35 Years Later: Remembering the 1986 Chornobyl (Chernobyl) Nuclear Disaster

The Ukrainian Museum in New York City

35 years ago today, on April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear accident in history occurred in Chornobyl (Chernobyl), Ukraine.

Chronicle of Severe Days (1986) | 6.5 min
Film by Volodymyr (Vladimir) Shevchenko | Narrated by Elena Filatova

What you will see:

  • Pictures of workers digging under the reactor wearing no protective equipment. They attempted to stabilize the melting base of the destroyed reactor.
  • Pictures of the workers on the roof of the reactor putting radioactive debris back into the radioactive container. Shevchenko made these pictures on the roof himself, and it is likely that he was exposed to excessive radiation at this point.
  • Shevchenko filmed a falling MI-24 helicopter. The helicopter flew directly over the destroyed reactor container, and the pilot likely suffered excessive radiation that debilitated him in the air.

On April 26, 1986, an explosion in Reactor Number 4 of the Chornobyl (Chernobyl) Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment, leading to the evacuation of the local population from what became known as the Exclusion Zone. The Reactor Number 4 meltdown is considered to be the worst nuclear disaster of record. Thirty-five years later, this abandoned territory, still too dangerous to support human life has, surprisingly, become a burgeoning refuge for wildlife.

To remember this day in Ukraine’s history The Ukrainian Museum has been screening the documentary short Chronicle of Severe Days (1986) annually since 2010, when filmmaker Damian Kolodiy shared it as part of the KinofestNYC film festival. Our thanks to Elena Filatova for making this footage public. Please take a few minutes to watch the heartwrenching footage shot by Volodymyr (Vladimir) Shevchenko just days after the Chornobyl disaster, his last film.

Shevchenko witnessed the evacuation of Pripyat, the brave attempts of the “liquidators,” the cleanup crews sent in to try and limit the effects of the fallout. Shevchenko suffered from the severe radiation and died just days after his trip.

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