Prypec – the Ghost Town
Prypec – the Ghost Town
30 years after Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the leftover town was inhabited by rodents. Then, wolves, foxes and even bears, absent for hundreds of years, were coming here . Prypec was once the small town that was a home for 50000 people. It was located nearby the former Chernobyl power station, but now it is fully symbiotic with nature.
The juggernaut came in through the broken windows and crushing walls and probably took the town away from the people forever.
From the roof of a 16-story skyscraper you can see a wonderful panorama and a funfair with the famous ferris wheel, which was to open on may 1st 1986. You can also see a big showroom, where no one will dance anymore.
We might be the only people visiting this once busy town. During this several-hour visit we only get to meet two field trips. There are less tourists than usual, mostly because of the suspenseful situation in the eastern Ukraine.
The Atomic town of the future
When the town of Prypec died, it was only 16 years old. The biggest work of the Soviet planners, the “atomic”, futuristic settlement, was supposed to be the ultimate proof of socialism’s triumph over capitalism. At least that’s how it looked like in the 1984 propaganda movie.
The trees were freshly planted in the town, everything was clean, repainted and planned according to the newest urbanistic concepts. The streets were planned in such a way, that light signals were practically unnecessary, and a local café was a pleasure for the eyes thanks to its good-looking interior and interesting soviet design There were also no Lenin monuments in the entire city.
As soon as the times of Gorbaczow, known as the mineral secretary came along, the only problem to the citizens was no alcohol. It was only available to buy in a shop called “mausoleum” (because the cue was as long as the cue to Lenin in Moscow and in “Child World”, a nearby monopoly toy shop. Not everyone came back satisfied from shopping. But despite these sufferings this was quite an acceptable place to live.
Prypec, as an atomic town was quite well-supplied. You could even think, that building the communism had a very successful ending.
The surroundings of Prypec seemed to be a perfect place for building the Atomic Power station. The nearby river gave useful water for cooling down the reactors. The weakly inhabited terrain was located in the strategic place on the border between Ukraine and Belarus, which had very little electricity.
The building of the power station began in the 1970s. The first reactor was turned on in 1977. By 1983 four atomic blocks were standing in that place. But the fifth and sixth block were never completed
The Chernobyl catfish
In a small pound there are flocks of fish. Aside from the alcohol, this is one of the very few attractions for the working people, which still come to work here, usually for two-week watches. The “picturesque” concrete channel is located between the reactor building and the local canteen. All you have to do throw the bread into the water, and the flock of hungry fish will swim right at it. For a moment the water is bubbling like after the piranha attack in the Amazon river, but with one difference – the fish are huge. The catfish can grow up to 4-5 meters! Looks like nature can feel like home even in the surroundings of a former atomic reactor.
Local workers are really familiar with the animals here. One of the catfish named Giena (From the title of a popular Russian fable about a crocodile) probably bit a worker, who wanted to pet it. Giena didn’t like petting. And the worker was drunk. That’s what our guide Oleg said. Barely anyone goes fishing here. According to legends they are so huge because of the radioactive mud. Nobody actually believes it, but they don’t really want to test it either.
The Chernobyl accident
The Chernobyl atomic power station accident took place on april 26th 1986 at 1:23 am. The turbine test got out of control. The reactor began to heat up extremely fast. There were two explosions, which melted the fuel cables and the reactor’s core. A radioactive cloud went up as high as 2 kilometers. The pollution was equal to 100 bombs thrown down on Hiroshima.
The reactor was supposed to be indestructible.
Anatolij Aleksandrow, the former president of the Soviet Science Academy said that reactor type RBMK can be located even on the Red Square in Moscow. The construction was cheep, mighty and able to be used in the army. As a Soviet republic, Ukraine needed lots of electricity. Meanwhile, The Soviet Union needed Pluto 237. If we also take individual mistakes, a lack of safety procedures and socialistic sloppiness, we’ve got a perfect recipe for a disaster.
The firefighters came after about a quarter. The atomic fire was getting crazier every minute.
Nobody told the firefighters what exactly happened. The flames were impossible to put out with water. The survivors said “We didn’t know it was a reactor. Nobody told us.”
The “zone” and the “artifacts”
You really have to watch your step. The buildings of Prypec are getting destroyed with terrifying speed. The plaster is crushing. The staves are falling. It’s a danger far worse than radiation, which beyond a few certain places doesn’t go above the standard. When going around the “zone” (That’s how the guides call this place), you’ll need to have your eyes around your head. It’s easy to step into, or get attached to something. There are plenty loose steps, crushed bricks or ruined wood. It is a 30-year old ruin.
