My short bio: Note: I am conducting this AMA with my father-in-law, who has been with the Ukrainian MHC (emergency response unit of government) for more than thirty years. I will be translating responses to your questions and posting them here!

He lives in Zhitomir with his wife and son and was an emergency responder in the days following the Chernobyl disaster.

We're on Skype for the next hour then we'll take a break and I'll post more answers tomorrow (time difference).

Thanks everyone for asking questions. We'll answer random questions as they come, but we appreciate your interest and hope that we shared something useful to you!

My Proof: Here is a certificate he received in September of that year following his deployment to the area surrounding Pripyat and the facility itself.

Rough translation:

Dear Comrade HIS NAME Please accept the gratitude of Kiev Police Department Police Chief Maj. General Comrade Korneichuk V. M. for your excellent performance of duty to ensure ..............unreadable.......... organizational engineering measures aimed at rapid elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident and for displaying heroism, courage, bravery and discipline.

I am confident that you will continue to perform your duties selflessly.

I wish you good health, happiness and continued success in the service.

Head of Department Lieutenant colonel of internal service V. Triputin Stamp September 2, 1986

Comments: 86 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

this_is_trash_really181 karma

Here are questions and answers from the AMA request that spawned this AMA:

How vivid is your memory of the day? "We didn't know anything had happened. We didn't know anything at all. It was days after the accident that I received a call from my general that we were mobilizing to a city north of Kiev."

Did you have to respond in an official capacity? "Yes, my job was to drive one of our transport trucks to the area. I carried a group of men in the transport."

How truthful was government-issued information about the disaster, while it occured? "There was no government-issued information that I can remember about the disaster. We weren't told anything about what had happened. We were told to go out to the parade even!" (He's talking about the May 9th victory parade, a huge celebration in Soviet countries celebrating the end of WWII. Every man, woman and child was expected to attend. He is generally most upset, as is his wife, that they still had the parades and outdoor events even though the people in charge knew something terrible had happened.)

Was the emotional and psychological trauma from the event itself worse than coping with the aftermath? "Why do you Americans always ask about emotional trauma? What trauma? I drove a truck and camped out with a bunch of men and we moved tons and tons of heavy equipment from one place to another. We didn't know anything; how could we be traumatized?"

Would you return to Chernobyl for any reason? "No." (Side note: on my first trip with my wife to Ukraine, I asked my father-in-law if we could go to Pripyat and he looked at me like I was an insane person and asked me very seriously why I'd be so stupid as to want to go that hell-hole.)

drspankinya113 karma

when you get a hard on does your dick light up like one of those glow sticks?

this_is_trash_really397 karma

haha, his response, which rhymes in Ukrainian as well: "We are Ukrainian Nation, we fuck radiation."

Muffikins5 karma

Ukrainians rock. Love from a Polish sister. (My grandfather was Ukrainian though!)

this_is_trash_really6 karma

"You rock! My wife's father was Polish and my daughter went to college in Krakow."

two_off48 karma

Do you hold any grudges against any agency for sending you into the disaster?

this_is_trash_really89 karma

"No, it's my job. It's like a fire or bombs. It's a dangerous job. That is what we were supposed to do. If there's a flood; we go. If there's a bomb; we go. If there's radiation; we go. I lost several comrades from my department, though. They were good men. After the Soviet Union ended, Ukraine set up a lot of repayment to people who were there. And the kids got free public transportation because they were children during the disaster."

By bombs, he's talking about undetonated explosives that are all over Ukraine from WWII (bombs, mines, grenades, etc). They turn up a lot and part of his job is transporting them from the site to a depot where they're disposed of.

Also interesting is the tear in the proof I posted. The majority of his name is torn off. That's because several colleagues who WEREN'T at Chernobyl paid him to borrow it so they could sign up for Chernobyl benefits as well.

The free public transportation came as a result of cards that kids between a certain age received declaring they were 'Children of Chernobyl,' which allowed them free transport and other services.

rbevans36 karma

Do you have a particular memory that stands out more than others during following the disaster?

this_is_trash_really67 karma

"I had no idea what I was doing at Chernobyl. We didn't learn for a long time what had happened. I was there and didn't really know what had happened. I had no idea it was any more dangerous than any other job. We thought it was an explosion and fire.

But I remember that May 9th very clearly, seeing everyone out on the streets, watching the parade, enjoying time with their families, honoring the veterans. After we learned of what had happened, I couldn't believe the government allowed us all to be out there, for the parade to continue, to have all of those children outside."

paisleyorchid35 karma

Do you have any effects to your health now?

this_is_trash_really96 karma

"I don't think so. I lost a lot of teeth in the year afterward, but nothing serious. I had several people from my department die of cancer. We have a wall in our department with a mural dedicated to them and every year the mayor lays a wreath outside the department to honor them."

