Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union’

It’s mildly possible you’ll get quite a few updates about Ukraine or Chernobyl, not because of a recent drama show but because I visited Kyiv and Chernobyl. I’ve taken a lot of photos and notes but here is another dive into some interesting history around there.

The Chernobyl Disaster (1986) is still a major talking point even this far on, maybe I should do a deeper dive into it all, but that’s something you write books on, and I have read a few. I did Soviet history so you probably notice I pick up these things here and there in my blogs, it is actually very tempting to go down these rabbit holes more and more but there is a whole world for us to look into and so I may point some here and there but forgive me if that does happen. It is important as a point in modern history, when reactor 4 exploded it caused international concerns and the subject looks to have been added to our school curriculum (I believe).

The actual name of the, now decommissioned, nuclear power plant is V I Lenin Nuclear Power Station (чернобыльская АЕС ИМ. В.И.Ленина) and it had suffered an incident before in 1981, a partial core meltdown had occurred in Reactor 1 but was operational again within a few months and was not revealed until several years later.

At this stage both Kopachi and Poliske were normal functioning areas, the incident in 1986 left both of them abandoned, Kopachi is now abandoned entirely and Poliske has been taken from the registry but there are around 20 known settlers there.

Kopachi (Колачи/Колачi) was a village, located just south-west of the Pripyat River Basin, after it was evacuated in 1986 the authorities had houses torn down and buried as an experiment. The village was the only one that suffered from his fate and now lonely two brick buildings, a series of mounds and some trees are the original remnants of the place.

Each mound has a sign which has the international symbol for radiation on it, it points to the fact there is a house beneath it. The kindergarten and one other building is still there and the local soil is contaminated with plutonium, strontium-90 and caesium-137.

Kopachi’s geography lies within the Kyiv reg, in ion, Ivankiv district and is 4km away from Chernobyl. It’s first mention as a village appears to have been in 1685, in 1886 it was listed with 774 orthodox residents and 92 Jews as its Parish. In 1900 the owner of the village, Sergey Chelytshev listed 334 inhabitants, there were 56 households and a church made from wood named Great Martyr Paraskeva which burnt down in 1927, the church in the name of the Great Martyr Paraskei, was described as dilapidated and built in 1742 and that prior churches stood higher on Kariplouka and the church served 65 tithes. The villages under the Kopachevsky parish were made up of Nagoretsy, Semihody, Krivaya Gora and Starosel’ye.

In 1927, Father Peter , the rector, was arrested and taken off to Kyiv, his fate was not reacted in anything I could find. The church was ravaged, the Holy icons and church plates were burnt in the churchyard and as this happened the anecdote states that the residents there wept. Before the disaster it was a well established village with around 114 inhabitants and the residents were relocated to Lehnvika, Boryshiv district.

If ( like me) you played Stalker, Call of Pripyat, you can go to their interpretation of the village on the level “Neighbourhood of Jupiter”, the area is known to have zombies, the hills and old buildings also emit a lot of radiation.

Poliske or Polesskoye (Поліське / Полесское) is part of the Kyiv oblast region and can be found listed in the Exclusion Zone area. The areas has about 20 samosely, the region has about 197 people, they are returning people to the area of those considered self-settlers. Samosely are informally allowed to stay there.

I’m going to put down the number of people as a sub-paragraph because its really not that identifiable. April 2013 saw an estimate of illegal settlers being anything from 200-2000. Refugees, re-settlers and other migrations most likely mean no true number could be stated. One official birth is known, 25th August 1999 a 46 year-old woman called Lydia Sovenko gave birth to Maria Sovenko, Maria lived in Chernobyl with her parents until 2006 and goes back to the area at the weekend and visits her mother there.

So back to Poliske – it was originally called Khabnaye or Khabne’, it was renamed Kaganovichi Pervye/ Kahanovychi Pershi in 1934. It was renamed to Poliske in 1957. Poliske was founded in the 15th Century, the home of a Polish family, the Howatt’s from 1850 to 1918. It was known for it’s weaving and textile industry, and the area got official status as a city in 1938. The population dwindled after the disaster and in 1999 the remaining population was evacuated, as of 2005 around 1,000 people remained and were mostly senior citizens.

A couple of notable people are mentioned from the place, Iser Kuperman was born there in 1922 and he was the seven-times world champion of draughts. Lazar Kaganovich, one of the leaders of the Soviet Union, was born there in 1893. He was a Soviet politician and was known to have helped Stalin seize power. He died in 1991 and in 1987 an American journalist (Stuart Kahan) published “The Wolf of the Kremlin” which was a biography about Kaganovich. It is worth another side not here that some contact the books validity.

