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Sunday, March 2, 2014

They’re Just…Gone


On one of my trips to Ukraine, I had a little free time on my hands, so I asked my friend if we could go to downtown Kiev and visit some of the historical sites that are everywhere. He said “sure, that would be fun, where do you want to go?”

This was my fifth trip to Ukraine, and every time I’ve come I’ve wanted to visit Chernobyl, to see what has become of it some 20+ years after the explosion.

Here is an excerpt from an article I read recently from History.com, that puts the whole thing in perspective for me…

Pripyat, Ukraine, was a bustling Soviet city and cultural center with a population of 50,000 when it became the site of the world's worst nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the first days after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

Pripyat, the home of the Chernobyl station, is located about 65 miles north of Kiev in the Ukraine. Built in the late 1970s on the banks of the Pripyat River, Chernobyl had four reactors, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power. On the evening of April 25, 1986, a group of engineers began an electrical-engineering experiment on the Number 4 reactor. The engineers, who had little knowledge of reactor physics, wanted to see if the reactor's turbine could run emergency water pumps on inertial power.

On April 27, Soviet authorities began an evacuation of the 30,000 inhabitants of Pripyat. A cover-up was attempted, but on April 28 Swedish radiation monitoring stations, more than 800 miles to the northwest of Chernobyl, reported radiation levels 40 percent higher than normal. Later that day, the Soviet news agency acknowledged that a major nuclear accident had occurred at Chernobyl.


In the opening days of the crisis, 32 people died at Chernobyl and dozens more suffered radiation burns. The radiation that escaped into the atmosphere, more than that produced by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was spread by the wind over Northern and Eastern Europe, contaminating millions of acres of forest and farmland. An estimated 5,000 Soviet citizens eventually died from cancer and other radiation-induced illnesses caused by their exposure to the Chernobyl radiation, and millions more had their health adversely affected.

In 2000, the last working reactors at Chernobyl were shut down and the plant was officially closed.

The town of Pripyat was abandoned after the accident and has since become a ghost town.


So, with that context in mind I asked if we could take a drive (about 65 miles north from Kiev) to see what is there today. My friend looked at me as if to say “are you serious? There’s nothing there, it’s a ghost town.” He then said “I’ll take you to the Chernobyl museum instead”, and we were off.

As soon as we walked in I saw what looked like road signs that you would see when entering a town, to tell you where you are. That’s exactly what they were. My friend explained that the museum was set up with this basic fact…”These towns used to be here, they used to be alive and full of hope and optimism, and now they’re…just gone!”


As we walked up the stairs there were over 120 road signs symbolizing existence and life. Then we entered a room that had the feel of just the opposite. I saw pictures of the explosion, I saw pictures of men who were killed in the explosion, and their families that were left behind, left to find a new place to live, and now because of a nuclear reactor explosion have to live the rest of their lives with disease.

The whole tour was very surreal for me, as I realized that because of human error a whole region, country, and population even other continents were exposed to deadly poison.

We spent a couple hours in the museum, and when it was time to leave we exited the same stair case that we entered and the road signs that we saw as we entered had an eerie line through them as we left. My friend simply looked at me and said “Now…they’re gone.”

I knew exactly what he meant.


The remaining tour of the city and its historical sites was a lot of fun and very interesting, but I must admit that my visit to the Chernobyl museum left a huge impression on me.

I kept thinking that this is what it’s like spiritually for people who don’t know Christ. They are alive physically but dead spiritually.

If Jesus had not come to earth, if God had not sent His only Son to save us from the toxicity that exists in our sin…then just like Pripyat and all of the surrounding villages after the Chernobyl explosion, we would have no hope.

I am so thankful for God’s provision, because of His son Jesus; hopeless, depressing, dismal statements like “they’re just…gone” are replaced with “I have come to give life in all it’s fullness”

My prayer is that I would live my life in a way that represents, hope, truth, life, goodness, mercy and grace telling others that “even though there are Chernobyl’s every day in our world, your life doesn’t have to have a line through it…you can have life in it’s fullness through Jesus.”

1 comment:

  1. I personally visited the Chernobyl area for two days in June 2006 with a friend and former resident of Pripyat. We toured the Chernobyl Plant (including the Reactor 4 control room), several of the abandoned villages, and Pripyat. I have posted a photo journal of my trip at:

    My Journey to Chernobyl: 20 Years After the Disaster

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