There’s a brand new trendy activity going on among Ukrainian youngsters: some of them in fact have recently started to illegally enter the Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion – in the centre of which there is the infamous Reactor 4 that exploded in 1986, making the area one of the most contaminated of the whole world – to play survival games. Those guys are mostly in their thirties (or even younger) and represent the latest Chernobyl generation. They are referred to as “Stalkers” a name coming directly from Andrei Tarkovski’s film “Stalker”, a cult movie dated back in 1979 – and from a survival-horror videogame released in 2007 and set right into the Zone named S.T.A.L.K.E.R..
Chernobyl’ Stalkers have lately developed a proper veneration for this specific area, which they consider it as a post-atomic private home. They seem to be organized in paramilitary groups with names, symbols and rituals, while enjoying a dangerous trip to reach their final destination: the ghost town of Pripyat. In order to get there they have to walk about 60 kilometers through the woods – mostly by night to avoid the police patrolling – between nuclear radiations and wild animals. During their journey they usually sleep in abandoned villages, eat canned food and drink the water they find along the way, dirty and contaminated.
They say they want to experience a different adventure, to test themselves and feel like they are the last survivors on the planet, just as they were in a real videogame; they want to break free from their routines and normal lives, while having fun and being isolated in a limbo with no rules for a while. They are a sort of post-romantic travelers, in love with these places which they consider almost sacred permetaed with a tragic story not to be forgotten.
During the last year, some Stalkers started to organize illegal tours for tourists too, a growing popular activity in Chernobyl. They can be contacted via Facebook or other social media: they will take care of everything on the field, like travel solutions, packed meals, camping gear and everything else they think is necessary to live in the Zone of exclusion off the touristic beaten tracks for some days. It’s the new frontier of survival: the radioactive trek.