the deputy Director of the Construction Division in Chornobyl. Chornobyl did not spare anyone. Not the bosses. - not the workers - no one.
When the accident happened Hannah Shepeta was in the maternity ward in the Pripyat hospital, one and a half miles from the power plant. She remembers?.
It was the beginning of the first night. Nurses started rushing around. We all went into the corridor to see what had happened. We did not even imagine how much this would effect our lives. How could we. We did not know. It was probably from fear that I went into labor. I was in hard labor all night. Just before dawn I gave birth to Kolya. The next day we were evacuated, and life was never again the same.
(Kolya Shepeta, was the last person to be born in Pripyat. The last citizen of a city that no longer exists. Today, he is ten years old and living in Kiev where his family was resettled. "Chornobyl: Tragedy and Hope")
The old people had been talking with great anxiety. Black storks had been seen not far from the village. Black storks - a bad omen. Black storks had been seen before the war - yes a bad - a very bad omen - I could feel it.
I had just finished washing the dishes - putting things away. I had sat down to rest - and fell asleep in the chair. Like I was waiting for something. For some reason I could not go to bed. My husband, Volodya was at work, at the plant. I awoke - it was about 3 am. There was commotion in the villege. The animals were restless. Someone - came to my door. I looked a the clock, yes it was just after 3am. A chill ran through me. I opened the door. Yes, I said, I know something has happened.
Without thinking, I tied my scarf over my head and started for the plant. I had to see. I had to know Volodya was all right. I don't remember walking those 4 miles. It was odd. I did not see the fire trucks as they flew past me on the road leading to the plant. I did not see the automobiles. My eyes were transfixed on the plant. It was lit up. It almost looked like daylight. I could see that a large portion of the building was gone. My God, I gasped. I sat down in the road, and buried my face in my scarf. I could not look. I knew - I knew that nothing would ever be the same in my life again.
I tried to compose myself. I got up, and continued toward the plant. I had to know. Volodya - was he alive. People, were running everywhere. There were ambulances. Shouting. Someone came up behind me and grabbed me by the shoulders - my scarf slipped from my head, and fell around my shoulders. Valentina, he said, what are you doing here? Yes, I have seen him. I saw, Vlodya. He is in the plant with the others. We are fighting to put out this fire. Go home. There is nothing that you can do here. Nothing that you can do to help him.
No, there was nothing I could do -- and nothing that I can do now for him. Except pray. Pray with all of my heart and soul for another day. Volodya, worked at the plant that night, and then for months in the clean up. He was sent home -- but nothing has ever been the same. He has dizzy spells, nightmares, and has had several strokes. I feel as helpless now, as I felt that night. Helpless to do anything- for him or the others.
I take each day as it comes. That is all I can do - and I pray. I do not know if it helps, or if there is a God to hear me - but that is all that I can do - so I pray.
(Story recorded on audio tape - by a visiting delegation. Both Valentina, and Volodya are in their early 40's. They have a 12 year old son and were resettled to Kiev. Valentina works for Chornobyl Union.)
HTML by Chris Cochems. Last updated 11/25/98.