731 SPECIAL BATTALION
PUBLISHER N. VESELICKA
The author of the book "731 Special Battalion"
Lieutenant Gudov Vladimir Anatolyevich,
deputy commander of Special Battalion
in charge of policy in the year 1986.
From the author. Live and remember for the sake of that not to happen again.
The years passed. Battalion commander,
Align and check your army, man!
They fought for people, being profound,
For rescue, for solvation then.
Oh, boy, what can I see, - a ghost?
Or phantom with the fourth alive?
But three, the hosts of heaven, all lost,
They stand in transparent robes, oh, my!
Guys didn't survive to getting grey.
They passed away being young and strong,
And those who stayed, they were on way,
Forgotten in time to live alone.
English version T.Abramenkova
ББК 84 (4Укр=Рус)6-4
Project "Symphony of Health":
Series "Family Tree"
(founded in 2011)
731 Special Batallion / V. Gudov - K. : SPD Veselicka N., Г93 2012. - 160 s.
ISBN 978-966-97068-3-6 (series)
This book was based on the recollections of the damage consequences at Chernobyl nuclear power station in the year 1986. The most dangerous and hard work had to be done by the liquidator with the purpose to plug up the burst fourth reactor in order to lower the radiation level. They performed a great feat: cleaned and took away tons of radioactive wrecks and soil, decontaminated hectares of areas inside and outside the reactor, having reduced radioactive contamination by tens and hundreds of times. Thanks to the work that had been done, the settling out of people was reduced to 30-kilometers zone. The purpose of the book is to inform the readers what was going on.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the owner of author's rights.
ISBN 978-966-97068-3-6 (series)
(c) Gudov V., text, 2012, All rights reserved.
Certificate 16938 dated 13 June 2008
(c) SPD Veselicka N., original-design, 2012
Many years had passed since that frightful disaster, which happened on 26 April 1986, The fourth reactor of Chernobyl nuclear power station (ChNPS) exploded.
The reasons of that disaster had not been defined. And would they have ever been defined? Mass media announced different reasons and versions, but the facts were without foregoing proofs. One thought flashed in my mind: to make an extract from the Bible, the New Testament, Revelation of St. John, 8:16, the Trumpets: "The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water - the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had been bitter". Wormwood means Chernobyl in Ukrainian language. You have to perceive whether the disaster was a human's mistake, a diversion or a foreseen fatal destiny. Was the Revelation of St. John about Chernobyl disaster? We can only suppose. We can neither make a balanced system of logical explanations about the reasons of the disaster because of missing facts that predestined the catastrophe. Therefore, we take everything for granted. What happened - had happened.
I had to participate in the liquidation of the disaster consequences in the epicenter of Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986 (in particularly dangerous third and fourth zones of reactor). I had become direct witness of the events connected with the elimination of the disaster for a certain period, since July 30 up to September 9 1986 (42 days), as a part of a military squad 32207 - that was then a Detached Battalion of Special Defense. I would like to cover that very small period for people to know what had happened, who participated in elimination, what was their attitude towards the work in the epicenter, and to touch some other problems. That disaster became history of Ukraine, and history of the world, being the global catastrophe on our planet.
The younger generation will know about the elimination of radioactive aftermath on the premises of Chernobyl nuclear power station only from the books about the disaster. However, the books, especially about the work in the epicenter of explosion, are missing. I had to tell the students of school 305 in Kiev on their teachers' request about the elimination of aftermath at the meeting, devoted to 13 years since the damage. I thought then, "Those children were born after the disaster. How could they know anything about those days of fearful events? In addition, how had that very hard work been done? Who, at the cost of heavy sacrifice, saved the humanity? They can know only from the recollections of survived disaster fighters".
Every year up to the next anniversary of Chernobyl disaster, they show the representatives of ministries and departments on TV, who tell the stories about so-called "feats" about the designing and laying the communication cable lines between the populated areas, or how they saved the animals from the villages. Nevertheless, they forgot about those disaster-fighters, who were recalled up for the most difficult and chore work, and did not know anything about our contribution. We were recalled by the District Military Registration and Enlistment offices of Ministry of Defense and resigned afterwards.
That was the reason for me to make up my mind to write about our 731 DBSD (Detached Battalion of Special Defense 731), about the events, which dwell in my memory, for less and less of us remain alive. Only one out of four deputy commanders of Battalion (statistic data of the period from June 30 to September 9 1986 - 42 days) stayed alive by the year 2009. You can consider that approximately 75% of Battalion contingent are dead and buried. That is why I devote my book to disaster fighters, who sacrificed their lives and health for their country, for all survived. Live and remember, and honor those who saved the future, you, our younger generation.
Combat path of the Battalion
A Detached Battalion of Special Defense 731 (731 DBSD) was formed out of recalled up military contingent. The Battalion commander and the Chief of Staff were career officers. The place of Battalion disposition was between two populated areas, Kopachy and Lelyov.
From May 5 to May 9, the Battalion was relocated a bit farther from Chernobyl nuclear power station into Dytyatky village, and then in Straholesye.
From May 10 to May 17 1986, the Battalion was relocated into Gorodyshche settlment. From May 19 1986, the place of disposition of Battalion had become the settlement Oranoye.
During the first days of the disaster, the task to charge the parachutes with the lead, sand, dolomite, and stick them to the helicopters was set. Parachutes were used as sacks.
Then, when the Battalion was relocated into Oranoye, the next task was set, that was the removal of radioactive waste from power generating units 3 and 4, and decontamination of these areas and the adjoining territories, neighboring the 4th unit. The Battalion staff coped with this task, but, unfortunately, at the cost of health, and subsequently at the cost of lives.
Before the disaster. Peaceful life
We had known about Chernobyl nuclear power station dis- T f aster, which had happened on April 26, 1986, all at once, after May holidays when that had been announced on radio and television. Mass media did not give any information before.
At that time, I had to work as a chief engineer for a collective farm "October" in a village Yahny, Fastov area, Kiev region.
The spring had passed; the summer would add only problems. Very hot July Sun rolled down the skyline. You could breathe in more freely; evening air was getting cooler, not so hot. The working day of a tractor crew was ending. The combine harvesters were getting cool little by little from the heat of the day. Combine drivers were washing their hands, telling jokes, and were going to pack their things to go home. One or two days more, and the repair works would be finished, that very important period of combine harvesters' refurbishment, getting them ready for harvest. Mechanics, relying on their experience, were making different tools and appliances for harvesting lodged plants - in case they would be of use. They transposed tilted conveyers so that they should grip the stems of crops with their backsides of the grippers, not according to the instructions of a maker. That gave the chance of more reliable grip of the crop swath. They did some other technical equipment. I had some experience within the sphere: a lot of helpful was leamt during my stay in Kazakhstan and Nickolaev region.