So have you been? Did you visit the area on a tour OR were you once a resident with a story to share?

Sources:

Pohilevich Lawrence Ivanovich – Ukrainian ethnographer, ‘Tales of populated areas of the Kiev province’;

Chernobylpeople.ucoz.ua ;

forgottenisland.net ;

wikipedia ;

earthtimes.org ;

Stuart Kahan, The Wolf of the Kremlin ;

Chernobyl & Nuclear Power in the USSR – David R Marples; Dazv.gov.ua – visiting the zone (English version);

Stalker game – GSC Game World.

SoloEast Travel and going on the tour.

The formulated list of the settlements that were taken from the Exclusion zone and where people were resettled too (Ukraine forum on the subject).

 

https://silentthrill.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/duga-radio/

If you want my original notes on the matter here they are but I am now going to update a little from the fact that in August (2019) I was lucky enough to get to visit the place directly.

If I get my notes in order properly I believe I will try and do a full write up of the day but I am just updating on the Duga because it was one of the big highlights. The Дугá or Duga-2 (or Chernobyl 2 or Russian Woodpecker) is SO big I cannot simply point out it was large… it is enormous and absolutely wonderful to have seen up close, I don’t know how long it will be standing there because you can see the signs of deterioration all over it but whilst it is there and possible to visit I am glad that people can.

So what else did I learn to add to the original information? Well that the structure likely cost more than putting all four of the reactors online at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself.

That the things all over it (pictured below) are known as vibrators, and when the wind did kick up a bit they sort of hummed very slightly. I have pretty good hearing and the sensation of being there and trying to listen was part of the atmosphere.

DugaVibrator.png

Workers would have been able to access the higher parts of the structure by elevator, I don’t think I would want to be on top of that thing on a windy or rainy day. I can’t be sure about health and safety in the former Soviet Union era but I can assure you that I’d be strapping myself to anything I could if I was working up there! I was once subject to a grim report about a death in the North Sea when a rigger failed to do it and my imagination took me straight back to that moment and I shuddered…

DugaElevator.png

There were access ladders originally still on the structure but thanks to irresponsible people climbing up they have been removed. They are on the floor as you can see behind the above photo to stop climbers having any form of easy access. I will say I can imagine people still do try but they clearly don’t think of dropping off the mortal coil if they do as just being near it was enough and I am not even afraid of heights as a general rule.

DugaLadders.png

When the wind gets it the whole thing shudders and shakes, you can hear it move and it’s both wonderful and a little jolting at the same time. The sand around the area might well be covering up the radiation underneath and giving additional support to the thing but if it fell I can’t imagine you would get any time to outrun it… You can see it from so far away even with the forest around it and you can hear it humming due to its size, even without power. I commented on my original post about the fact it would interfere with local radio and now I can understand why, how do you even hide that thing from anyone either?

Well they did have that conversation on the ground in the Ukraine and Moscow when Chernobyl’s nuclear incident happened. It was a secret military installation and they knew that officials coming from outside the Soviet Union may well notice it, did they risk driving people through to the zone and set off the geiger counters and the reality of it OR did they fly them over and pray they didn’t notice? Well in the end officials were flown over, the Chernobyl incident was simply more of a pressing matter than the giant station nearby.

There has been a death at the site in more recent years, in November 2017 (a Facebook post on Geostalkers claim it to have been 27th) a 33 year old man and a father of three died when he fell from the structure. The man was Dmitry Shkinder and he came over to the area from neighbouring country, Belarus. (Belarus is also subjected to having an exclusion zone from the 1986 incident and I shall try to do more on that at some point if I can). It was a cold, wet and windyday and he climbed up 15 foot before falling and meeting his end. “Stalkers” and thrill-seekers are being told to stop going on to the grounds, that stealing scrap metal for recycling is dangerous not to mention the haul may well be radioactive!

“That object has seen no maintenance for three decades. Its rusty, some ladders are loose. On that day it was really wet and cold and there was thick fog,” his friend Roman, who was with Dmitry when he died, told a Belarusian TV station. (Rt.Com)

I absolutely loved this place and visiting. I found it a genuine pleasure to be there and see it for myself and I am glad I was so lucky to get to see it.

I went with SoloEast Travel and they were fantastic. I shall hopefully get to write more about my trip in between my other blogs, and if this interested you I am sure there are plenty of other little dives about my posts you can enjoy.

Here are some links to enjoy too:

http://chornobyl.in.ua/en/chernobyl-2-2.html

https://goo.gl/maps/VqK4wBnCnvCuBwce8

And my video of what I managed to capture!

