|Lyudmila Ignatenko on her wedding day.|
Vasily Ignatenko was in Vladimir Pravik's group of firefighters who received the first alarm from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 7 minutes after the second explosion in the 4th reactor. Along with Pravik and others, he was first brought to the Pripyat hospital and then to Hospital no. 6 in Moscow, where he'd soon be accompanied by his wife Lyudmila who would stay with him till he died on the 13th of May, four days after Pravik and Nikolai Kibenok.
Ignatenko's death was hard on his wife Lyudmila who at the time was also carrying their unborn child - Natasha. How could they let in a pregnant woman to the Hospital no. 6? Lyudmila lied and said that she and her husband already had two children and the nurse had replied "Then you don't need more" and granted her permission to see her husband.
Vasily Ignatenko was highly irradiated and apart from disobeying the orders of not to kiss, hug or touch her husband, she also spent a considerable amount of time by his side. Hadn't she been pregnant, she would most likely have died, but the child absorbed most of the radiation and thus saved Lyudmila's life. The child, Natasha, however only lived for five days after being born.
|Vasily Ignatenko died 25 years old.|
The memories have never left Lyudmila Ignatenko and over the years she's given a number of interviews concerning her recallections of her husband and his battle against the radiation that slowly consumed his body "Every day it was like meeting a new person." she wrote in her memoirs entitled "Монолога жены пожарного, погибшего при тушении АЭС" [Monologue of the wife of a firefighter who was killed in the NPP battle] referring not to his state of mind but the decay of his body. I came across these memoirs a few months ago, but never read it fully as I was mainly looking for sources telling about the symptoms of acute radiation syndrome affecting the Chernobyl firefighters.
As a matter of fact I had almost forgotten about Lyudmila Ignatenko when I, just a week ago, encountered the fact that the Swedish film maker Gunnar Berghdal did not only make a movie about her life, but also asked her to tell the story as told in her memoirs. Lyudmila Ignatenko has told the same story many times before and this time she did it because a publisher needed "something fast about Chernobyl" for the 25th anniversary of the disaster. The result was the book "Ljudmila från Tjernobyl" [Lyudmila from Chernobyl] and I was very happy to come across it. Lyudmila tells her story without meddling journalists.
For Russian readers, it shouldn't be a problem for you to find Монолога жены пожарного, погибшего при тушении АЭС, and Swedes, you may read Ljudmila från Tjernobyl [by Ordfront förlag] but what's available for the English speaking? As far as I know, her full story hasn't been published in English yet, but essential parts of it can be found in this interview
Lyudmila Ignatenko now lives in Kiev, in an area where mainly Pripyat evacuees reside. She is 48 years old and far from healthy. Once being a pastry baker to profession, she is now a disability pensioner and just like the former liquidators of Chernobyl, she doesn't receive enough compensation to make a proper living. Thus she tries to supplement her poor income by selling bakery. This has gotten her into trouble with the police several times as she has no permission to run a business.
After the miscarriage of Natasha, Lyudmila managed to concieve a son - Anatoly. He is now grown and helping to support his mother.
"I am sure that he will reach somewhere in life. He has a lot of hopes and dreams."
/Lyudmila Ignatenko about her son Anatoly