Magazine article The New Yorker

Chernobyl Showcase_by_robert_polidori

Magazine article The New Yorker

Chernobyl Showcase_by_robert_polidori

Article excerpt

On April 26, 1986, at 1:23 a.m., Reactor No. 4 at Chernobyl trembled and exploded, causing a conflagration that spewed a radioactive cloud ten times as deadly as the radiation at Hiroshima. Many residents of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian towns downwind from the reactor absorbed radiation equivalent to a thousand chest X-rays. And yet the next day, ignorant of the dangers, children played in the fields and on the playgrounds; sixteen couples were married in Pripyat, just two miles from the burning reactor. One of the officials in charge proclaimed, "Panic is worse than radiation."

And then began the headaches, the nosebleeds, the nausea. Thousands of people died of cancers and other diseases in the years after the Chernobyl disaster. Had it not been for hundreds of thousands of soldiers and rescue workers who devoted themselves to the cleanup at Chernobyl and Pripyat, there is no telling how many more people might have died. What certainly died at Chernobyl was the Soviet pretense. With Chernobyl, perestroika began in earnest.

On a trip to Chernobyl a couple of years after the accident, I saw abandoned playgrounds, schools, houses, half-buried cars and rail carriages. …

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