But the area is currently being investigated for the risk of radiation in wild food stuffs, such as forest mushrooms or wild berries. A relative had heard about cheap property for sale near Chernobyl. A migrant with little money, Maryna was able to secure housing for herself and her family by caring for an elderly resident in the final stages of dementia. It’s not just the absence of war, but a special kind of peace. Less than two hours’ drive from the capital Kiev, along the perimeter of the exclusion zone, it’s not just families looking for opportunities in these ghost towns, but also entrepreneurs. Iryna and Olena laugh as the family dog attempts to wrestle away the ball, scattering the startled chickens. Maryna says she has thought about the potential risks from radiation, but believes her family fled from something much more dangerous - the threat of war. He is confident that the atmospheric radiation level is safe. Chernobyl, Ukraine – August 27, 2012: A Ukrainian women who live in Chernobyl’s post-nuclear disaster “Zone of Alienation” or “Dead Zone” for more than 25 years. 'It's the people who left who are all in the ground': Chernobyl's last resident claims he was right to spend the past 30 years living in the shadow of the world's worst nuclear disaster That’s when Maryna decided they had to leave. There are still a small number of people residing in the town, however, and workers on watch and administrative personnel of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are stationed in the city on a long term basis. "I felt like we had lost it all," says Vadim. When he died two years ago, the family inherited the house. A child's shoes left behind in an abandoned nursery in the city of Pripyat. I’m the largest taxpayer here in the village. Dr. Kasparov added that the danger mainly comes from radioactive ‘hot spots’ in the exclusion zone and his team are in the process of mapping them to help keep families like Maryna’s safe. The people living around Chernobyl are still unsure about the risks 27 years after the fact. There are even several cafes and shops in Chernobyl. There are also about 100 samosely (self-settlers), former inhabitants of the Exclusion Zone who chose to return to their homes. "But now, living here, things are getting better.”. On one map, showing the dispersion of caesium-137 from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, Kashparov looks at the village of Steshchyna where Maryna and her daughters live. And just outside of the exclusion zone, there are a number of new arrivals. The 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the former Soviet Union was a Europe-wide nuclear catastrophe. Some elderly people from the area have moved back home. When not at the school - a 5km walk away - the sisters spend much of their time helping mum in the garden, growing vegetables and looking after the animals. It was a miracle we survived.”. Fighters declared two separatist enclaves around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbass, the heart of the Ukraine’s coal industry. He even bought himself a handheld Geiger counter to measure it. A monument to Lenin, the first leader of the USSR. There are at least ten other families from the Donbass region who have made the same long journey to the abandoned villages close to the exclusion zone. Background image: Declining caesium levels. After four years of conflict in the east of the country, an estimated 10,000 people have been killed, and about two million displaced. As of today, the city of Chernobyl is mainly a ghost town. Further risk may come from wild produce, like mushrooms or berries which haven’t been studied yet. On 26 April 1986, Chernobyl suffered the world’s worst nuclear disaster. After Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, armed separatists claiming to act on behalf of local Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine decided to act. They saw dead bodies left lying along the roadside. they live of self grown crop and vegetables. But he’s not worried. On a warm summer's evening, Maryna Kovalenko is playing football with her two teenage daughters in their backyard. Moreover, another 3.5 million population presumably are seriously ill. For ten days straight, the damaged reactor vented nuclear materials into the atmosphere, sending bitter clouds across the continent to spew forth acid rain. Both Maryna and Vadim’s families talk about their love of taking long quiet walks in the forest. In return for their bed and board, the family cared for an elderly man in the late stages of dementia. Over the next few months a further 234,000 people were moved out. The radiation in the soil entered the roots of the grass, which was then consumed by cattle. What drove you to tackle this human aspect? The floors are rotting and the metal radiators have cracked - a major problem in a place where temperatures can drop to -20C in the winter. It’s … After all, I’m Ukrainian and I want to help my country.”. In fact, how many people affected by Chernobyl? Kashparov and his team recently reported dangerous levels of radioactive caesium-137 in cow’s milk produced outside the exclusion zone. And today more than a thousand square miles of land around Chernobyl remain officially uninhabitable, a radioactive hot zone for thousands of years. Inside of unfinished cooling tower of Chernobyl nuclear power plant block 5. 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Unable to afford a home, she was asked to care for an elderly resident with dementia – when he died two years later, the family inherited his home. Water is a problem - their only source is a polluted well which connects to the house via a single pipe. For more than a year, his family endured daily ID checks at military checkpoints across the city. In large enough quantities, ingesting it can damage human cells, and in some cases lead to serious diseases such as thyroid cancer. The family do have a few neighbours, but almost all are in their 70s and 80s. There is no longer a risk from radiation in the atmosphere, says Dr Valery Kashparov, from the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology (UIAR). On the Ukranian side, conflicts have seen displaced people drawn to the cheap living in villages around Chernobyl. Vadim even re-employed seven of his former workers from Donbass, offering them accommodation by converting one of his houses into a hostel. Read about our approach to external linking. An abandoned house on the outskirts of the town of Chernobyl. "It's better to live with radiation than with war". Vadim remembers looking out of his back window to see the rebels erecting a barricade right against his garden fence. 28 of them died in the coming weeks and months, and another 14 later succumbed from high doses of radiation. About 1500 people reside in Chernobyl. Vadim says he does sometimes think about the radiation. One woman even says she simply Googled “cheapest place to live in the Ukraine”. To contain the radiation a concrete dome was built to enclose the site of the doomed reactor and a 2,600 km2 exclusion zone surrounds Chernobyl where no people should be allowed. He says the risk from growing vegetables or drinking goats’ milk in a place like Steshchyna is very low. It’s his favourite place to enjoy the birdsong and the quiet of the forest. It’s quiet here. Photograph: AP. He lives with his wife 6km from the Reactor, in the less contaminated east side of the Chernobyl reactor. The radiation that leaked after the explosion still harmed people and Chernobyl animals as well as plants that were in the area. “After what you witness in war, radiation is nothing. 4 at Chernobyl's Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Station in the former Soviet Union. Maryna says she has thought about the potential risks from radiation, but that her family was fleeing from something much more dangerous - the threat of war. Others were told they would only be gone a few days, but were never allowed back. The amusement park of Pripyat , It was to be opened for the first time on May 1, 1986, in time for the May Day celebrations but these plans were scuttled on April 26, when the Chernobyl disaster occurred a few kilometers away. Indeed, the people living on the edge of the zone, even the poachers, are a … Since the disaster, scientists have been continuously monitoring the radiation levels in the soil, trees, plants and animals around Chernobyl, even in areas outside the exclusion zone. Further interest in Chernobyl and its people has been created by HBO’s miniseries depicting the cataclysmic events of 1986. He says the risk from growing vegetables or drinking goats’ milk in Steshchyna is very low. Caesium particles, absorbed by grass roots, had been passed on to grazing cattle. The result - near to Chernobyl. Yes, they do. But in some areas soil contamination could pose a threat to people’s health. Indeed, there is a lot of interest in photographing or simply visiting abandoned buildings, especially in Pripyat. Chernobyl is about 90 kilometres (60 mi) north of Kyiv, and 160 kilometres (100 mi) southwest of the Belarusian city of Gomel. 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