Ukraine

The Zone

Life after death in Chernobyl

After the Chernobyl nuclear accident, which occurred on 26 April 1986, the Soviet government created a 30 km exclusion zone around the plant and evacuated the 116,000 residents. The area thus became a dead zone. Yet the area around the plant, despite being one of the most contaminated places in the world, is far from deserted.

For the last 20 years, Pierpaolo Mittica has dedicated himself to documenting what happens inside the area known as “The Zone.” In his long-term project he has collected the stories of those who gravitate to this place: those who have always refused to leave, those who have returned to live there or the 2,000 people who continue to work there to keep the plant safe. There are the tourists, the smugglers of radioactive metals, the young people who practice extreme trekking, along with the pilgrims who come to visit the tomb of Menachem Bochum Twersky, the rabbi founder of Hasidism, buried here in 1787.

“Before the 1986 accident, the people of Chernobyl talked about space exploration and the triumph of communism around the world” says Yuriy Tatarchuck, former manager of the Chernobyl Information Center. “Pripyat was the city of dreams: today it is a desolate urban landscape, where the inhabitants burn firewood to keep warm. But I still think it is a damn fascinating place, which can be of inspiration for every one of us.”