When I was a student of Ukrainian Agricultural Academy, decorated with the Order of Red Labor Banner, I had to work within the students' detachment in summer-autumn period as a combine harvester driver in Nickolaev area, Yelanets region, in a collective farm after Lenin. I had been working for three seasons as a tractor driver when I was in Kazakhstan, Kustanay area, Karasunsky region, state farm "Maysky". There was a lot of interesting and useful to see as for the issues of arranging working process, technical support, and maintenance of agricultural machines. That was more developed there than in Ukraine or Russia, for lack of mechanics, needed for boundless areas in Kazakhstan. The situation made them think how to harvest the crops on time, how to plough, how to sow, etc. A lot of that was of great use in my work for a collective farm.
One evening the secretary of a chairperson of the collective farm board came in to my house and told that they phoned from the district military registration and enlistment office, and informed that I should arrive to the office mentioned. I said to my wife, "They seem to specify my documents". I knew that they could not involve collective farmers during the crop-harvesting period to military camps. More over, I attended retraining session last winter, in 1985. I spent two months at the educational regiment of civil defence for the retraining purpose in Marefa-town, Kharkov region. I specialised in retraining as deputy battalion commander in the area of political issues (battalion political supervisor). When I graduated from Ukrainian Agricultural Academy, I completed the course at military department. After that, we spent two months in military camps. I thought, "They can't so often involve in military camps for retraining!" It was clear the next day. That was not retraining, that was the real military service. The following days showed - we faced the trouble, the scale of which no one on Earth could have supposed without seeing it himself.
At seven o'clock in the morning, as usual, the chairperson of the collective farm was holding the planning meeting on the second floor of the repair shop. He was listening to the reports of all the specialists about their yesterday's work, and making the plan for the present day. He had heard my report and got to know that they summoned me at the district military registration and enlistment office, but did not pay any serious attention to the fact.
At the time defined, at ten o'clock in the morning, two or three people and I came in the reserve officers' enlistment department of Fastov district registration office. We introduced ourselves one by one. I do not know why, but I remembered the man, who told that his daughter was getting married, and he needed to get prepared to the wedding, and asked to delay the draft into the military camps.
It was clear from the conversation that he appealed against the draft not for the first day. The Major listened to him and told that they summoned us up to the military camps for a period of hundred and eighty days. The set off is today at twelve o'clock. To my question, whether we could have been said at least one day before (because that was not, I thought, wartime). I needed to send my wife and a baby of six months to her parents' house in Ulyanovsk, Kirovograd region, because even to buy bread, you needed to go one and a half kilometers along the broken country road, uphill, downhill. She would have never coped with that situation, having a baby and living in someone else's house. They gave me the answer: "Consider it to be the wartime - you are summoned to Chernobyl nuclear power station detachment". Then it was quite clear how fatal the disaster was. We turned to be two, who they summoned to take the same job, in case some of us would not have come on some reason. That was confirmed when the Major picked up the receiver and dialed the number, and told he was connecting to Kiev. He reported that there were two people; he named us, and having explained our situation, asked who to send. He pushed the receiver aside, for us to hear.
"Send lieutenant Gudov", somebody said distinctly, with good articulation. Therefore, I needed to be at the district military registration office, having the luggage and daily dry rations with me, in Fastov at twelve. I was worried only about my family, how to send them to my wife's parents' place. I was allowed to phone to Kirovograd region from the enlistment office. My wife's father was at home. We settled the problem. He was going to arrive and take the family. A burden was removed from me. In my thoughts I expressed my gratitude to her father, and felt happy about the way things happened (he was at home and would set off today).
Having left the district military office, I drove the lorry Gaz- 52, which reliably served me until recently. So many tons of spare parts, so many engines it had transported, so many passed through my hands. We did not have a forwarding agent, and we did not need one, because the collective farm was not large. I left Fastov; it was the way thirty kilometers ahead. The thought how to explain better to my wife that I had to leave immediately after I arrived, bothered me on my way home. The feeling that I was leaving the dearest person, my wife, with the baby on her hands in someone else's village really worried me.
Oncoming transport UAZ-469 was blinking with the lights for me to stop. I got out of the lorry cab; the chairperson of the collective farm was coming towards me. He asked me why they called me out. He said, "1 am going to visit the district military office on your question". I replied, "That's bound to happen as sure as night follows day. More over, according to military enlistment, I am in the list of civil defense troops, and, as I think, Chernobyl disaster seems to be formidable. Everything had been prepared, concerning crop-harvesters. You will bring in a harvest". With these words, we parted.
At twelve sharp Major and I were sitting in a car. He said that he was going to take me to Belaya Tserkov. We arrived at the Military Unit - the assembly point for reserve military men. I changed my clothes into military uniform, left my luggage in a depot. Major was dealing with some problems, and then said goodbye and left. There was no one from Fastov region; there were fifteen or twenty people from each of other regions of Kiev area. Late in the day, military motor trucks, roofed with the tents, began to line up to form a column on the premises of the military point. When it was getting dark, they announced the word of command, "All aboard!" The column moved. We were on our way for some hours - it was a bumpy ride, by and atour dusty. We started communicating little by little, all of us were reserved military men, and we were joking, thinking of our statutory service, telling anecdotes about army.
At night, we passed by some town and approximately at two o'clock reached the arrival point. From time to time, the column stopped, and the military men read out the list of names and military ranks. The named were taken to their military units. Fewer of us remained.
At last, at the next stop, they announced the command "All aboard!" The others aligned near their military trucks. It was clear, that we arrived at the place of stationing of the military unit, where we needed to serve. After checking the list, we were taken to the military unit 32207 and to brigade 25.
Later, I had to know that military unit 32207 was at that time 731 DBSD (Detached Battalion of Special Defense 731). One by one, we followed our leaders, who met us. We walked some twenty minutes. It was felt that we were walking on the meadow; the ground under our feet was soft and richly green.
The night was very dark.
Thus, we arrived at the disposition of our military unit. That was a summer camp. Those who arrived, aligned in front of the headquarters, they checked the names against the list and military certificates. All of the contingent was divided into companies.
