During my trip to Chernobyl this week to mark the 26th anniversary of the catastrophe at reactor 4 at the now-infamous nuclear power plant, we had a full three days. It included a trip to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to view the sarcophagous covering the damaged reactor, visiting the abandoned town of Pripyat and families whose loved ones had become sick due to the cancers and diseases from the radiation. Green Cross Ukraine and other Green Cross affiliates have worked in the communities around Chernobyl for more than 10 years.
An unexpected encounter along the way was the most touching. One of our scheduled visits was to a cemetery of an abandoned village, which was a hot spot after Chernobyl and whose citizens were forced to be evacuated and relocated following the nuclear catastrophe.
Here we are pictured with residents who used to live in the village. They were taking their annual pilgrimage to the cemetery to pay tribute to their lost loved ones. We just happened to be there at the same time.
They were poorer than poor but invited us to eat and drink with them and we were able to speak with help from a translator. The oldest woman told of the story of how buses arrived just a few days after the disaster and to take them away. They were told they'd be gone to a camp for three days, but they could never return home again.