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Comments: 1023 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

heyitsmekatie375 karma

I can't even imagine how terrifying that would have been - especially as a kid. You mentioned not knowing what had happened for two weeks. Was your government silent during those 2 weeks? What kinds of explanations or theories for what happened would you hear (either from friends, family, local government, etc) until the truth was finally told?

CCCPAKA449 karma

When news started to leak out, our local news were saying that it was just a fire and it was under control. Nothing to worry about. So, many folks without having other sources of info, believed it.

jonathan881252 karma

How do you feel about not being told immediately?

CCCPAKA417 karma

Sad and disgusted. So many people were exposed to radiation and were not told what was happening to them. Those people would have been able to at least protect themselves or given an option to reduce the risks to their long term health.

NightmareV215 karma

You or your family suffer any repercussions such as mutations that children in your family may have suffered?

CCCPAKA404 karma

My father died early from heart problems - one of the side effects of radiation exposure could cause heart problems.

I'm not sure if it's related, but both my children had very enlarged tonsils/adenoids that were causing sleep apnea. My son had a urological disorder that is suspected to be related.

It's hard to say whether it was caused by Chernobyl, but it's equally as hard to dismiss it.

yawningangel197 karma

What was the attitude towards refugees from pripyat?

Was their any concern they would be somehow tainted?

CCCPAKA263 karma

I never actually met anyone from Pripyat. The two guys in our building were in their 1st year of mandatory army service, when they were sent to fight the Chernobyl disasters.

Both died and had to be buried in lead coffins, because their bodies were giving off radiation. The funeral procession actually involved an army pick-up truck that hauled their coffin. I was told they were also buried in a concrete grave (so that there was no chance of their body giving off radiation). I cannot attest to the accuracy of that account.

Tsing_Tao170 karma

First of all I want to thank for you for this AMA.

I cant imagine how scary that must have been, there were so many unknowns at the time as to the effects and long term effects would be! When the event happened did you have any idea as to what the future may be like for you? Did you think it would change as much as it did? What changes did you go through at the time of the event?

One more question, is there anything you can tell us about the incident that the general public may not know?

Again thank you for doing this!

CCCPAKA518 karma

Thanks for your kind words. Up until Chernobyl, kids only knew about radiation from stories/propaganda showing "the evil Americans" bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Soviet movie theaters actually ran a "children's cartoon" - Japanese Anime "Barefoot Gen" - or click here, if you want to have your heart twisted that I saw only few months before Chernobyl. So, when news did come out, I expected everyone I knew to die of radiation. It was very frightening.

Because Soviet government was keeping it under wraps, we only found out because countries up north started seeing high levels of radiation. My father had a short-wave radio that he used to listened to Voice of America. VofA was always scrambled, so he had to hunt between bands and frequencies to find it, until it got scrambled again. I remember hearing about Chernobyl, but I had no idea where it was or significance of these news. Even my father did not fully know the extent of seriousness.

Only after few days, he told me to stay indoors of our standard-issue apartment in a 12 story high concrete building. And this was after I just got my first bike for 11th birthday. I couldn't ride it?! After begging for it for all these years? That was, at the time, the biggest devastation.

After people eventually did find out, the town turned ghostly. Once busy streets were nearly empty - people stayed indoors. If you looked out the window, it was so eerie. We were looking to see which way the clouds were going - if towards us, we had to stay indoors, if away from us, we could go outside.

Every morning, our building maintenance man would come out and hose down the streets - to hose down the radiation dust, as my father explained. However, it didn't matter much - he said - because we lived right next to forest that went all the way up north for hundreds of miles. Same forest that Chernobyl was next to. And all these trees were absorbing radiation that they would give off for many years later. This was the main motivator for us to move.

In response to the disaster, many school children were evacuated to the camps for the summer. We were loaded up into trains and taken to the Back Sea - camps in Crimea (and surrounding areas) for the summer. It was great for us - but almost everyone was worried about parents and family left back home. It was a really restrained sort of joy.

The biggest change was not being able to spend all my free time outdoors. Remember, we only had 3 channels on TV, nothing to watch, nothing to do, no internet, only books to keep you entertained. So, when my parents left for work, I'd sneak out with my bike and go riding all over the city with my friends. We all thought we were invisible - besides, if you can't see the radiation, it may not exist.

