Interview to Magazine Start (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Elena- when did you first time visit dead zone after the explosion and when did you decide to make your trips?
First time I traveled through Chernobyl in 1992. We went to visit our relatives in Belorus with my father. I saw Belorussian part of a dead zone. We travelled for many hours on empty roads and my father was telling me about radiation. I believe, this is where seeds of my future interest in Chernobyl have been planted.
Later, when I was buying motorbike we talked with shop assistant in a motorcycle shop, he told it would be a dream of every motorcyclist to ride on empty roads, with no police and no cars. I was smiling because I already knew where I could ride it fast with no police, no stoplights, no cars and no danger of hitting any of a living thing.
What motivates you to do such a dangerous trips with your bike?
If I had to express what I do in Chernobyl in a few words, I’d say, from year to year I only observe how world of materials objects dissolve into nothingness. I documenting my trips because I want to show to the world so obsessed with the frenetic acquisition of material objects where this obsession eventually lead us.
What do you think of while you are in the dead zone and how do you feel?
You see, wasteland sets me in a mood which I call Chernobyl mood. Being alive when everything around me is dead brings one new feeling. I feel very much alive, at least as compared with surrounding area.
I record my thoughts in my photoreporatges, articles, books, videos. Chernobyl awake thoughts. There is no noise in Chernobyl that interrupt our thoughts in every day life. For me thinking is as essential as breathing, so in Chernobyl I feel like fish in water.
Another factor that attract me to the dead towns is uneventful life of those places. In Chernobyl the mathematical character of time lose all significance and we feel like time stands still, it’s because time accelerates or slows down according to the intensity of life and the nature of events that make up human existance. In Chernobyl nothing goes on, life is completely uneventuful, for such events as ever growing grass and clumsy attepts to build new sarcophagus don’t count. In Chernobyl human existence liberate itself from the tyranny of the clock, this territory is free from despotism of governments, schedules and calendar… Chernobyl is free from any tyranny, except for tyranny of nuclear isotopes.
Are there any happy moments while you are in there and what is the worst thing that happened to you during your trips?
It is hard to think of happy moments, for happiness and Chernobyl keep little company together.
I don’t know what was worse thing, but weirdest one was when I went for a trip and got lost in a wilderness. Before I proceed with this story, let me tell that I never take things in Chernobyl, no matter what I find I never bring it home. On this trip I arrived in some dead town, place was creepy, but not very radioactive and I had to travel farther deep into dead territory. I thought it was good place to make a stop to have a snack and I went through few houses to find salt, which I forgot. I saw books in one house and among others books of russian classics, I took one book with me. I fixed snack and began reading this book, I got interested and I decided to break a rule and bring this book home. When I moved farther a strange things start happen, no matter which road I traveled I kept returning to this creepy town. I began thinking something kept me there. I was moving around like within some vicious circle until at last I heard a radio in some house, I rushed there to ask which road I shall follow, but no one was there, it was hallucination. Then, I decided to get rest and I returned to this house with books and spent couple of hours reading, sorting out newspapers of soviet time, then I put book where it belong and went off. I easily found my road and drove out into the deserted area, this time without any radio.
When do you plan to visit dead zone again? Do you still have permission to enter it?
Permission is not issue. This days many roads are blocked by fallen trees, poles, collapsed bridges this is a problem… either you travel with or without permission you must go like Shakespearian wandering spirit – Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough brier, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire.
About next trip. This spring my friends returned from 11 days trip to Chernobyl and my buddy told me they have spoted one ghost town, which they saw on the other side of river, bridge was blocked so they could not access area. This place is probably my next destination.
There are some groups and forums which think that all of what you are doing is fake. Do you know who and why is talking about you in that way? Is somebody standing behind those people?
Of course what I do is not good news for power industry, but it is not power industry alone that stand behind all those attempts to discredit my work. What really stands behind every armchair critic is their own stupidity, boredom, envy and other defects of their nature.
I am immune from their oppression, for I know that the only way I can show my intelligence in dealing with fools is by having nothing to do with them, so I don’t read what they write about me on forums.
I believe that the problem of internet forums is that armchair critics and all sort of idiots are very loud and active while reasonable and decent folks are silent and passive, thus if you doing something outstanding you will expose yourself to the passive goodwill of a decent people and face active ill-will of every rascal. This easily makes impression as if you gotten in a mad house and such environment discourage people from doing good things.. This is actually problem not only of internet forums, but of a society in a whole and it is easy for people to lose orientation. Especially for young people, they can not see what is good and what is not, they can not understand why those who speak the truth are being called liers while some phoney actors being admired by millions, they don’t know which dirrection to follow. For me being called a lier, fake is a highest praise, in this way I know I did something good, because they only talk scandal and with them everything goes counterwise: their NO is YES and their YES NO. Thus their NO is my guiding star, which I follow for when they speak ill of me I know I am on right path..
Did you have any threats for making web page and telling what actually happened and why?
Not real threats.
Have you seen new movie with Will Smith as a leading role I am legend? It shows similar situation but in New York. If you did, how good that movie shows actual feeling of living and being in radioactive zone?
Unfortunately I haven’t seen “I am legend”. Thank you for info. I will try to get this movie. I saw “Die Wolke” (The Cloud), it shows Chernobyl like situation in Germany. This is good movie. In Russia was released “Aurora”, I can not say anything about “Aurora”, because it was shown on our tv with 40 minutes advertisement pauses after each 20 minutes of movie. I saw only first episode, may be on next anniversary I will watch the rest of movie, but I am afraid with growing demand for nuclear energy the pauses will be much longer.