We, two lieutenants, were invited to the battalion headquarters. I had to know that I arrived to relieve the political supervisor. The second lieutenant arrived as a substitute for the assistant of the battalion Chief of Staff. We introduced ourselves, and were acquainted with the officers, sergeants and soldiers. No one out of staff seemed to sleep, though it was about three a.m. It was getting lighter, the dawn was about to break. The night in July, you know, is short.
The Battalion Commander, Major Gytulyar, gave orders and went to have a rest. His tent was next to the Battalion officers' tent.
The Battalion deputy commander in charge of policy, senior lieutenant Shekhterman, who I had to relieve, turned to be very sociable and benevolent. Later on, I was not once convinced of his high moral and ethical merits of an officer and a man. We came in the officers' tent. There were metal beds standing in a line on both sides. There I was acquainted with the combatant deputy commander of the Battalion, captain Lunkov. He was not still asleep. After such a tiresome travel, I wanted to go to bed and fall asleep as soon as possible. The bed was covered with clean fresh sheets. There were, as they explained to me, some vacant beds, where officers from the headquarters of a special zone N3 task force, who arrive for inspection, stay overnight. Not making noise beyond the limit, talking, because all were having a rest, I got undressed, went to bed and fell asleep at once. Tiredness told on me, I had not slept overnight before.
In the morning, the Battalion Commander, Major Gytulyar, aligned the battalion and introduced me to the staff. Average age of soldiers was ranging from twenty-five to thirty-five years. Only afterwards, it became clear why they needed that age soldiers for the work at the fourth reactor. Everything was being fulfilled at a run - no matter what had to be loaded on the shoulders: either sacks filled with cement, or some waste. That was the work at full stretch, and only those of such age could have borne such a pace. However, there were both young and old. They all were statutory service men of the military forces of the USSR. Therefore, they were standing aligned, were very much alike not only because of the military uniform, but also because of concentration and seriousness.
They were special retraining courses. The word "special" was written by hand in a call-up paper, which was delivered to me in a district military registration and enlistment office on my return from military camp.
I spent all day in the disposition of a battalion.
I familiarized with the tents where the companies and platoons were situated. Then I made a list according to personnel arrangements: military ranks, full names of the officers of battalion administration, commanders of the companies and platoons. I was acquainted with each officer personally. The whole battalion consisted of soldiers who were called up from reserve. Only battalion commander and the head of the staff were on active service, regular officers.
In the evening, the Battalion Commander held a staff meeting and signed the list of military staff, the soldiers, who were going to go to Chernobyl nuclear power station tomorrow the first and the second shifts. Senior lieutenant Shekhterman was appointed the head of the crew; I was put on the list as the deputy head for faster orienteering of the crew, and for adjustment in order to cooperate with others in the tasks, routine and the crew route. The order was signed, sealed, and the list of military staff was handed in to the head of the crew. The copy of the list was in the battalion administration. It was rewritten by hand into the register, which was enumerated, bound and sealed. Those who had radiation dose of 25 Roentgen or more were not allowed to Chernobyl power station.
As it was revealed, when you got 25 Roentgen radiation doses, you were paid 5 wages, but to avoid over expenditure, it was forbidden to get more than 25 Roentgen doses; that's why all of those, who were moving off, had under 25 radiation doses.
The meeting of the staff finished. My first trip to Chernobyl nuclear power station was tomorrow.
Elimination of the consequences of the disaster. First impressions
Early in the morning, at five o'clock, the officer of the day woke me up. I got up quickly, got dressed, and got out of the tent.
All people in the camp were sleeping. Only some tens of them, trying not to make noise, were walking to a canteen. Early morning freshness cheered me up.
Light pellucid haze was stretching into the distance over the camp location. Wonderfully fresh, clear air, not touched with the wind breath seemed to be in some obscure drowsiness. That was the period, when the night had incompletely left its realm, and the morning had not completely stepped into its privileges yet.
I washed myself, the water quickly drove away the rest of the sleep, and a light shiver went up and down my body. In some minutes, we were in canteen. Having eaten some warmed up meal, we went out for a muster roll call. The crew of the first shift forwarded to work at Chernobyl power station consisted of eighty people.
The chief of the crew made a roll call of the staff according to the list, given by the battalion commander.
After the guidance of personnel, at six o'clock, we were sitting in the trucks, roofed with tents, and the column set out. We were driving along the ground road, and when we got onto the hard road, we could breathe more freely, there was less dust. Many of us took off the respirators and puffed on cigarettes. At the battalion position, we were without the respirators. I was wondering, why there were civil respirators, not military. It turned out, and we acknowledged later on, that civil respirators were more practical for such a hard and intensive work.
When sweat is getting down the face, civil respirators absorb it, but military respirators do not, because they are made of foam rubber and laid out with cellophane. Sweat gets down the face, hangs on the lips and drops on the expiratory valve, making it out of order. That is why we used civil respirators. When they show elimination of the consequences of the disaster on television, you can see the military men running wearing civil respirators - gauze bandages. We called those bandages "petals", because inside there was a plastic inset in the shape of a petal or a snowflake. That inset worked to prevent suffocation of a gauze bandage in case of very intensive breathing, because doing such a quick work you need to breathe with an open mouth.
We were on our way for about two hours. By eight o'clock, our column had already arrived at the power station. The transport stopped at a small site between the administrative building of the station and the first reactor. The staff was aligned, the trucks left for the helicopter base to stay not to accumulate radiation. That was on the way to Chernobyl-town.
Together with the head of the crew, we came in the administrative building of nuclear power station, turned right, and at the end of the corridor, went upstairs to the second floor.
In front of us, there was a canteen for the staff of the station; on the left - the office of the chief military radiologist. We went on the right through the corridor and entered the headquarters of the task force of the most dangerous zone N 3. The office of the headquarters was not large. We introduced ourselves. Shekhterman said that he had the substitute - lieutenant Gudov. We were acquainted. There were the chief of the task force of special zone N 3, Major General Lymarenko, the chief of political department of special zone N 3, colonel Kushnyr, lieutenant colonel Tymchenko and 3 more men out of senior officers' staff.
The staff of the headquarters was interested in moral state in battalion, what problems arose in the working process at the station. They reminded us of banning radioactive over dosage of the staff and other problems of our battalion vital activity concern.
Everything took place during the conversation. You could not notice any significance, which could have been seen from the side of the senior officers, connected with their rank, position or something else. They were true officers, wise, experienced, good in administrative management of human and material resources. It was clear for me at a glance, because I myself had that experience of my life; besides, your job gives you good lessons, indeed. When I was studying at the Agricultural Academy, I had to lecture to different audiences, to write assays, attend lectures of senior party staff of Ukraine on the issues of co-relationships between the head and the subordinate, family problems, etc. I was the head of a group of lecturers within the komsomol committee of the Academy. In a word, I had great experience, which you could have spent all your life on, some problems still being beyond understanding without corresponding learning.
