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But plans for returning more potentially dangerous land to agricul¬ tural use continue, and children are getting sick. —Keith Gessen, 2005 VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL HISTORICAL NOTES T here are no nuclear power stations in Belarus.
Alexievich put her own health at risk to gather these invaluable frontline testimonies, which she has transmuted into a haunting and essential work of literature that one can only hope documents a never-to-be-repeated catastrophe.” « w Svetlana Alexievich was born in the Ukraine and studied jour¬ nalism at the University of Minsk. The shocking thing about them was that the blood and triage stations turned out to be unnecessary. The soldiers—there were 8 SVETLANA ALEXIEVICH already soldiers—pushed us back. Over the radio they tell us they might evacuate the city for three to five days, take your warm clothes with you, you’ll be living in the forest. In the crucial first ten days, when the reactor core was burning and releasing a steady stream of highly radioactive material into the surrounding area, the authorities repeatedly claimed that the situation was under control. “If I’d known he’d get sick I’d haveclosed all the doors,” one of the Chernobyl widows tells Alexievich about her husband, who went to Chernobyl as a liquidator. I’d have locked the doors with all the locks we had.” But no one knew. “I know you’re curious,” says Arkady Filin, impressed into Chernobyl service as a “liquidator,” or clean-up crew member. And don’t TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE marry Tolik.” Tolik is his brother. Svetlana Alexievich collected these interviews in the early to mid 1990s—a time when anti-Communism still had some currency as a political idea in the post-Soviet space. And it’s certainly true that Chernobyl, while an accident in the sense that no one intentionally set it off, was also the deliberate product of a culture of cronyism, laziness, and a deep-seated indifference toward the general population. And we didn’t know then that they were just the first ones.