Take me with you. I want to have a look at the Red Forest! ”. What is a Red Forest, well, that is, why it is red? Has it burned down? Why is it standing? Does’t it have to fall to the ground? [...] In Ivankov, they wanted to leave me, I’m saying: "You know, I want to go to Chernobyl." Well, I had to look at the red forest. Stupidity is an accident or it is a pattern - I can not say. I lay in the ambulance on the floor, because the checkpoint would be checked. [...] I saw the red forest. Not to say red – a terracotta one rather. It’s such a bright color and the pines there. That is, radiation passed like a typhoon passed! I can not say that they burned down, they have just become colourless.
If now some people say that it is urgent to separate the liquidators from the displaced people - I am always against this matter. Despite the fact that the liquidators, yes, are dying, there are fewer of them, and the displaced are born and there are more of them. I always disagree, since we would leave and return home. Well, yes. I’ve damaged my health, it’s a fact. And they have nothing - no health, and they were taken away, and they have nothing with them, no home, no health, nothing at all, there is no homeland! Therefore, when they are going to the zone on these memorial day, people are going - they are dying from the fact that they came to their homeland, so much they longed for it. I say, we have arrived - we have everything. People arrived - they have neither forks, nor spoons, nor towels, nothing, just nothing. How can you say that he suffered less than you have? It’s beyond comprehension
If the shift was over, say, at 3 pm, then sometimes we would return at 7-8 pm, or even later, because the machines could no longer be washed at those special treatment spots. And, of course, given the consent of all, the drivers got to know the way to the belt route. With the consent of the commanders, and us, and, well, we have found a shorter way. We drove into the thirty-kilometer zone [...] and drove out of it between the “red forest” and Pripyat. So, sometimes they moved across Pripyat itself, and sometimes between the “red forest” and this Pripyat, there is a road there, Yanov road. [...] But, what is interesting is that none of us objected! And they were grateful that we at least found such a road ... Well, to get there faster, quicker. And most importantly, I’m saying, well, there was no panic among the people, there was no grumbling, there was no complaint, there wasn’t anything like: “Here, here we are being dumped, we are dying here... ", - similarly as now, we are crying, we consider ourselves victims.
There are no people, empty houses, all these things are empty. So where have the people been placed – they have been taken away from the familiar spots, all that. Well, now take me, throw me out into the street, and get somewhere in an unfamiliar place where, I believe the attitude to me would be like "well, they’ve come here, came in large numbers, where have they come here from?" Well, there is such kind of mentality with some people. And here how many have been relocated – hundreds of thousands people from that zone.
I worked as a baker for about three weeks. We baked bread. We were 24 people. That work was real hell, of course: slaving from 2 a.m. until 2 p.m. No weekends, no holidays – each and every day! It was summer, the hottest season. We lived in tents. […] The tents were in the forest, so, on a meadow. Once I got out and saw that all the trees around were white, all the trunks were white! Well, we had been told that everything around was “glowing” because of radiation or something. We knew nothing after all! I came up to the commander and asked: “Are the pine-trees white because they are “glowing”? I mean there, behind the barbed wire?”. – “Oh, no, - he said. – That’s because they beat used flour sacks there”.
There were mostly men in our brigades. I was in a repair platoon. We did some minor repairs, not too difficult, not too serious, something easy and doable we did. When it came to more sophisticated problems, they called the maintenance company. It was based in Oranoye, and they came from there. They were considered to be something like 'kamikadze' - condemned men. They went anywhere and worked really hard for money. They could go anywhere, anyplace at all, let’s say.
I stayed in Chernobyl from October 20, 1986 to January 20, 1987. So, I spent there 86 days. I worked in the bath-and-laundry unit. I worked for about 14-16 hours every day - from 4 am to 8 pm.
Yes, it amounted to about 16 hours. First I worked as a heater – I heated boilers in the canteen. A lot depended on me, of course. If I don’t heat what must be heated, the whole squad will be left without dinner. Then I worked in the bath-and-laundry unit where I did the laundry. And since nobody could go home without visiting the reactor, I had to spend some time – a certain number of hours - on such missions. So, while I was working in the laundry after leaving the canteen, I went from time to time to work at the reactor. Imagine, you work for 12 hours in the laundry, then you have some free time, you take a nap, and then you go to the reactor. You serve out your hours at the reactor and come back. We did all sorts of manual work at the reactor. It could be digging, loading, carrying something. All kinds of jobs - various, very diverse.
After three weeks of such a life you begin to realize what happiness actually is. It is when you come back home in the evening and it is still summer and you may take off your boots and sit on the grass and admire for a while. And a small creek flows somewhere nearby. We started living like zombies because you come home just at 7 or 8 o`clock, and you might have to go to the local authority first, the authority is in the place called the Blue Lakes, and you'll have to return on foot, and it is about 15-20 minutes away from our camp… So, since then I have developed something like a basic instinct: once I find myself in a bus and once I lean my head against the window… How much time has it been? – about 27 years.. But I still start falling asleep once I find myself in public transport and lean my head against the glass window…
Some time passed, and I hear: “He had a sick child”. I have daughter who was born before Chernobyl – in 1980. And then there were no place for the second and the third, ‘cause we lived at my mom’s place so we decided to put it off. And after Chernobyl we decided to put it off one more time – until my organism has restored itself. I told my wife laughing: “If you have there a lover who's still healthy – that’s ok, we’ll bring up a child”. It was somehow scary that a sick child would be born… The fact that we would suffer is one question, but another question is the child, what would he/she say to us later?
In the morning of May, 1st when all the country was celebrating the holiday, we were on our way to Chernobyl. I think that the bulk of the population, including us, didn’t realize the scale of the terrible scourge that befell our country, as well as the whole world. We were going there as if it was an ordinary training. We anticipated a change and a rest from our regular work at our factories and plants. But gradually we started to realize all the horror of what had happened. Even though nobody told us the truth. Even now, 26 years after the disaster, very few people know the whole truth. It's a taboo.