CHERNOBYL REVISITED: HALF-LIVES AND HALF-TRUTHS
by Gabriela Bulisova
“Chernobyl Revisited” is about the people who still live in evacuated villages in the contaminated area of Chernobyl. The exclusion zone, which expanded over time with the spread of radioactivity by wind and water, splits towns and villages in half: half hospitable and living, half lethal and uninhabitable, as if the radioactive contamination stops at some arbitrary line. What is life like in those settlements on the edge of one of the most radioactive areas in the world?
What does it mean to live in the small villages of Ukraine and Belarus, precisely where “the world’s worst environmental catastrophe” occurred? The complexity of living with Chernobyl can only be understood empirically through breathing Chernobyl, eating Chernobyl, sleeping with Chernobyl, and most of all, through denying Chernobyl.
“As other tragedies are vying for the world’s attention, Chernobyl has been relegated to history,’ says Adi Roche, Founder and CEO of Ireland-based Chernobyl Children’s Project International. “The images of Chernobyl are different than the deeply disturbing images of war where the immediacy of bombs and bullets are all too apparent. The war that has been waged by Chernobyl is a silent and invisible war, but nonetheless, deadly.”
Recently, a popular miniseries and the advent of “dark tourism” have reawakened people’s recollections of the time the disaster occurred. But these new vantage points on Chernobyl overlook the fact that its legacy is still very much with us -- and will be for centuries to come. According to the United Nations, 7 to 9 million people were affected. 4.5 million children and adults live on contaminated land. Over 800,000 children are at risk of cancer. 400,000 people became environmental refugees.
You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t taste it, and you can’t talk about it.