I 'stumbled upon' these photos back in the survival days of March, when the Michigan winter had already been cruelly endless. I decided I would hold off and post what I considered to be important, historical photos on April 26th, the 23rd anniversary of the worst and most expensive toxic disaster in our short history as humans creating toxic disasters - the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. Well, come April and spring flowers, and finally relief, these photos and the subject seemed too 'dark side of humanity' at a time when I and many others in Michigan, were simply trying to not be washed down the drain before the days lengthened with sunlight. So I waited. First the mass depression needed to lift.
Then, North Korea began making some noise testing newly-found toys of war and destruction - of the nuclear type. It seemed timely to raise these photos as reminders, but I still couldn't bring myself to it. It made me recall Sunday mornings back in 1982, our baby boy strapped to my back, riding high in the baby backpack. We would go to Williams International, a company not far from here that made engine parts for nuclear cruise missiles. The cruise missiles were relatively new back then; refined nuclear warmaking destruction that some of us weren't keen about being manufactured in our own backyards. People cared about such things back then. It wasn't unusual to be worried about nuclear destruction. It was a time before the term itself became an artful joke with that wild and crazy, tongue-twisting caricature we called a president.
"Hmmm... How are we ever going to get the people to lighten up around the idea of nuclear proliferation?"
"I know! Let's have him say it in some whacky way - over and over again - like nook-yu-loor! And let's make it so he never can say it right! It'll be a riot!"
And so we stopped thinking about it much, the cruise missiles, the earthquake fault lines, the old equipment, the highly disturbed world leaders with their finger on the button, the toxic waste piling up with no proper storage. It was a bit overwhelming to consider I suppose, and anyway, the way he said "nook-yu-loor"! That shit was too funny!
I'm not sure what was so different in 1982 that people would gather on their Sunday mornings in sun, rain or snow to protest at the front gate of a tools of war facility. It was better than any Sunday morning church I'd ever attended in my life. We felt like we were putting 'faith in action' or some such ideology filtered down from the likes of the outlaw priests - the Berrigan Brothers. I remember a bright, crisp, Sunday in January, my baby bundled in his snowsuit, just a bit of pudgy face peeking out from under his hood, hat and scarf. He was having fun, smiling and laughing, looking down at the people. (He always loved to ride high above the crowd, peering over his Papa's head and shoulders.) We were out there for him; we were out there because of our complicit guilt: we had so recklessly and selfishly brought him into this world of ours - maybe, just maybe, somehow, we could make a difference for his life, for his future.
Who knows? All we can do is to try our best; do what we can do for the next generations coming up. Hopefully they'll get a chance to have a crack at it, and maybe do it a tiny bit better. I place a lot of hope in evolution.
But not if we forget. Or never even look in the first place.
Here's a look. Time froze in Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. Twenty-three years later, it still stands there, exactly the same as the day they left the schools, hospitals and homes abandoned. These pictures are very eerie. They need to be seen. They need to not be forgotten. Just as Williams International was in my backyard in 1982, so is Chernobyl in 2009. In the end, there is no good time to share pictures such as these. They've haunted me long enough, nagging at me to put them out there. Flor y canto is about inheritance. Unfortunately, this too is a part of the inheritance we leave behind.
I have to believe, we can do better.
Deserted secondary school near Chernobyl, Illinsty, Ukraine
(Image credits:misterbisson via:villageofjoy.com)
Chernobyl Today: A Creepy Story told in Pictures
By Village Mayor
In the 'Zone of Alienation' in northern Ukraine, Kiev Oblast, near the border with Belarus. Its population had been around 50,000 prior to the accident. Today, the only residents are deer and wolves along with a solitary guard.
Prypiat used to be proud for being home to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers. But something happened on 26 April 1986…
It took three days before all permanent residents of Chernobyl and the 'Zone of Alienation' were evacuated due to unsafe levels of radioactivity. People from around the Soviet Union were forced to come and work here in order to liquidate the danger and evacuate the residents. Many of the workers died or had serious illness from radiation. My father was also recruited for this operation, but he bribed corrupt local officers with some good sausages which were rare and a valuable item at those times, so he’s fine and alive today.
Let the story be told by these magical pictures taken ~20 years later after the accident.
“The sign on the road to Pripyat, the town where the workers of the nuclear plant lived.”
(Image credits:Pedro Moura Pinheiro via:villageofjoy.com)
The bridge of death (Image credits:Vivo (Ben) via:villageofjoy.com)
“After the explosion at Reactor 4 the people of Pripyat flocked on the railway bridge just outside the city to get a good view of the reactor and see what had happened. Initially, everyone was told that radiation level was minimal and that they were safe. Little did they know that much of the radiation had been blown onto this bridge in a huge spike.” They saw beautiful rainbow coloured flames of the burning graphite nuclear core, whose flames were higher than the smoke stack itself. All of them are dead now - they were exposed to levels of over 500 roentgens, which is a fatal dose.
“Pripyat Funfair was due to be opened on May 1st. The Chernobyl disaster happened April 26th. No one ever managed to ride the ferris wheel. It remains one of the most irradiated parts of Pripyat since the disaster, making it still dangerous today, 23 years on.” (Image credits:Vivo (Ben) via:villageofjoy.com)
“Nursery in the creche/kindergarten”. (Image credits:hanszinsli via:villageofjoy.com)
I took these photos from a link I couldn't link directly to here, but if you'd like to see the complete portfolio of photos go to this webpage (which includes many other fine artists): http://www.stumbleupon.com/s/#6sJQYe/villageofjoy.com/amazing-graffiti-art-by-bansky//
and scroll down a very short way - under '10 Most Commented' on the right hand side you will find the link to more of the Chernobyl photos.