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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Chernobyl voices: Mikhail Shakun
Mikhail Shakun

Mikhail Shakun
Evacuee from contaminated village outside the zone

I was born and brought up in the village of Lokachkiv. It's outside the Chernobyl zone, but it was badly contaminated. Other villages next door were all right, but we were unlucky.

All sorts of specialists visited us, foreigners, people from Moscow, to measure the radiation. They even measured the inside of the stove. Eventually they decided it was unsafe to live there, and 13 years ago we were evacuated to this village, Ulyanivka.

Mikhail Shakun's village
When we came here it was naked, like a field
At that stage no-one told us what radiation was. It has been explained to us since, but back then we did not know.

There is no comparison between the two villages. There we had forest, rivers, beautiful nature. We had old wooden houses, and barns and stored our food in underground cellars. We took our water from wells.

When we came here it was naked, like a field. There were houses and nothing else. We had to plant everything.

Frost in May

There is nothing good about these homes. They were jerry-built and not fit to live in. Nearly all of them are subsiding, we all have cracks in the walls. I have had waist-high snowdrifts in the loft. We constantly have to make repairs.

I didn't know there was a drain buried in the garden. I smashed it when I was planting an apple tree, and produced a fountain of water.

The old village no longer exists. It is completely overgrown. Our homes were dismantled and buried in trenches.

In the years after the accident the weather became very strange. Crops kept failing. One year there was a frost in May.

Two people who stayed behind both died, one of them of cancer. But we have also buried 30 people since we moved here, including my mother and father.

Our grandparents are buried at the cemetery in Lokachiv. Everyone goes back there once a year, the week after Easter. We take food to the graveside and share it with our ancestors.


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