They told that the work for today was radioactive waste removal and decontamination of the areas of the third reactor. When we got out of the headquarters, we went downstairs into the basement. It was stuffy, though ventilation was on. There were bunk beds, where people, dressed in underwear, lay awoke, sighing deeply.
We entered a small room. There were three people, sitting by the table - two military and three wearing civil clothes; they were discussing something. The charts of power-generating units and the area of Chernobyl nuclear power station were hanging on the wall. We introduced ourselves. They enquired about the number of military men who arrived today. Then they defined the area, where we were supposed to work, what mark of reactor (there are floors in the blocks of flats, a reactor has the marks). People, wearing civil clothes, were employees of ChNPS, who knew the disposition of reactors' premises and radioactive situation. We got the order to decontaminate the premises of the third power-generating unit. As far as not all eighty people could work at the same time, they decided to work in smaller groups of twenty; the rest of those, who were supposed to work, and who had already worked, would stay on the premises, where the radiation level was much lower.
Having got the task, we left the administrative building. There were military personnel who aligned on the left side. The chief of the crew said that they were the crews that arrived from other army regiments, called out of reserve. We did not take part in alignment, because we knew our objects. We worked at the third and fourth reactors. Our army personnel had time to smoke. Then the word of command "Left turn!" sounded. Our detachment went between reactor N1 and the administrative building to the inside area of the station. Then we turned left, and marched quickly along the first, second and third reactors. The buildings of reactors were very large.There was the fourth reactor in front. It seemed that reactors were built in pairs, that is the first and the second reactors were combined in one building. A separate building was for the third and the fourth reactors; only transport corridor, which disconnected them, passed through like a tunnel. Yet, two reactors had one common chimney. The comer of the fourth reactor from the side of transport corridor was safe. Almost beside, there stood a tall crane.
Opposite the third reactor there was a managerial complex N 2 (MC2), where they received and changed uniform. After the work had been done, they took a shower, and put on their own clothes. That was a servicing center.
At the entrance of managerial complex, inside, there was a dosimetrician, who examined boots and clothes, and checked the dose of radioactivity with the device. We walked on the left, and on the right, we got clothes for work and tools - shovels, sacks, rags, canvas gauntlets, rubber gloves and detergents. Nearby, there was a bathroom with a shower. We changed our clothes and got out of the locker room.
There were two roads towards the third reactor: the first - get out of the managerial complex, walk through the area and enter. The second road - from the managerial complex, on the attached upper pass, which was on five meters height; you could enter the building of the third reactor the same way.
We followed the second road. The corridor had the windows, from that height, it was better to see that at the fourth reactor, a radio-controlled tractor was moving. They told that it was called a "Lunokhod" in our battalion. It broke down very often - the microchips got out of order because of high level of radiation; it became out of control, and they needed to drag it away from the roof edge. Almost at the end of that attached upper pass, there was an access control: soldiers of enlisted status inspected the documents. The head of the crew showed his admission with the sign "Overall", and the list of the crew with the indication of the military unit, order number under the battalion commander's signature and a seal. At the revolving door, they checked and counted all the soldiers against the list. When we entered the premises of the third reactor, we appeared in a room, where two employees of the power station were wailing for us. There were always two or three of them: if someone felt bad, the others would help.
We should decontaminate the premises of the third reactor and remove radioactive waste from the basement. The dosimetrician and the doctor of battalion were obligatory included in the crew. They checked and recorded the level of radiation before and after work. Then, together with the report about the work, which they had done, we sent that information to headquarters of the task force of a special zone N 3. According to our data, they made the chart of radiation environment of the station. However, the information was not accurate, because the operation manual of the dosimeter in its technical description said that the device was not of high precision. It was used for measuring alpha-, beta-, and gamma- radiation. At that time, that sort of dosimeter was the main device, which was used to measure the level of radiation of places, mechanical equipment and people, etc. The second inaccuracy in making the chart of radiation environment occurred mainly because of the ability of radiation in auto reduction up to the same level. That was so, though it was difficult to explain. We decontaminated the premises - washed the walls, floors with decontaminating solution. The level of radiation became lower by some Roentgen. We measured the level when the walls and the floors were dry. The next day, the level of radiation was the same, as before the contamination. That is why we had to do the same work for many times. We measured only gamma-radiation, which had high ability to penetrate, practically through everything: walls, people, armored machines; etc. We did not take into account alpha- and beta- radiation.
Thus, we entered the place, where we had to work with the dosimeter. We measured the levels of radiation in some different places because the readings of the device differed greatly even within two or three meters. The dosimeter was very slow. We needed to wait, when the pointer would stop. If it returned an off-scale reading, we had to switch over to the next range of measuring. It should be switched over for some times until the right range would be found, when the pointer would stop. That device was inconvenient in use, and slow in work. We got extra radiation because of it, and wasted extra time, staying in the places under high level of radiation. More over, we had to measure in different places. Then, we had to calculate the average level. We were allowed to get not more then 1.7 to 1.9 Roentgen for one visit. Irradiation received during the stay at the station, on the premises of the battalion, during the trips was not taken into account.
Therefore, after ten years since the disaster, I had to have my blood examined at cytogenetic laboratory, where the chief of the laboratory enquired about the sort of work I had been doing at that time. Her interest, based on the fact, that for the first time among the people who worked in Chernobyl and were examined by her, I was the one, whose blood test showed intense change (aberration) of chromosomes. She let me look at them under the microscope and compare with the normal sample photos. What I saw was painful: X-chromosomes were cut in two halves or in some parts. Their fragments were scattered around the visible scope. Some of chromosomes were whole. When I asked if I could know what sort of irradiation I could have got, I heard the answer: "By authority of people at the top". Supervisory personnel asked, "Why do you need that?"
We examined the amount of work to do, checked the level of radiation, and left the room; then we calculated, writing on a sheet of paper, the average level of radiation, which made up four Roentgen an hour. Then we calculated the number of minutes allowed to work as for the activity ratio under radiation. The utmost dose of irradiation was two Roentgen. The calculations were very simple: four Roentgen - six minutes, two Roentgen - x minutes. It turned out, that the amount of work time was thirty minutes. The crew was subdivided into two groups of forty people. The first group stayed for decontamination of the premises. They would work in groups of twenty not to prevent each other. Having worked for thirty minutes, they left. Then the following group of twenty people came and worked for thirty minutes too.