The village is the only official ghost town in Poland, it is in the voivodeship of West Pomeranian and abandoned, as of 1993. It was originally a German training ground for a branch of Nazi’s and then after World War II, a base for the Red Army, only existing on Russian Military maps thanks to that. Once they withdrew in 1993 it became vacant.

Originally the area was a small settlement, Westfalenhoft, and in the 1930’s the Wehrmacht planners built a large military base. A polish newspaper from the 1939 reported the numbers of personnel at 600,000. In the Autumn of 1939 the German’s then opened a POW camp at the site, by November 1939 there were 6,000 Polish soldiers and 2,300 Polish civlians. It was renamed to Oflag II D Gross-Born in June, 1940 and was used for French Officers and Polish POW’s from the other camps. Westfalenhoft was eventually taken over by the Red Army in January 1945. It was officially Polish territory but it was occupied and held by the Soviet Union. The Polish were not allowed entry, it was renamed Grodek and the village was not named on Polish maps.

The parts of the base not needed were razed by Red Army servicemen, the base had around 6,000 Russian soldiers. The debris from the village was sent back to Warsaw, used to help rebuild the city. When it was vacated as part of the collapse of the Soviet Union the area was handed back to the Polish. It was guarded by the Polish army for a year, after which it was handed over to civilian authorities.

There was an attempt to sell the area for redevelopment but it did not happen, there were other suggestions like turning it into a drug rehabilitation centre, or perhaps a prison but it’s also worth noting anything of monetary value has already been looted. In 2011 I found reference to five residents but there is no bus route there and the nearest shop is 4km away, so it’s not likely to be a cosy place to stay.

I first came across notes about the area on a show called Stupid Man, Smart Phone. Whilst it is a ghost town it is not abandoned and is regularly visited, and seems to be a tourist spot for some. Have you been?

Kłomino.jpg
By RzuwigOwn work, Public Domain, Link

 

The earliest guess for the beginnings of the catacombs in the Ukraine is about the 1600’s. It could be earlier than that but it’s hard to date back as they were also widened later on. They became the giant labyrinth of today when in the early 1800’s the limestone was used from them to build much of the city.

The myriad of tunnels led to it being popular for hideouts, rebels and criminals could use them and during WWII they Soviets were forced out, but were able to leave Soviet-organised Ukranian’s hidden down there. They were able to listen in to the Nazi forces above and set up a situation where they managed to blow up German facilities. It wasn’t all good news as malaria and malnutrition affected those men and women.

The Facist German and Romanians chose random exits, sealing them off and and dropping poisonous gasses down them. When the war was over the criminals claimed the tunnels and created new ones of their own. In 1961 a group was formed, they wanted to map and document the geography and history of the place.

It is common for groups of explorers to go into the area, occasionally people do go missing and if they are in the area the explorers will rally to help. A number of children have been rescued this way but sadly it hasn’t always turned out positive. Old weapon caches and grenades are sometimes found, every five years or so a body is found and on rare occasions they have been naturally mummified there too. Many are old bodies but sometimes more recent accidents have turned up a corpse as well.

A sad example of this occurred 15th January 2005, the local teens were partying in the tunnels. A girl called Masha was separated and lost during the drunken celebrations. For 3 days she walked around in the pitch black and freezing conditions, where she then expired due to dehydration. It was two years later the police located her body and could retrieve it.

There is an official area that can be visited and perhaps given the warnings of lost people and random body finds, I’d recommend going there before being too bold.

Odessa kat 01.jpg
By Полищук Денис Анатольевич – Own work, CC BY 2.5, Link

 

It is a site 12km north of the city of Šiauliai in Lithuania, it is a site of pilgrimage and the exact time at which the practise of leaving crosses began is unknown. The practise most likely came from around the two uprisings of the Polish and Lithuanian people against the Russian authorities. The Russian Empire took control in 1795, two uprisings from 1831 and 1863 left many perished rebels with their bodies unclaimed and never returned to their family. The crosses are symbols of the fallen and represent the endurance of the Lithuanian Catholocism.

During 1944 – 1990 people continued to travel up the hill, displaying an allegiance to their original identity. It was a venue of resistance and the occupied Soviet Union tried to remove crosses and even bulldozed it three times.

7th September 1993, Pope John Paul II visited, he declared it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. As the hill remains under nobody’s jurisdiction people remain free to build crosses as they see fit.

Kryžių_kalnas_(Góra_Krzyży)

 

Kryžių kalnas (Góra Krzyży)” by Pudelek (Marcin Szala) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.