Our first stop was Zalissya, an abandoned village in the 30 km exclusion zone. The houses are crumbling and the forest invading, but you get a sense of the layout of the village: the doctor’s house, the grocery shop, the school, the kindergarten: a beautiful place, full of birdsong and forest peace.
Thirty years and more have passed since the accident. The contamination here was not as severe and is reducing year on year. The pressure to allow people back into the outer exclusion zone is building.
The elderly “self-settlers”, those evacuated in the immediate aftermath of the accident who chose to return illegally, take the view that old age will kill them long before radiation-induced cancer does, and they prefer to die on their own land.
After driving through the concrete suburbs of Kiev, you can see why. There’s no place like home.
For 139 of the “self-settlers”, re-occupation has been legally recognised, they can now draw pensions and benefit from annual healthcare check-ups.
More will follow before long.
Continue reading? V – Geiger Counter
Fiona Erskine’s debut thriller “The Chemical Detective” will be published by the Oneworld imprint, Point Blank Books in April 2019.