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VETERANS OF CHERNOBYL. PEOPLE WHO CELEBRATE LIFE.

Not everyone knows about the events of that night: how felt people who did not know that soon they will be witnessing a historic moment and will fight for their life . We’ ve met with veterans of Chernobyl Alexander Zabirchenko, who was at the time of the accident - the foreman on high voltage testing of electric plant, and Victor Ivkina, an electrical shop attendant thermal automation and measurement.

" Work Unit 4 8 turbines - unforgettable feeling "
Being students future nuclear power plant workers had to accustom themselves to self-discipline, organization and integrity in their work. Selection standards were high at the station, so on the day of protection the university diploma in management of nuclear power plants, employers were coming to pick out employees. Thus, the "customers", says Victor Ivkin about this, already were selecting future workers for their places.

Victor Ivkin recalls: " At work we were coming in advance , prior to the transfer of decision - changer to make a detour on the equipment . Only then reported to the shift supervisor that was made general remarks on the bypass and is yielding no change . Otherwise had to be specialists from the previous shift to eliminate remarks . "

Each working procedure was carried out under the guidance of experts, all requests for the execution of works recorded in special notebooks, talking on the phone was also recorded for documentation. All were warned about this and took responsibility for every step in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

In order to verify the qualifications of employees annually conduct routine exams of all workers without exception Chernobyl: "Every year we have written exam on safety, rules of technical safety, radiation safety and fire safety. To increase the discharge there were also specialized exams. Chief Engineer and Director reaffirmed their skills in Moscow", - says Alexander Zabirchenko.

In addition to time in conducting work as well if the plant workers enthusiastically were organizing their free-time: playing football, went out, organized various competitions between the departments etc.

45 seconds without light then seemed like an eternity for Chernobyl workers
On the night 26th of April, 1986 workflow began as usual: the previous shift workers rented equipment and reports , the night shift takes them. Everyone knew that this night will suspend 4 blocks for experimental purposes.

- We know that the unit is on preventative maintenance, there will be a lot of work and night will be restless, - said Victor Ivkin who was on sight on the night of the accident. – After the Board gathered in meeting room to inform, that experiment had to begin”. Alexander Zabirchenko: "Experiment consisted of freewheel, when the generator is turned off to use the balance of electricity to maintain the support of their own needs and performance of the reactor ".

Victor Ivkin: "It began to receive applications to perform major operations. When the reactor began to be unstable, I just came out of the engine room on the control panel and reported to senior engineer and turbine on assignments. On block board that night was a lot of people because of the staff from the previous shift left that position to increase internships. Those experiments were important in their future work. Over time, the situation had stabilized, the device had leveled and I returned to my room. Senior engineer reported that the situation had changed, wrote in a magazine about stabilizing the reactor, and then sat down to drink tea and listen to the information from the shift. At this point – we heard the bass sound, ears were laid, the light turned off, the walls started to shake. We jumped and tried to reach an exit. Just during 45 seconds there was no light, but it seemed like an eternity".

Alexander Zabirchenko: "I personally talked about this moment with Hero of Ukraine Alexander Lilichenko. He was on the block shield on that moment. Seconds before the accident Vladimir Kyrylyuk said that reactor turn on emergency power. Alexander Lilichenko at this moment looked at the screen and saw that metal became almost to boil and looked like ‘penny’. He saw the moment when protective roof of the reactor started to swell. Then of course the camera stopped working and turned off ".

Victor Ivkin: "Our goal at this point was to reach the corridor, which was in the center of the station. Reactor room collapsed and the computer room was also with damaged concrete walls, which flew back and broke light roof. We felt fear. Opened the door to the hallway and saw that construction dust was everywhere. We saw it when emergency lightening was turned on. Sensor measuring radiation rolled over and was screaming, so we turned it off".

In order not to sow panic, general director Victor Bruchanov did not say what actually happened. That was an order from Moscow. Workers were evacuated to the shelter. They called to work all those people, who at this time were at home. In this situation, not everyone could have enough of the courage to face a disaster of such magnitude, so there were people who escaped and withdrew. But those who continued to work in order to find out what, why and how happened. They didn’t wear firstly special costumes, but cotton cloths and protective sheets on the face. They took a shower every few hours and changed clothes. That’s how they had to work.

Someone's birthday, wedding, another vacation, tickets for a football match in Kiev - all had to cancel their plans and be at work those days. Organization showed courage and all the trainings before showed results of constant discipline. A few days later there was a tunnel under the station with the help of miners and workers. They’ve tried to set the temperature in the reactor to avoid the powerful explosion that could happen in that time. In the town of Pripyat for few days was no information about the disaster, people were not evacuated and continued normal daily life.

Liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster today
Today the whole world knows about what happened and is doing everything possible to prevent a similar situation. In 2000 Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma personally stopped working last 1st Chernobyl nuclear power reactor. But work on the station continues today. Different organizations made workflows on various projects at Chernobyl.

Liquidators of the Chernobyl live and continue to operate in different industries. In Slavutich city that was built after the disaster for evacuees, today there is Council of Chernobyl veterans led by Lydia Klimova.

"In January our organization celebrates its 20th anniversary. We combined Council of Chernobyl veterans and union organization of unemployed veterans of Chernobyl. We visit patients at home and spend evenings and excursions dealing with social insurance, we have our own ritual service. Our Partner Chernobyl Museum: currently working on a book of memory, where the names of all participants restore emergency. Also we are working with youth, children, hold meetings and educational work ", - said Lydia Klimov.

Today at the Chernobyl site work is continuing on the object "Shelter" and other international production projects. There are working mostly younger generation of employees from Ukraine and engineers from all the world in the Project “NOVARKA”, organized by French companies.

About The Author

Iren Broh

Iren Broh

Iren Broh is a freelancer journalist from Slavutych, Ukraine. Currently main topic to discover and work in she chose human rights and its defence. She is working in the area of NGOs and non-formal education.