The chief of the crew challenged the first group, appointed the responsible for supervision in monitoring work time, and the group started. We registered the starling work time. Then we went down, and into the basement. It was lit up. We had to work from the side of the fourth reactor. In the distance, there was an exit into the transport corridor, which was between the third and the fourth reactors. On the left of the door, it was painted on the wall: "Radioactive waste dump" and the sign pointed down, at the heap. Ready mix trucks kept going to the transport corridor and poured out concrete in the basement tanks of the fourth reactor. There were pipes of large diameter, mnning everywhere in the basement. They were droning, and high pressure was felt inside them. When inspecting the basement, we needed to get over those pipes. They were all covered with dust. There was some soil instead of the floor; in some areas there were heaps of garbage.
We examined the amount of work, and began measuring radiation level. Dosimeter again showed different levels of radiation, depending on the place of measuring. We were due to decontaminate radioactive waste and dust under ten Roentgen an hour. The work time made up twelve minutes. We went upstairs, where the crew was. They instructed the second group as for the radiation situation, sort of work, time and the number of people in the group, who were also twenty. We went downstairs together with the second group. Twenty people were waiting for work, staying at the entrance. The rest went downstairs into basement. The work was intense. All of us were working, no matter whom we were. There were neither commanding officers, nor subordinate. We spent so much energy at those allotted twenty minutes, that there was nothing to compare with. We all were wet with sweat; only we could have survived that rate. We were twenty five - thirty years of age. Some of us were scraping garbage with the spade, removing the dust, throwing it in the sacks. Others, running upstairs, carried out those sacks and put them behind the door outside the premises of the third reactor. The same way we returned back, running. Everybody was trying to do as much as possible.
Radioactive dust ran through the atmosphere of the basemen, everything was in a fog. The second group of twenty had to work there. Shekhterman gave me a pat on the back, and pointed up. It was clear - time out. Everybody was shown to stop working the same way; to speak was useless because of noise, grinding sound of shovels against debris, footfall of running men, drone of pipes, - everything made improbable noise. I was astonished that people did not stop working at once; they continued intensively working for some time. It was clear that they wanted to do as much work, as possible, even at the expense of health. It is sometimes difficult for psychologists to understand the state of people, their actions in hard and important moments of life, when the matter of life and death of millions of people arise. Nevertheless, it is very simple and clear for those, who are together with them. At last, we amicably quit working, and loaded with the sacks full of garbage, ran upstairs.
We were standing, wet with sweat, very tired, covered with dust, and could not recover our breath. They forbade sitting down for rest; radiation was everywhere. Everybody realized that fully, and that was the law. Our respirators almost did not let the air in. They turned into wet and dirty rags. We changed our respirators, which were in deficiency. We should ask power station personnel for them. The staff was aware of our working conditions, and tried to help. We should be thankful. Almost every time, we took a box with respirators for the next working shift.
When there were no civil respirators, we had to work in military ones, but they were not suitable for such an intensive and dirty work. The sweat ran down under the respirator, and on the expiratory valve, making it out of order. They knew about that problem in the task force headquarters of a special zone 3, but did not supply the civil respirators, considering that Ministry of Defense should have provided military respirators for us, and we got them. That is why we should work in them.
We challenged the second group of twenty, and got down into the basement together. The dust subsided a bit, but everything was still in a fog. Within that group of twenty, the head of the crew and I were not able to work physically, for the second time, almost without any rest, it was impossible to endure such a high rate of work. Having fulfilled the task, we ran upstairs.
While the second group was having a rest, we got upstairs to the first group. The second group of twenty was working there; they had to work for ten minutes more. After having finished the work, we measured and registered the level of radiation in the placement and the basement after decontamination.
They threw all the rags, gauntlets down in the sacks and put them outside the premises. Then the other service men took them away to burial place.
They aligned the staff for inspection and moved to the managerial complex two. At the entrance hall, a dosimetrician took a health check-up as for the level of radiation. He said, "Dirt". That meant "Irradiated". We took off our clothes, threw them in the corner, and went to have shower. Then we put our uniforms on and went back to the boarding point, which was near the first reactor.
They registered the radiation dose for each surname in the list. It was 1.95 Roentgen. (Two Roentgen were not allowed to put down, because the chief radiologist would not sign).
We came in his office, introduced ourselves, and handed in the list. The colonel looked it thoroughly through, asked about the radiation level, about the work time, and reminded that over radiation of the staff was not allowed. I felt that he might have been in such situation before that disaster, only on a less scale. He signed the list, and in some minutes, we were in the headquarters of the special zone task force. We reported about the work performed. The officers of the headquarters marked the levels of radiation in the chart, at the place where we worked, then inquired about the moral state of the staff. They wanted to know, whether we had enough gauntlets, tools, etc. I noticed that they treated our battalion with respect. I told the head of the crew about that when we left the headquarters. He answered that only our battalion, working constantly two shifts, was busy with the third and the fourth reactors. The twenty-fifth subdivision or some other military units were from time to time involved, but rarely. They are more often used on the area or off the station to take away the radioactive waste. We, basically, coped on our own.
Our trucks were standing on the parking ground. We were due to go back for two hours. We got aboard the trucks and went to Chernobyl town. Having travelled some distance, the column stopped at the point of special processing. There, our column of trucks was checked on radiation level. It turned out that the level of radiation exceeded all the allowed standards. However, they let us through. The personnel of the point knew where we worked, and treated us with understanding. We, as we thought, could not change trucks daily. We simply would not be supplied with them. They had washed the trucks with the detergents, and we set off. They sometimes made the trucks come up once more, sent the second round, and washed again. The other trucks with over radiation also were not let through. I later had to watch that some people tried to persuade the personnel of the pass control point to let them through, but that was almost impossible. No military ranks could affect them, whether that would be a colonel or General of the Army. If the trucks were contaminated, they would never let them through without decontamination and lowering the level of radiation. They did their work appropriately. Those also were staff, recalled from reserve.
All of us were thirsty. Mineral water after work was life-saving for us. Being tired of work and a long travel, almost all of us were sleepy; many slumbered.
When arrived at battalion headquarters, they aligned us, checked the names against the list and reported to battalion commander. Then we heard the command: "Fall out! Take the towels, soap, and into the shower booth!" It was among the trees, sixteen meters away from our tents from the side of the battalion entrance.