There are lots of legends about Prypec, and the guides fix these myths themselves. Their stories are based in a natural way upon the book by the Strugacki brothers (“A picnic on the edge of the road”), movies by Andriej Tarkowski (“Stalker”) and postapocalyptic computer games (Including “Fallout” and “The call of Prypec”). So a usual field trip can be an “expedition”, and every object can be an “artifact”. The tourists pay for the “climate”, and the guides can perfectly understand it. It has to be a bit “radioactive”. Just to heat up the atmosphere. Some places of the “zone” are even especially “arranged”. The doctor’s office looks like waiting for a pacient, and in another building the gas masks are theatrically scattered on the floor.
These are the things, which were already staged after the emergency. These objects are constantly moving. One day the globe is standing on the teacher’s desk, and two weeks later we can find it at the window, were it had chances for some better light – that’s what we can read on Andrzej Urbanski’s blog, who likes to travel around the Chernobyl zone.
Liquidators and biorobots
In an angle of 10 kilometers a zone of “extreme danger” was created, and in an angle of 30 kilometers they created a zone of “the highest level of pollution”. 20 local kolkhozes were shut down, and 100 000 hectares of ground were excluded from cultivation.
Now they had to safeguard the reactor and put out the nuclear fire. That was the priority. The soviet government didn’t regret money or people. They mobilized the army, and the reservists were brought to the place. Over 4 years 600 000 people known as liquidators were brought to fight the “invisible enemy”.
It was like war. The Mi-8 and Mi-26 helicopters were flying almost all the time. The reactors were covered with tons of boron, dolomite, aluminum and lead. The courses wouldn’t stop. On the first day after the explosion there were more than 100 courses, and on the second day – 300 courses. Nobody cared about the people. The pilots quickly started to feel the efforts of the giant radiation – they became week, they vomited, and fainted. These were the top symptoms of the radiation illness. May of them didn’t survive the rescue mission or died shortly afterwards.
The main assignment was to build sarcophagus – a concrete and lead security of the reactor. Everything else seemed to be blending into the background. The problems kept coming. They effortlessly tried to remove the radioactive fuel cables scattered all around the power station. The Russian, Japanese and western works failed. The electronic machines didn’t survive the enormous radiation and got crazy.
The problem was solved in a Soviet way
Many machines can’t be controlled manually, we had to send our soldiers – said the command. So the robots were replaced with the Red Army soldiers led by general Nikolaj Tarakonow. - Soldiers, I have been there two days ago and I tell you there’s nothing to worry about – he motivated the soldiers.
And so the cleaning of the power house’s roof has began.
The soldiers, known as the biorobots, dressed in only lead aprons and gloves were cleaning the reactor’s roof for 20 days. The radiation was equal to 10000-12000 x-rays per hour. That’s enough to kill a person in just a few minutes.
The “liquidation” of the explosion’s efforts was officially finished in October 1986. A red flag was proudly waving on the sarcophagus, like on the Riechstag building in 1945. But that was no triumph at all.
The zero zone
“It only takes one broken glass for the disaster to begin” – says our “zone guide” Oleg.
Wind, frost and air can turn any place into a ruin. Brick after brick. Stave after stave. Nature can be quite patient. You can find a perfect example in the city pool. - As long as the swimming pool was closed, everything was still quite stable. “It began with some tourist, who broke the glass” says the ever annoyed Oleg.
You can hear the wind whistling through the empty corridors. The nature’s job was finished by ”Stalkers” – local trashmen and looters. Sometimes you can find their hiding places thanks to the cigarette boxes and empty vodka “monkeys”. They took the expensive stuff, ripped out the cables and stole anything valuable.
30 years after the disaster the power station zone is still closed for the visitors
One of the guides of the czarnobyl field trips says “Here you can see a wolf more often than a man”
The humanly abandoned zone was first inhabited by rodents, which later brought predators and other animals. The herds of wolves and flocks of deer are feeling perfectly like home. You can even find the Przewalski horses, bison and brown bears, which were unseen in this land for centuries.
The humans are coming back too.
After the Chernobyl disaster, more than 100 000 people emigrated away. Currently there are 2000-3000 people, builders, or power station workers and people, who returned to their homes at own wish. These are mostly elderly people, who couldn’t find their place in other parts of Ukraine, forgotten and useless. Now they live in the empty countryside and eat anything they can cultivate by themselves. The government tolerates them, mostly because they can’t do much about them.
The actual conditions of the disaster are still unknown. They were kept secret for years by the soviet government. Officially it is said about more than 30 deadly victims of the explosion. But there are many more suffering people. It is estimated that among the 600 000 liquidators, 180 000 is already dead. They were killed by inner organ illnesses or cancers
The enormous terrains of Belarus and Ukraine were also polluted. And the radioactive cloud managed to reach every corner of Europe. The disaster also made the credibility of the atomic energetic questionable all around the world and stopped its development for years.