Updated: Nov 28, 2019
Our first visit after passing the checkpoint of the 30km exclusion zone was Kopachi. Kopachi is an abandoned village only 4km away for Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and it was liquidated due to the high levels of radiation at the time of the accident. The entire village was evacuated and then buried, as an experiment, since no other village had the same fate, thus leaving no evidence of its existence. However, we knew it was once there, our tour guide told us! Today you only see a small forest, occupying the space of what used to be Kopachi Village. The only creatures leaving there today are animals, wild or not since this turned out to be one of their favourite places.
Before visiting the single building that still stands today, I saw the World War II Memorial, which even today serves its purpose, even for us tourists, as it still reminds us of the Soviet soldiers that died in WWII at Kopachi.
Just a few meters away and before entering the kindergarten building, I thought I needed to take a measurement. I had to check my dosimeter and since this area received a significant
amount of radiation I had to check! I placed the dosimeter on the ground!!! - But they told us to touch nothing! - I took a quick shot and reminded to myself that I need to follow the rules. I know it is not an excuse but, it came so natural to me to place something on the ground, as there was no evidence of the disaster here. However, the beeps of my dosimeter reminded me of an "enemy" that I cannot see.
The reading was 4.26 μSv/h or 0,00426mSv/h. To put it to some perspective, if I expose myself to this amount of radiation for an entire year, then the total amount of radiation that I will receive will be approx. 37mSv. Is this number big? We are exposed to natural radiation of 2-3mSv per year, so I guess it is safe to say that if you stay at the exact spot for one year, you will get at least ten times more radiation.
Various thoughts crossed my mind as I was looking my dosimeter laying on the ground. Do I pick the thing? Is it safe? Why it beeps? What if my actions contaminated my dosimeter. What will happen to me if I pick it up? Being either stupid or brave, I decided to pick up my dosimeter and not to do this again, at least not on purpose anyway.
I picked up my dosimeter and took a new reading of the air that circled us. This time my
dosimeter displayed 2.13μSv/h or 0,00213mSv/h. The "very wrong thing" that occurred here is still here, after 33years, and it will be so for many thousands of years, of course not as severe but it is still here.
I remember a photo of a protest that my English teacher showed me many years back. I still remember it vividly, and I still don't know the reason why I remember this event. There was a street protest, and the protestors had a large sign with the following message "NUclear - UNclear". I am not against nuclear energy; I am not against anything that is appropriately done, always taking into consideration the effects on people if something goes wrong. As I like to say a knife can be used to cut bread but also to kill, however, the blade is an inanimate object and can do nothing alone. It is up to us to decide how well or not we are going to use the knife.
The "little scientist", myself, decided to go ahead and to quit taking measurements of almost everything. It was time to visit the only standing building at Kopachi. Time to visit the kindergarten. Time for photos!
No more words, enjoy some of my photos of this spectacular place!
Just a few meters inside the kindergarten and I was overwhelmed by the things I was seeing. Traces of a sad event, hints of a human touch...
How what is for me being inside the kindergarten? How did I feel? How do I feel now? Awkward questions for me as I still have mixed feelings.
First of all, it was an experience just being there and moving around this place. It made me feel exploring and/or looking for pieces of evidence of human tragedy. But it was not all there for me, maybe because I did not visit Chernobyl for this purpose, perhaps I did not let it in or because I was so overwhelmed with everything else so that this building was not standing out. In any case, I truly enjoyed being there, fantasizing of people moving around 33 years ago, and since then the only inhabitants are nature and some weird tourists, like myself!
I enjoyed this part of the trip but I am anxious for more! I want to see it all (impossible).
See also, Post 3, Trip & Outer Exclusion Zone.