On our way, near our tents, there was a horizontal bar; someone wanted to pull up, but did not have any energy, so jumped down.
We passed across a large clearing, on both sides of which there were goals. From long grass, we noticed that no one played football there. What football, you know, after such trip. We arrived, the second group of people left. Each day in the life of our battalion looked the same.
In the shower tent, I noticed that the face and the neck of all the people, without exception, differ greatly in color from that of a body. They looked as if they were sun burnt, but with some reddish unreal shade. It happened when a person lay under the sun for the first time.
I shared my observation with the others. The warrant officer said that always happened after the return from the reactor with the open parts of skin, and they called that nuclear tan. We had shower and returned to the tents.
In the headquarters, we wrote the letters of commendation, appreciation for those who excelled in work. We did the same when the second group arrived. In the evening, the battalion drew up, summed up and handed in the letters of appreciation. That was one of effective forms to maintain perfect order in battalion. The order also was maintained with clear understanding of responsibility for the work entrusted to us at the third and the fourth reactors, and that the disaster was of world scale, because the level of radiation rose in all countries. We all understood that. Therefore, battalion, made up from the reserve staff', had such a good discipline.
I have something to compare with. I was a conscript in a group of Soviet troops in Germany, in Dresden. I had to take part in military maneuvers on the training ground. After the first year of enlistment, for about six months with the contingent of a composite battalion, I participated in harvesting in Rostov region, then in Kazakhstan and Byelorussia. In Rostov region, some people of reserve staff were attached to our group. Therefore, such a perfect discipline in the battalion, military unit 32207, made up from the reserve staff, pleasingly astonished me. I remember the words of battalion commander, Major Gytulyar S.L: "1 would have served with you, called out from reserve, for lifetime". Those were praising words for us. He said as well, "Where did they find that sort of men, non-smokers, abstainers?" Shekhterman and I answered, joking: "No time for smoking. As for booze, there was none, in any case".
The second shift group was working in the same area where we were, in the basement of the third reactor, removing radioactive waste.
It rolled over midnight, when I, at last, had some free time. In the headquarters, I wrote a letter to my wife, where I described in detail the place where we worked, what I saw, what levels of radiation there were; I placed it for sending.
I was learning the staff list. All the deputy commanders had major-rank positions. I tried to remember all the surnames and their respective jobs. I was very much aware of the battalion routine, it was also necessary to know the layout of the third and the fourth reactors' premises. Shekhterman was not sent from the battalion at once. In a day, we left for the station together again. That was a good experience to obtain.
All the next day was spent in preparing and dispatching the first and the second shift crews, learning the problems, if arose, handing letters of commendation, etc.
The battalion commander and the head of the staff were regular officers. They never were seniors of the crew when they were travelling. The battalion commander went to the station when they called out to the conference in the headquarters of the third special zone N3 task force, but that was not often. He always took the political supervisor with him.
It is necessary to mark the work of the headquarters. They worked at full load, being fully conversant with the matter. They, you know, were those who served in the headquarters of the Soviet army based on enlisted status. They also went to work at the power station.
Tomorrow we are going to the station. I should go to the first shift to have time to prepare the letters of commendation and gratitude for those who distinguished themselves in the first and second shifts, and hand in the letters in the evening during the battalion alignment.
Early in the morning, as usual, at five o'clock, there was the rise, breakfast, alignment, instructions, embarkation and dispatch of the first shift group of people to the station. Everything was in its habitual tempo of work. We tried not to make noise, as the battalion was still sleeping.
At the power station headquarters, we received the order to work on the premises of the fourth reactor. The work was the same - removal of radioactive waste and decontamination of the area.
From the managerial complex N 2 to the building of the fourth reactor, one could go three separate ways. The first one - along the upper corridor from managerial complex, they could get in the building of the third reactor, and then, turning right; after some tens of meters walked down the spiral stairs into the basement, where we had been removing radioactive waste before. At the end of the basement, they came running in, through the door, turned right, and in the transport corridor on the left, there was the entrance to the fourth reactor.
The second way was through the territory of the third reactor, down to the same basement. Only there, one had to move for a long time - there were many pipes and other obstacles. The third way was the shortest - straight ahead to the building of the fourth reactor, through the transport corridor to the door on the right, which led to the premises of the fourth reactor. There, one could get under affect of an acute radiation exposure from the fourth power-generating unit and the adjoining area.
The closer to the reactor we were, the more the level of radiation was. Nevertheless, that was the closest way to the fourth power- generating unit. We used it when we were extremely tired, and it was very difficult to run across the premises of the third reactor in that state. One could get lost because of many bends. There was such fact: one soldier from the other military unit dropped behind, and they had to look for him for a long time. Therefore, we often used that short way, though we got more exposure dose. Before leaving the managerial complex, we always jointly made a decision which way to go to get to the place of work. We covered the distance running. They did not take into consideration irradiation, which we received not at work time. They took into account only radiation received during the work. However, for civilians who worked at the power station, they took into account the exposure dose received at any time, not only at work. That was a social disparity. We stayed at the station for about four hours on average. We got to the station at eight, and at about twelve, we left. Sometimes we left at 2 p.m., when the column of the second shift of our battalion arrived.
On the premises of the power station, the helicopter was pulverizing the decontaminant or reddish-brown powder.
Inside the building of the fourth reactor, we broke into a run the shortest way. We had run along the transport corridor for twenty meters, and on the right, got into the premises of the fourth reactor. From that side, some of the rooms were not totally mined, and we stopped at one of them.
Dosimetrician activated the device; the pointer stopped at the sign of twenty Roentgen per hour. We left the crew, and went to inspect the rooms, where the crew had to work. The place was not large. Therefore, the whole crew could not work there - they would hinder each other. There was a lot of work to do. A lot of trash got inside the rooms through the openings of the building. We measured the level of radiation and went immediately away. We returned to the rest of the crew, estimated the average level of radiation in the rooms, where we had to work. It was twenty Roentgen an hour. Then we counted our possible time for work up to proportion. Twenty Roentgen - sixty minutes, two Roentgen - x minutes. We got six minutes of possible time of work. They said that we had to get to work by groups of forty. After one group had finished, the other one set about. We had to make a decision where the other group should wait for its turn to work. Then we should have decided whether we had to stay in the same place or return running to the managerial complex 2. Just after the return of the first group, we had to run to the workplace. However, despite the danger of staying in the zone of high radiation, we made a decision to stay there, considering six minutes not so much. The main was the fact, that we could save energy for the next six minutes of work.