Mc_Flame31 karma

Have you had any personal growth after seeing the effects of the disaster?

this_is_trash_really78 karma

"Like cancer?"

Mc_Flame21 karma

No, psychological growth.

this_is_trash_really78 karma

"No, no growth. We live far away from it and thankfully the wind wasn't blowing in our direction in those days. We didn't really think anything about anything until a year or more after everything happened. We just didn't know what everything was that was happening. We didn't know.

When I arrived, they had tents set up in a clearing where we slept. They had vodka in crates. In the middle of the night I remember waking up and my entire tongue was tingling. I asked my supervisor about it and he told me just to drink some vodka and not to worry about it."

imaginary_root25 karma

There are claims that a column of "blue light," caused by ionized air above the damaged reactor, could be seen over the site for days. Did your father-in-law see anything like that?

this_is_trash_really13 karma

"I never saw anything like that."

Pookiebutt19 karma

In the aftermath, has your health been monitored? Has there been any compensation for any health related problems due to your exposure to Pripyat and Chernobyl? What about anyone else? How long were you there? Since you were there, has anyone treated you differently due to ignorance or fear of catching exposure from you? Kind of like the discrimination that happened to survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

this_is_trash_really20 karma

"No, nothing like that. I was in the 30km zone, so I wasn't directly exposed to the reactor and never had to see the facility up close.

I haven't had any major health issues, other than some teeth falling out. But, one day when we were driving the guy sitting next to me, from Byela Circva, started getting really light-headed. We stopped and he passed out against the wheel well of the truck. I threw water on him to wake him up and he was really out of it. He ended up in a hospital in Kiev. I don't know what happened to him."

Pookiebutt1 karma

Thank you for the reply.

I'm sorry about your co-worker. I hope that he came out okay. Terrible what had happened.

Few more questions if you don't mind, Sir? Were you strictly on clean up, sand movement, and mobilization of equipment or were you also a part of the evacuation process? If you were a part of the evacuation process, where did the majority of the civilians of Pripyat and surrounding areas go?

I've seen documentaries of Chernobyl and I vaguely remember the disaster in personal memory (I was 5 at the time). I was surprised to find out that there are still people that refused to leave the exclusion zone and still live within it at their own risk. I feel bad for them. Their town just immediately abandoned in a blink of an eye. Yet, those few people still thrive 30 years later. In your opinion, do you think the people will go back to at least the very edges of the exclusion zone to live?

this_is_trash_really5 karma

"I was not part of evacuation. I did a lot of sand movement and equipment and MHC/military personnel movement."

"It doesn't surprise me that some people stayed. There's a lot of hype about radiation. Some people who smoke get cancer, some don't. Some people who get exposed get cancer, some don't. Who's to know who's who?"

lyricalsaint16 karma

What are your thoughts on modern day nuclear power?

this_is_trash_really18 karma

"We wish we didn't have it, but we need it for electricity. It does a lot of good."

ctn072614 karma

What do you think the reason was for no government agency to tell anyone what had really happened?

Also thank you for doing this. I have always found what had happened there very fascinating

this_is_trash_really12 karma

"I don't think they wanted to cause a panic."

noinfinity12 karma

Did you experience any other 'weird sensations' apart from your tongue tingling? You sound like one badass mf.

Being someone who lived through Stalin's regime, what would you say to people that say we as a capitalist society should turn to socialism as a solution to our problems (such as your thoughts as socialism or communism as a whole)?


this_is_trash_really15 karma

"The first night we were there, I woke up in the morning feeling like I had the worst hangover in my life, but I didn't drink. That was strange, but that's really the only other sensation I remember."

"I was born the year Stalin died. My mother and father lived through it, though, and they fled to the Urals during the war and were later sent to a work camp. It was very difficult for them."

"There were some good things about the Soviet Union. We have land that is ours and education and healthcare was good. It's good to have healthcare (which is still 'free' in Ukraine) and education be free. It's important. I like it better now, though, than when I was little."

OpalOctopus9 karma

Since this is your job, and you saw a lot of destruction by its nature, was Chernobyl the worst thing that you handled? If anything was worse, what made it so?

this_is_trash_really10 karma

"Chernobyl is definitely the worst thing I handled. It was the most dangerous thing I've had to do."

viktor729 karma

I want to ask a question about the modern day situation in Ukraine if I may. What is your stance on what is happening in Ukraine today (ie. fighting in the East, Russia's annexation of Crimea)? What do you think the future of Ukraine will be?

this_is_trash_really15 karma

"We feel betrayed by the government. They betrayed us. They betrayed Maidan. There will be a third Maidan, but it will probably be worse because people are angrier and have weapons now.

