We were having a stressfree morning in our hotel room to let the events of previous days sink in, take a place, get a purpose when we heard the local Polish news say ‘Brussels’. We turned up the volume, the minister of public health, Maggie De Block, was being interviewed by international journalists about Belgium providing jodium-pills to its country in case of a nuclear disaster. We were flabbergasted.
After a few phonecalls we made we were able to meet with a nuclear disaster researcher at the Warsaw institute for technology. We were greeted with open arms and they made us feel very welcome. Silence before the storm?
For about two hours we talked about the influence of radioactivity on life in general. About the current world situation involving western Europe and the difficult subject of nuclear energy in our modern day political landscape. We discussed the differences between Western power plants and the Soviet period ones, we had no idea.
Piotr gave us a very different view on nuclear science, we have lot to think about.
For lunch we were invited at a Chernobyl potatotasting. There were potato’s with spinach and feta, grilled vegetables and a variety of hot/cold sauces. We were payed 5 zloty each. It was delicious but also a bit frightening. Is it really as save as they say? Will we notice anything? What will our poop look like?
Questions we van only answer in the next coming days…
Today we had a meeting with the major, but the major wasn’t available. Our bags were checked upon entering city hall which was decorated with portrait paintings of all previous Pinsk leaders. We met with Youri and Viktor instead.
They asked for our official papers, we don’t have those.
They asked for our credentials, we don’t have those.
They asked why we were here, they where intrigued.
Apparently you need 15 stamps and 25 signatures before anyone takes you seriously. Because we didn’t have the rights documents to put up our tent or interview anybody we decided to flip the powerdynamic of the conversation and interviewed Youri and Viktor. They didn’t notice anything. They gave us great information.
In Belarus, the Chernobyl disaster is nothing to joke about, we realized we touched a sensitive subject, we are moving with caution.
We are preparing a town-wide poll/inquiry/… to send to Youri, so he can provide us with the data of an entire city. We are excited yet humbled with their cooperation. Wounds are healed but still feel fresh.
We visited the official Pinsk Chernobyl memorial plaque at the Educational Ecological Center. A great place to gather information and soil-samples. Children are given classes about the environment and biology.
A bit further from the institute is a graveyard dedicated to the victims and heroes of the nuclear cloud that visited this happy and peaceful city 30 years ago. Tombstones are enriched with colorful ribbons and bows. There are to many children resting here eternally.
We drove our van to the exclusion zone. There we met many former inhabitants of Pripyat and Chernobyl, victims of the radiation, liquidators and even a German speaking Polish Ukrainian nurse.
Because of our investigation outfit they were very willing to talk with us. They even stopped their buses and we needed to take pictures with them at the checkpoint, which is absolutely forbidden.
Today the town of Pripyat is a ghost town. Before the disaster the city was the cream of the crop of the Soviet Union. Only high-educated people could apply for a position in here. They would get an invitation to come to live in Pripyat. They could work in the power plant or at the gigantic high-tec radar. This radar was meant to eavesdrop the Americans. We felt that this city must have been the accomplishment of the utopia. There were movie theaters, (music) schools, sport hall, a swimming pool, water buses and an amusement park. Everything in an amazing Soviet architecture.
Nobody could suspect that the nuclear danger wasn’t an American one. They were just living across the street of their own atom bomb.
Karliens biggest fear is to stumble over a piece of concrete. Falling into radioactive bushes -where the most radioactivity can be measured- and being struck by nuclear power. This happend today. Karlien went flat on her face next to the bumpercars. A peak in radioactivity could be measured on her forehead.
Today was a special day.
We woke up in the picturesque town of Mozir and took of to put up our tent in a little village. For that we needed authorization in Kalinkovitski.
After we arranged the authorization we did some soil investigation. The results were astonishing. What happened after is rather peculiar. Tamara Maria, a local visual artist saw us putting up our tent and approached us. She stayed a while in our tent and told about her childhood close to the exclusion zone and how it affects her artistic work.
The art scene here in Belarus is rather small, before we knew she came back to ask if we were willing to appear on a very popular late night show on regional television.
We are getting ready for tonight. We are exited. We hope we’ll get some food over there. Or a free drink. That would be nice.
26th of April 2016
- This night was a long. A torchlight walk in Pripyat. The alarm to commemorate the explosion.
- We were called by 2 national radiostations this morning.
- After that we went to the memorial service at the statue for the Chernobyl victims. Everybody was quite old, and in a medal-embellished uniform.
Old ladies were holding up pictures of their sons and husbands.
An old man shouted into a microphone, we think it was ‘viva ukraine’ or something like that.
Flowers were put everywhere by children, people shaking hands and a fanfare who played less sad music then we imagined.
- After that we got lost in the zone without knowing it.
We started our cloud chasing, we never thought it would be so adventurous! Suddenly we passed a checkpoint and we were standing in an empty village. We were touched by the fact that 30 years ago these people didn’t know what was happening and were preparing their 1st of may festivities without any information of the government what was really going in the power plant. We can’t tell you more about our investigations in the zone, to protect ourselves and the results of the research.
- We drove on. Another checkpoint. From here the roads were closed. “Is it because of the radiation? It’s dangerous here. It’s not for foreigeners. We can not pass.”
We had to take the long road.
- We followed the cloud to the border with Belarus.
- We listened to Anastasia Vinnikova 3 hours long. “I Love Belarus, nothing to declare!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asz9f-9SxiE
- The border was a lot of paper work.
- We had to empty the whole van.
Everything had to be checked.
- They double checked us on radiation, we took the wrong road.
- We heared them talking about us being actors. They didn’t know what to do with us.
“You can only take 50kilos per person.”
We are actors, we pretend that we never heared that.
- Welcome to Belarus!
After one day in Kiev: We were thinking a lot about Chernobyl. We took the deepest metro in the world. Apparently the Soviets builded it so deep to protect themselves to nuclear attacks. We feel worried. A Ukrainian official with a big kepi said to us we had to take a special insurance for our project. We are getting nervous. Is this still a good idea? We had to go to the Belarussian embassy to get permission for our research. We did this. We paid for it. The national radio called us today for an interview. People are following this remarkable project. We try to stay cool. Meanwhile we are changing silently to local food. Today we could share one potato with the four of us... In our apartment we have a piano. We are making music to forget our worries. "Non ho l'eta" and "J'aime la vie" are our favorites.
After three hours of waiting at the border with Ukraine we decided to trow a little party for ourselves! Luckily we have the disco ball… Now on the go to Kiev!
Tue 19/4: Brussels – Poznań (PL)
Wed 20/4: Poznań – Sudovaya Vishnya (UA)
Thu 21/4: Sudovaya Vishnya – Kyiv
Sun 24/4: Kyiv – Chernobyl/Prypiat – Kyiv
Tue 26/4: 30th Chernobyl Memorial Kyiv – Mozir (BY) ROUTE of the RADIOACTIVE CLOUD
Wed 27/4: Mozir – Pinsk
Thu 28/4:Pinsk – Bialowieza (PL)
Fri 29/4: Bialowieza – Łódź (PL)
Sat 30/4:Łódź – Mladá Boleslav (CZ)
Sun 1/5: Mladá Boleslav – Bayreuth (DE)
Mon 2/5: Bayreuth – Luxemburg (LU)
Tue 3/5: Luxemburg – Brussels
In preparation for the trip to Chernobyl the team is building a mobile laboratory.
In this operation base we will be re-enacting memories of visitors, tinkering their fantasy-animals, drawing their hiding places. The team will also investigate the environment by means of soil samples, animal population investigation, the quality of lettuce, mutations in natural beings…