Sunday, March 20, 2011

More Magazine: The Babushkas of Chernobyl

An article in the April issue of More Magazine is more timely than the editors could have thought when it went to press. "A Country of Women," by Holly Morris is on the old women who have moved back to their home near Chernobyl. Their stories are amazing. One is quoted as saying "The main thing is that we have pig fat and vodka." The women are old enough to have lived through, and survived, the Stalin years and the Nazi invasion. They raise crops and catch and eat animals in the area, disregarding the fact that the food is contaminated with radiation.

Other, younger, people have also moved back home to the area but the article, and the accompanying photographs by Rena Effendi, focus on this group of women in their 70s and 80s. These are tough old ladies. The article doesn't sugar coat the physical problems the women have and the risks they take; it also touches briefly the emotional problems of people who were evacuated and lost their sense of place and social networks. It also includes a little information on what happened to the workers who were on site when the nuclear plant there exploded, and those sent in to help with clean up (some offered a short stint at Chernobyl as an alternative to going to war in Afghanistan).

It would be a gripping read at any time but with increased impact following the events in Japan. The article isn't online but the issue is still on sale. [update: The article is now online: .]

For the adventurous (and foolhardy?) there is information on how to visit Chernobyl. Morris hosts the PBS show "The Globe Trekker," an episode on the Ukraine is scheduled for April.

1 comment:

Joan Oliver Emmer said...

I came across your blog post when searching for the article you quoted online (I have the magazine and read it, but wanted to post a link for my friends). Amazing article! Can't wait to see the tv special.