Can you please explain what you do for a living, how does your life looks like now and how did making web page change your life?
What I do for living is really insignificant, I do different things, usually something that leaves me a lot of free time, I do works with least possible amount of responsibility. In this way I have time and energy to continue with my projects.
Work on website of course has changed my life. Through internet I can communicate to people directly. No reviewer, censor or advertizer stands between us. This is real power of internet. If not for internet a free thinking public would extinct by now.
Do you see any improvements and contribution to solving problem with nuclear power since you started with this project?
We are for 22 years without nuclear accident of Chernobyl scale. This is our achievement and I know there is my contribution in this too.
Semir Mujkić/Start BiH/May 2008
Interview to online information service “Globo” (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Do you suffer from any physical reactions, such as nausea, vomiting? And even today,after the visit, do you happen to have any kind of medical assistance?
To suffer from such physical reactions as nausea and vomiting one need to pick up a good deal of gamma rays. I wouldn’t go to such a bad place. Let me explain, gamma radiation is cumulative, it adds up. Humans can expose themselves to a certain amount of gamma radiation during lifetime. It’s like you got capital which you need to spend wisely. Scientists who work inside of sarcophagus can waste their health capital within hours. In Chernobyl as in life some spend on a place what others stretch for years and symptomis such as nausea and vomiting would mean that you bunkruptcy is near.
Burning candle from both sides only make sense if you need more light to see and discover things that would be worth you candle.
Could you count how many dead cities have you been at?
Before I lost count it was around 180 dead towns and villages, but it was few years ago and since then I visited many other dead places. Alltogether in Ukraine, Belorus and Russia Chernobyl accident has killed about 2000 towns and villages, 1/4 of which big villages and towns, while others 3/4 are farms, small villages or very small villages which we call “hutors”
Maybe you remember something that one of the people you met who are living in the exclusion area told you. Of all those, which one you never forget?
Once I talked to old woman who lived alone in dead town. In time of WW2, in the days of her youth this woman was present at the scene of mass killings and she told me story about execution of man and a woman from her town. Woman was nervously pulling her braids (plaits) aside with both hands and man was smoking his last cigarette. Man was calm. After they were shot woman felt on the ground like a doll while man just sat down. He was dead but he still had cigarette in his lips and this cigarette was giving a smoke.
Old woman who told me this story said that it was hard to believe that man was dead. She said, everyone left but she stood in front of lifeless body, looking at fading smoke. To me this story is interesting because when I travel through dead places and I see one, two families live now and then, exactly like this woman I find it hard to believe that no life is there and smoke from chimneys is but a fading smoke, similar to one that old woman saw at the public execution, in the days of her youth.
Mikhail Gorbatchev once said that Pripyat and Chernobyl are not places for sadness and grievance, but of reflection on how thousands of years of manking could be easily swept away in a matter of minutes. Would you define Chernobyl as a place of sadness?
I would define Chernobyl as a place where sadness, frustration and very deep depression written all over. This frustration finds expression in the whole way in which things exist in Chernobyl; in infinite nature of nuclear chemicals, as opposed to the very finite nature of the individual in them; in neverending battle which forms the history of Chernobyl, where every effort is checked by unconquerable difficulties, where some imperishable agent brings all strivings of every new generations to the same sorry end that had previous. Where at every moment all things in our hands become as nothing, lose any real value and perish. Where we ourselves become as nothing and perish..
What the ukrainian and belorussian people say about the tragedy nowadays? It seems to me people are somehow used to it and quite calm.
Belorussian people can not really say much, they have no speach freedom and speaking the truth is dangerous in this country. In Belorus someone who publish true research about Chernobyl will go to jail or will just dissapear, yet there are people who speak the truth.
In Ukraine, after Orange Revolution speaking the truth is not forbidden, yet ukrainian people speak less of such things. This seems like paradox, but it is not really. Nietzsche once said that truth will find more defenders where speaking the truth is dangerous and will find less defenders where speaking the truth is tedious.
You have seen a lot from the mankind’s greatest tragedy. What, in your opinion, was the worse thing about the accident at all?
Worse thing is that Chernobyl leaving no hopes. I told already that on the gates of Chernobyl I’d write what Dante wrote over the entrance to his Inferno: “All hopes abandon ye who enter here.”
In all languages there are such sayings as – “hope dying last” or “we hope as long as we live.” Hopelessness is robbing us of our strength, with it we fall into a stupor. No humans can not put up with hopelessness. People always turn their backs to the problem with no hopes, they just trying to forget it.
Your remarks are very accurate, with philosophical and religous backgrounds. Do you think is there place in Chernobyl, Pripyat and all the dead zones for religion?
It is definately for religion. I always knew Chernobyl was foretold in a Bible, but I didn’t care about it, until one day I had a moment of deep comprehension of those prophesies. This happened near from some dead farm in Chernobyl. Suddenly I realised the prophesy of wormwood and the truth of following passages became clear: * ISAIAH : 13:21,22 – Beasts of the desert will lie there, and owls fill its houses. 34:7-14 – “Never quenched night or day, its smoke goes up forever, it shall lie waste age after age, no one will pass through it.”; .
Fabricio Yuri Vitorino/ G1 and Globo (Brazil)/April 2009
From interview to Kiev Post
Do you think humanity has learned Chernobyl lesson properly? Or are there preconditions for repeating tragedy?
Chernobyl is a warning to mankind, once this warning is ignored or we fail to learn, then we are doomed to repeat it all again and again. Each time history repeats itself the price goes up. This is the course of events in life of individual as well as life of societies.