With the first group, we were running towards the place where we were going to work. Some of us were holding the sacks; the others were burying garbage with the shovels; the brimful of waste sacks were immediately carried out at the double, and put outside, near the wall of the building.
The working time ended, and they ordered to quit the work. Everything repeated again as the last time.
The group continued working. At last, we quitted, caught up the sacks and ran out of the reactor's building. At the entrance, we put the sacks, and the first group at a run forwarded to the managerial complex 2, in order to get less radiation, and to wait for the second group to finish. However, that was not always so, because the work was carried out in the rooms, which were far from the reactor's entrance. The way to them lead through the other rooms; the pathway was complicated; it was very difficult to orientate oneself without the chart. Inside the building of the reactor, it was easy to get lost. There were too many different rooms. Power-generating unit was a huge building. That is why, basically, at the end of their work, the first group waited for the second group at work, in the building of the reactor, to arrive together at the managerial complex.
Having finished the work, we got out of the reactor's building; then, having run through the corridor, we left the sacks with the trash, and at the same pace, continued forwarding to the managerial complex 2. Again, everything reiterated, as that was on the first day of our arrival: the shower, clothes changing, the report and return to the battalion.
In the battalion headquarters there was the command to receive the admission in order to have the opportunity to deliver the groups of the crew to the station without assistance. Such admissions only some officers could get, who also went as the seniors of the groups. In the evening, the telephone message came: the substitute group was about to arrive. We needed to meet them, put on the battalion order list, and familiarize with the routine, sort of work, to define the company, where they were going to serve, and the rest of that. We started preparing the same number of soldiers. The battalion dosi- metrician gave the list of those, whose utmost irradiation dose reached twenty-five Roentgen. The substitute group arrived at about 2 a.m. They aligned opposite the staff tent. Their military cards were examined. The headquarters worked to formalize the orders, deprived those who were leaving, put those who arrived down for allowances, etc.
Then, Shekhterman and I guided the group, which had just arrived to Lenin's tent, familiarized them in detail with the place, where they were going to serve, what they were supposed to do, what mission they should accomplish, how long they would stay there. We were informed that the diet was the same for both officers' and sergeants' - soldiers' staff. The diet was as usual as that for the soldiers in the Army. They got an extra tin of fish or condensed milk for four people for a day. We were also informed that there, in addition to average salary, or, so to say, pay rate schedule, they were paid five times the amount for their work at the nuclear power station. Yet that was unexpected for military staff to be paid.
They asked the staff to write the letters home for their families not to worry. That was also one of educational moments in the staff, contributing to unity and good interrelationships between the commanding officer and subordinates.
The next day, the order to give me the admission, was written out in the office in Chernobyl. There, they took a photo of me, and gave me the pass to the confined zone. It was laminated, waterproof. There were the seals: triangular one of the Office of admission of Chernobyl nuclear power station, and a round one with the number 300. In the middle of the pass, "Far and wide" was written in large red block letters. That admission allowed unrestricted travel around the confined zone at any time of day and night. There were passes of several types, depending on the place, where the person had the right to work and stay. The admissions were with the Signs "Prypyat -1 own", " Chernobyl -1 own", "ChNPS". We were allowed to be everywhere. In the evening, the lieutenant colonel Tymchenko, a calm and experienced man of middle stature, arrived. Such visits of the officers from headquarters to our battalion were a usual thing. Nobody paid any attention to that fact. He communicated with the officers, warrant officers, sergeants, soldiers.
He was interested in the attitude of mind of the battalion staff, what utmost radiation doses soldiers got, how many people they should replace in proper time. They, certainly, had such data in the headquarters. They had to be interested in something, to talk about something, you know.
In the evening, the telephone message arrived again: partial replacement of the staff. The battalion deputy commander in charge of policy should go with them. The substitution two nights in succession was rarity. Everything passed as usual. We had to substitute those who had iixadiation overdose in comparison with others. The clerks in the headquarters wrote on pages for special notes in the military warrant the confirmation of participation in elimination of the disaster consequence in Chernobyl, in particularly dangerous zone 3, and marked the iiradiation dose. In the civil defense, there were three zones of atomic explosion. The third zone was the most dangerous, the epicenter, and then the second zone. The first zone was the farthest from the explosion. We had to work in the third zone, epicenter of explosion. In addition to the notes in the military warrant, we were given the reference note with the same information. Deputy Commander in charge of finances gave the reference about getting salaries at work, accompanied with the directives of the government, and the term of work in the battalion. We said goodbye to Shekhterman as old friends. He expressed his gratitude for the service and wished happy journey to all.
"...In order that the others should get less"
I remembered the next trip to the station thanks to the fact, that one soldier from our crew said: "In order that the others should get less". That trip was in no way different from the other ones. We had to work in the rooms of the fourth reactor. They set us the task to make two walls out of the sacks filled with mortar. There should be 1.5 meters between the walls.
We should leave some space for the hose under the ceiling in order to cover the sacks with concrete, when mortar hardened. It is difficult to remember the point we were working at, but that was a hard work as usual. On the left of the transport corridor, there were metal boxes with mortar.
All our crew ran into the building of the fourth reactor. Two of us, the dosimetrician and I, ran upstairs. At one of the marks on our chart, we found the room. There was a breach in the opposite wall. A part of the wall lay on the floor. You could notice that they were doing the clearance of the area for laying the walls. We began measuring the level of radiation. The pointer swung to the right and went off-scale. The dosimetrician switched the device to the next graduation scale, where they took measurements of higher levels of radiation. The pointer was still swinging to the right.
At last it stopped. We measured in some places. At the end, we came up to the opposite wall and set the tripod for measurement of the aperture. The pointer went off-scale. We got out of the room. Downstairs, we calculated the average level of radiation. It was forty Roentgen per hour. We calculated the time of work. It made up three minutes. That was the time of our stay in the room. To run into, with the sack filled with mortar, to lay it and to run out took about twenty seconds. Therefore, each of us had to appear in the room for ten times to bring ten sacks. Altogether for eighty people there were eight hundred sacks.
We took counsel how to distribute people for the work. One group should be downstairs to fill the sacks with mortar; the second group should carry them. Everybody should calculate the number of delivered sacks. Then we should alternate. We could change in the process of carrying out the work depending on the way we felt. You could have carried, for instance, five sacks, and then stay downstairs to fill the sacks with mortar. After that, you could carry another five sacks. The doctor used to stay upstairs, close to the place of work. Having distributed the duties, we got down to work. To compare with, there was no such work we had to fulfill, as well as there was no such a strong noble impulse to work. We quickly put mortar in the sacks with the help of spades, tied them up, helped to lift them up on shoulders, and at a run upstairs. Supporting the sacks on the shoulders with the right hand, we clutched at the rail with the left hand, and ran upstairs, getting over the height of about a nine-storey building.