Heck, my friends even joked that if a coin sticks to your forehead - you're exposed to radiation. Imagine sticking a coin to your sweaty forehead and it sticks??? :)

We tried to live with new reality - adopted quickly like many kids do, but it was definitely different.

Canon_Cowboy129 karma

Did you see a large number of people leaving your area once people knew what actually happened?

CCCPAKA159 karma

No, not at first. However, many families did move over next few years - some permanently, some for parts of the year.

GroundsKeeper279 karma

You were not evacuated?

CCCPAKA135 karma

Kids were evacuated to summer camps, everyone else were told to stay indoors as much as possible, not go to picnics (or burn wood that may be contaminated).

oncpharm108 karma

You mentioned that we must be safe when we use green energy. Do you support nuclear energy?

CCCPAKA114 karma

I'm against nuclear energy. We still haven't worked out what to do with all the waste that will decay for thousands or millions of years. Until we do, we shouldn't have things that can cause grave harm.

danblochiii78 karma

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

CCCPAKA279 karma

To finish what I start ;-)

Yogisebastian44 karma

That is awesome.

Pakislav42 karma

Yeah... just imagine. You can start anything, and it doesn't matter what it is, you'll finish it. Imagine starting to walk towards the moon and eventually getting there alive!

CCCPAKA72 karma

Hey, why stop at the Moon. Venus, baby. Venus! Coz baby, they've seen us and welcomed us all!

BroWinstonChurChill48 karma

How did you perceive the local and national politics change? I mean, after a such catastrophic event, how did the people-state relationship change?

Thank you very much for doing this AMA.

CCCPAKA60 karma

I think the big part of Gorbachev's "Glastnost" and "Perestroyka" was a direct result of how Chernobyl was handled. It was aimed at restructuring the government to be more open with it's people/giving people the voice.

IDOWNVOTECATSONSIGHT42 karma

Were there ever a large number of soviet military in your area? Do you feel like going forward with nuclear power in the future is a good idea!?

CCCPAKA71 karma

We lived about 5km away from the military airport. We saw helicopters overhead every 20-30 minutes for at least 4-5 months. Even after the fire was supposedly put out.

Over next few years there was a slight increase in army trucks, as troops were shuffled between various locations and some were sent to deal with the clean-up/tree logging near Chernobyl.

But you got to remember - USSR was a military culture, kids were raised to want to be in the military, so, for us it was cool seeing all the hardware/soldiers.

I am not a fan of nuclear energy. I actually worked on a project that was with a large pharma. Their campus was less than 5 miles away from nuclear power station and I saw it every day on my way to work. It was very unsettling. Luckily, my contract was over in 3 months and I didn't have to see that sight every day. I am very afraid of anything nuclear, tbh.

SealionOfNeutrality40 karma

What can you remember about the incident? Sounds, feelings etc.. I bet it was terrifying not knowing what happened.

CCCPAKA73 karma

There were no sounds, we didn't know at first. It was definitely horrifying after we found out (see my response below). My friends and I climbed a fire watch tower - kalancha in the woods nearby to see if we can see the smoke - but we couldn't see anything but sea of green.

kittenpyjamas39 karma

Has being so close to the disaster shaped your opinion on nuclear power?

CCCPAKA36 karma

Yes it has. I'm against it.

Hauntmachine25 karma

Have you ever played S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadows of Chernobyl?

CCCPAKA24 karma

No. I wanted to, tho. But then I saw the reviews... :)

pastinwastin25 karma

Hey thanks for doing this!

What could you see from where you were? Did you hear anything? And what was your initial thought of what happened?

CCCPAKA19 karma

I responded above - we didn't see much, except the aftermath - more army trucks hauling military personnel, and helicopters flying overhead, hauling lead/sand.

platypussy6924 karma

Did the government remain completely silent, or did they release any message about the incident (even if it was a lie)

CCCPAKA42 karma

No, they covered it up as long as they could. That's what was very shitty - people were exposed, without knowing. It was down right criminal.

spidd12421 karma

They tried to cover it up until geiger counters in switzerland (or sweden cant remember sry) went off alerting everyone to what had happened.

CCCPAKA21 karma

Yup.

lt_dans_ice_cream23 karma

Did your family know or feel that anything was out the ordinary? How long did it take before you or your neighbors were told to evacuate? Thanks for the AMA!