There's just too much corruption and oligarchs run everything. I think maybe in 30 years things will be better."

(They live in central Ukraine. Times there are very difficult. They have built an outdoor woodstove to cook on because gas is expensive and diluted. Everything is very expensive and they're relying heavily on their own produce . It's a very difficult living situation for them.)

SheepShaggerNZ7 karma

How long were you in the area for? You mentioned that you drove a truck full of men to the area. What did you do after getting there apart from the parade? Did you get the feeling that others above or around you knew what was really going on?

this_is_trash_really13 karma

"I was there a couple of times. The first time I drove men and stayed for several days. The second time was in July and August and I was there for 24 days. I drove a truck transporting sand that they were using to put out the fire.

My supervisors, the officers, definitely knew what was happening."

ZiGraves6 karma

Do you think that the exclusion zone should be larger than the 30km it is, given how unevenly the radiation fell?

Have you ever been back to meet with some of the people still handling Chernobyl and Pripyat these days, or to the Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv?

What was your reaction and the public reaction when you finally found out what really happened? Your comments about the Veterans Parade made me wonder about all the parents and local workers.

this_is_trash_really9 karma

"I don't really know much about what's happening there now. When it happened there were several zones. I was working in the 70km zone my first time and in the 30km zone the second time. I don't think the zone size matters since the wind carried radiation all over. There was no danger in my city, but many victims in Belarus. The distance didn't matter.

I have not been back to Chernobyl. Why would I go?

We were upset that nobody told us, but it wasn't very surprising. They should have cancelled the parade and the May 9th events."

intronert6 karma

Do you think that the public anger about the secrecy around what happened contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union?

this_is_trash_really9 karma

"No, I don't think so. The Soviet Union had to collapse. I don't think Chernobyl had that much to do with it. It would have happened anyway."

Edgar-Allans-Hoe6 karma

What do you think of the possibility of mass Nuclear power being the prospected source of energy in the future? In your opinion even after the incident, is the gain worth any "risk" you may forsee?

this_is_trash_really11 karma

"I'm not a scientist. I don't know."

congobongo4204 karma

Did you keep anything from that days? That could be still contaminated?

this_is_trash_really6 karma

"No, not that I'm aware of."

eli39021014 karma

What was everyone's reaction like to hearing that the reactor was falling to shit?

this_is_trash_really9 karma

"People were afraid, but there was not a tremendous amount of panic. We are used to problems and we are strong. I have seen shows about Chernobyl and average people didn't know any of the things they show. It was our problem to fix. I was surprised to see the world's reaction to it."

irish_chippy3 karma

How do you feel about loggers taking trees from the forrest in the affected zone and selling it on in all it's nuclear glory?

this_is_trash_really8 karma

"It doesn't affect me."

Stoyon2 karma

Have you visited the exclusion zone after the cleanup?

this_is_trash_really2 karma

"No. I would not like to go there."

Wishin2BaKitten2 karma

Since Chernobyl seems like no big deal do any of your other jobs have an impact on you. Did you ever think to yourself "this might not be good?" What was your day to day job?

this_is_trash_really1 karma

"It was not 'no big deal'. It was the most dangerous job I had, just that it was part of my job. My day-to-day job is as a transport driver for MHC. I have driven heavy trucks for MHC for 35 years, transporting people, supplies, dangerous equipment, everything you can think of."

ramalamadingdongs2 karma

Do you believe any good came of this incident? Fukushima can't even send robots in and the contaminated water was detected as far as California and Australia. Do you think the rate or improvement on safety measures is improving at an acceptable rate or are establishments skipping anything that shouldn't be missed?

this_is_trash_really1 karma

"I don't know enough about the science or engineering to answer that."

window51 karma

At the time of the accident were the managers Russian and the workers Ukrainians? Was there any sense of Ukraine as an occupied country, like I assume was the sentiment in Poland at the time?

this_is_trash_really3 karma

"It's not that simple. Ukraine has always had deep relationships with Russia and Poland. Parts of Ukraine have been part of Poland and Russia. During the Soviet Union days, there were Russians, Belarussians, Ukrainians, all kinds of people. We always had a very strong patriotism (for Ukraine), but it didn't feel occupied."

(The way he talks makes me think of the American South, like people had this history of independence, but they're 100% members of the United States regardless of that history. It's only after the fall of the Soviet Union that he gets passionate about feeling 'occupied' by corrupt leaders. His responses and many of those I've spoken to are less upset with 'RUSSIA' as much as they are upset with corruption, oligarchy, and an inability to determine their own future.)

WhiteHarem-13 karma

Are You Aware Of A Place Called Worm Wood Mentioned In The Bible Revelations?

this_is_trash_really4 karma