Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: Zalessje Village
On April 26, 1986, the forth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant violently exploded when a maintenance test went wrong. Graphite rods melted and uncontrolled chain reaction ensued. The amount of radioactive material released was thousands times that of Hiroshima. For days, the Soviet authorities kept quite about the accident, exposing thousands of people to radiation beyond any allowable levels. Eventually, the towns and villages in the immediate zone near the station were hastily evacuated and abandoned. Zalessje was one of such villages, actually the first one to be completely left behind. People often didn’t have much time to pack and didn’t know where they were going. Today, 32 years later, walking around the snow-covered village is like being in a Resident Evil post-apocalyptic movie – the houses are all abandoned and falling apart, while the trees have grown prolifically and nature slowly taking over. Old pre-1986 newspapers lie on the floor, children’s toys are covered with 30 years of dust, local hospital with a rusting stirrups, grocery story without windows, children’s playground overgrown with trees….. it’s all surreal, shocking, depressing, scary, overwhelming, and a combination of all of the above. With dosimeter in my hand, I kept measuring radiation level, which for the most part were just slightly above the normal, worse so in dusty corners and closer to the ground.