CCCPAKA21 karma

Adults were not told to evacuate, just stay indoors. Kids were evacuated for the summer - to summer camps.

MAST3RPWNAGE18 karma

Have you back been to pripyat since the disaster ?

CCCPAKA28 karma

I've never been in Pripyat. It would be very fascinating to see it in person, provided I was in some super radiation-proof suit.

Millerboy19798 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA...this is something that always interested me but never had the opportunity to talk with someone. What would be the one thing that you would want all of us to take away from everything that you had to deal with?

CCCPAKA24 karma

Wow. That's deep. Just think - the area around Chernobyl won't be habitable for another 20,000 - 30,000 years. Let that sink in for a moment.

I guess it would be to question your government, especially when it says "nothing to worry about" or "it's just a minor situation". Oh, and if we can't get rid of nuclear power, we should at least demand greater safety, transparence, and making it less environmentally harmful over such long time.

cybercrypto8 karma

What impact did the disaster have on your choices in your adult life?

CCCPAKA22 karma

  1. Live as far away from nuclear power plants as I can

  2. Drink vodka infused with pepper (adults joked it kills radiation when Chernobyl happened - it stuck in my memory, so now I drink it now and then to continue killing radiation)

  3. Ride my bike as much as I can and find most remote places - this was my outlet ever since. I got my first bike only 4 days before the Chernobyl happened after begging my parents for one for 5 solid years.

pianother4 karma

You've mentioned the pro-USSR propaganda you grew up with; do you still have much sympathy for Soviet ideology? Did you feel that the Chernobyl disaster - or anything else - awoke you to the nature of this propaganda?

CCCPAKA6 karma

Yes, I see the same propaganda on Russian TV now and it reminds me of the Soviet days. It's sickening to the point where I can't even watch Russian TV anymore.

What awoke me is how cynical the government can be with so many lives... and still people support it.

andriask4 karma

Someone recommended me to watch this YouTube regarding Chernobyl. How true is it? According to the video there was so much cover up as to the real danger of radiation. Watch "The Battle Of Chernobyl - Documentary" on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18o_X696dYw

CCCPAKA8 karma

Yes, cover-up was immense. Even my father commented that Voice of America was being scrambled extra hard - he had to hunt it down between short wave radio bands, as USSR kept finding the frequency and squashing it - so people wouldn't know.

jimlii3 karma

How do you feel about Ukraine today?

CCCPAKA4 karma

I feel sad for what's happening there. I wish they found a way to work it out peacefully and to the benefit of both countries.

lannielan3 karma

My senior project in high school was about Chernobyl. One of my art pieces was a scrapbook of someone who lived during that time and they were about your age.

CCCPAKA3 karma

wow. I just got goosebumps reading that. Thank you.

IMakeBitchesCry3 karma

Did you mutate into some sort of Xmen?

CCCPAKA21 karma

Just one mutation: this gigantically over-sized reproductive organ. That is my secret.

=)

Armenoid2 karma

Hilarious username OP. My bird is from Kiev too.

Do you remember playing with chestnuts? Apparently the trees are all over the city

CCCPAKA2 karma

Sure! We used them to throw at each other. Actually got a black eye once - buddy nailed me with one right in the eye.

Now is the best time to see them in bloom - they are symbol of Kiev.

AndeeDrufense2 karma

What are your thoughts on those who never left/returned to the area after the disaster? It's strange to think they could survive all these years with such high exposure, yet those of you who were further away continue to notice the effects.

http://cnn.it/1fitxzE

CCCPAKA3 karma

I think they are fascinating people. I think they are crazy, but man, they are interesting. I think they should be studied very deeply - they may be humanity's only hope to understand the long term impact of radiation, what makes one immune and another vulnerable.

RadiumGirl2 karma

Do you go to the doctor every time you find something even remotely out of the ordinary?

I feel like if I'd been in your situation I'd be a hypochondriac.

CCCPAKA5 karma

LOL. I feel that way now - like I'm turning into a hypochondriac, even said same thing to my doc. Luckily, I've been so far OK. Let's hope it lasts. My friend's sister wasn't so lucky. She died last year at 29 from leukemia - her family is convinced it's because of Chernobyl.