Before the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 50,000 people lived in Pripyat. Another 15,000 lived in the towns and villages of Chernobyl.
Pripyat was built in 1970 and was the youngest town in the Soviet union with an average age of around 25. Chernobyl town, at the time of the explosion, was 800 years old – the majority of people living there were also born there, their families were born there for generations. Some of them refused to leave during the evacuation, others came back illegally – weeks, sometimes years after the blast.
After the evacuation a lot of them were placed in tall blocks of flats in Kiev – a city and the life they didn’t know before. The Ukrainian government ‘allowed’ people too old to have kids to come back and live in the zone. In total around 1200 went back and hundreds of them still live there to today. They farm their own food, have their own cats, dogs and chickens and even eat fish from the rivers and streams nearby.
Their houses aren’t on a ‘typical’ Chernobyl trip but because we were doing a private tour we could see them. Sadly, we didn’t meet anyone – they weren’t home or simply enough didn’t want to talk to other people asking them the same questions.
The Chernobyl zone is also full of animals – lynxes, bears, wolves and Przewalski’s horses (the only place in Europe where you can find them living free and in such a large number!). Sadly, we only saw cats and dogs – but they were cute ones!
If you are interested in personal stories of people living within the zone then the movie “The Babushkas of Chernobyl” is for you!
If you are thinking about living in the zone yourself we have bad news for you – only people who lived there before the explosion can live there now.