Till the End of the World

I still don't know how far I can take this project; maybe I am already close to an end. Maybe there is no more historical research to be made, but time to turn to the pure scientifical and environmental questions, or maybe it's just time to quit; gather what I have, start writing that book and occasionally visit the zone for as long as that will be possible. Still there is of course work to be done but I don't know for how long that will last.

I am in Moscow, the capital of Russia and once the capital of all the USSR. Here were held secret meetings in Kremlin about the disaster in northern Ukraine 26 years ago; from here spread the news of a minor accident in the fourth reactor and that the situation was under control, but at the same time almost 30 men were fighting a futile fight against death at the Hospital no. 6.

Hospital no. 6, present time.
Only a little information is to be found about this hospital but once I had found the essential clues, the hospital itself wasn't at all difficult to find. I travel on the Taganskogo-Krasnoprenenskaya metro line to the station Shutinskaya. Having spun off from the question about the seven known nuclear reactors operating in Moscow, it has also come to my knowledge that there is yet another working reactor in the neighborhood. This one is a research reactor belonging to the FMBT institute (Federalniy Meditsinsky Biofizicheskiy Tsentr), which is located in the northeastern part Shutin, nearby a hospital. -A hospital that of course is the Hospital no. 6.

I am hoping to recognize the place as seen as documentaries but trees and bushes hide much of the structure and therefore it's impossible. Yet to this day this is an operating hospital; the re-built Stalin era building reaches high and I would like to take a look inside and find out more, but it's Saturday and no one there that I can talk to.

They were there. When it was realized that there was nothing to be done at the Pripyat hospital, they were flown here by helicopter. The firefighters.

A part of the Chernobyl memorial and
graves at the Mitino graveyard in the
outskirts of Moscow.
"Where are they now?" asks my companion silently.
"I don't know." For some reason I find it difficult to hold back the tears.
"Certainly not in hell." he replies himself.
It's the 2:nd of September and we stand by the Chernobyl memorial at the Mitino graveyard just outside the border of the Moscow region. The autumn has arrived early and rain falls cold from grey skies. They're almost all here, it seems, and a strange feeling starts spreading within me as I walk among the still stone faces that mark the graves of 28 diseased, not only firefighters. There is Boris Baranov, one of the two divers who neutralized the risk of another hydrogen explosion in the fourth reactor. Leonid Toptunov, junior engineer at the NPP at the night of the accident, has fresh flowers on his grave, and so has his superior Aleksandr Akimov. The two who for a long time were blamed for causing the disaster lay almost side by side. Then the firefighters. Titenok, Ignatenko, Tishura and others. Kibenok - hero of Ukraine and finally Lt. Vladimir Pravik. His place is covered by plastic flowers. Tasteless may seem, but they last longer and the bright colours light up the grey. The purple-white flowers that I left at the feet of the memorial sculpture will unfortunately soon fade. The feeling I sense is that I already knew all these people and that I in a morbid sense have finally met them. Maybe it's because of this or maybe because of the tragedy itself, but regardless of which, I am crying. 

We leave in silence and my last thought before running to the marshrutka is whether they're really there. The bodies. Are they really there or is the place just a symbol? Perhaps this is not even important in any other aspect than the pure greed of knowledge, because wherever they are, they are -as my friend said- certainly not in hell. 

It's been almost exactly six months since it came to my knowledge what happened to the last firefighter helmet. As you may all remember, this helmet came to have a story of its very own and people from three different countries were engaged in finding out what happened to it after our find in Pripyat in May 2011. That this last helmet finally was completely lost without trace is no news, but that goes only for parts of the helmet. The highly radioactive inlets were found thrown in a bucket in -if I remember it all correctly- the Pripyat hospital and now someone has a new souvenir, probably without the slightest thought of the real price of this trophy. 

Thanks to jsbid for the information and photos.

3 kommentarer:

  1. Fascinating, I've just read this post and I like how you have articulated how this disaster of incompetence(?) and isotopes and radioactive decay has embedded in it warm stories of heroism by normal people.

    You seem to have been on quite a journey - which you have reflected well in your articles. Fascinating


  2. The history of the Chernobyl is very interesting, and all this things that you is writting here, it is new for me. Wonderfull words here

  3. Thank you for your good words, Fabiana!