Staircase there was very long. I felt my heart pounding in my chest when reached the top. The cement solution percolated through and streamed down the body. Having run into the room, we laid the sacks in a way that they overlapped. They put bricks while building a house in that way. That was a hard work. Having put the sack, running one after another, we got downstairs. Those who ran upstairs from the opposite direction strained to the limit, clutching at the handrail. Everything reiterated. In the process of work, I had to control the laying of the sacks. Then, when the wall started rising up, I had to stay there to help making the wall for it not to fall down. The mortar was of dark colour, which meant that the sort of cement was the best brand, and the wall should become monolith in the nearest term. I calculated the number of sacks in a row and multiplied by the number of rows. It turned out that the work was about to finish. I ran downstairs. Running from the opposite direction, panting, clutching at the rail, a group of people was moving upstairs. I turned my attention to one not tall, thin fellow, who was outrun by all. It could be seen that the work was not up to his health, or he was too young. He could have come back from the Army that spring. Having lifted his sack on my shoulders, I asked if he could go upstairs to see the doctor, and ran to the working place together with the others. The doctor said that was over-straining: the fellow was carrying the seventh sack.
We had to leave him downstairs to fill the sacks.
There was more mortar; all in all, everybody had taken up to ten sacks. We were standing tired, sweaty, panting. The uniform was soaked in cement solution and sweat. The respirators looked like dirty wet rags, but we did not have other ones to replace them. Even those, which we had, we should ask for. Almost all of us took oft" their respirators, because it was impossible to breathe through them. We talked things over, how we should deal with mortar. The second shift could be sent to another work. If we left mortar, it would have hardened, and we would have to make other boxes. That would be waste not only of valuable time, but of cement as well.
We decided to take the sacks with mortar to the work place and stack them like a wall.
Having finished our work, we did not have energy to run to the managerial complex; we were walking, indifferent to everything. No one had respirators; we had thrown them down, filthy, wet, in the sack near the building of the reactor while working. Everything reiterated again. The dosimetrician measured the level of radiation; we took shower. Then we put our uniforms on, and went to the loading ground at the first reactor. The chief dosimetrician of the station signed the list of the staff with the data of received dose of radiation. I reported the fulfillment of work, specified some points, etc.
We were standing on our boarding ground, which was between the first power-generating unit and the office block. For the first time in my life, I had to experience a headache. I was curious about how the rest of the people felt. Those who had been there for two, three weeks or more, said, that up to the end of the first week, they had persistent headache, weakness, tickling feeling in the throat. I noticed that when we were going to the station, and it was visible, our eyes did not have enough liquid. We screw up our eyes, as if they were about to dry out. We did not notice anything like that in the area of battalion location.
There were no trucks on the ground yet. All the people were tired, but there was no place to sit down. Radiation was everywhere. Some men were smoking and talking in a tired voice. You could see that people gave themselves up to that very hard work. Young men were, basically, from twenty up to thirty-five years old. One was quite young. He had just returned from the Army, got married, and district military registration office enlisted him on summons. The other guy said, when in battalion, that when military office enlisted him, his father went together with him and asked to enlist him instead, saying that his son was very young, and was going to get married and have children. Nevertheless, after that, they enlisted both of them, having told: "Such a smart-alecky father!"
We got mineral water and slaked our thirst. That universal trouble brought all of us together, and made us adults at once. Faces were young, but eyes were as if they had a great life experience. We understood what great responsibility was laid on each of us. During the conversation, I took notice of a young boy. I do not know why, he was nothing in particular, average stature, about twen- ty-five years old. I asked him what he thought about pushing ourselves to the limit, there, at the station, working extra time and that. He looked at me with some sort of bewilderment - was not that clear? His answer deserved respect: "How is that, comrade commander? It is for others to get less."
I looked into his tired eyes, nodded my approval and thought that each of us comprehended that. During the universal trouble, people revealed the best merits. He did not know who would change him, but worried about others. Those fellows saved millions of people, gave their health and even lives for rescue. They removed radioactive waste, decontaminated buildings, lowered radioactive background. At that moment, I was proud of those people, who did their best for others to get less.
They would be civilians, and no one would know that those were exactly them, who took away radioactive waste with their own hands, decontaminated the rooms of the third and the fourth reactors in the year 1986, and removed radioactive soil from the areas around the fourth power-generating unit. They overstood the whole burden on their shoulders. The years had passed. Would the young generation understand that their age youngsters were saving their future? They were real. I looked at those people and thought that in some time they would be transferred to the reserve, heroes of our history, unfortunately, forgotten by our state.
The din of the trucks, which followed us, interrupted my thoughts. In front, there were two more hours of thoughts on my way.
Having arrived from the station, we were acquainted with the telephone message, in accordance with which our battalion commander and I should arrive at 5 p.m. to the headquarters of the special zone N 3 task force for the meeting. We were to make a trip to the station again.
At the meeting, we got the order about the preparations for winter. We had to build a vegetable store, winter tents, a club and a canteen. For all that, we should continue our work at the power station, keeping up the same pace.
In the evening, the commander announced the order to all the staff. The period was tight. The plan of the construction units would be approved in the morning, and the building of the objects would be conducted simultaneously.
The main problem was, in the fact, where to get building materials - planks, posts, nails, heat insulation materials, etc. The depots could supply only winter tents and cast-iron moveable wood stoves. The deputy commander in economic service, captain Polyshchuk, was responsible for logistics. He was competent, a master. Where he took those materials, only he knew. Always being on the move, he supplied the construction site with all the necessary materials. Therefore, they managed to build at a rapid pace. There were only four hours for sleep.
Those who arrived from the station joined us for work.
To light the tent camp, we used dynamotor, which was nearby, among the bushes. The dynamotor was diesel-fuel, and rotated the generator, which produced electric power. That light was not enough for the building site at night. That is why, when it was getting dark, they set the trucks with the lights on, vectored from both sides in one direction to light the site, and continued with building.
All of us knew that somebody would live there during the cold. The work at the station and battalion took the last strength. We did everything in our power; we strained ourselves to the utmost. Moreover, we had to meet groups that arrived at night two times a week to replace those, who would be sent home soon.
The next trip to the station differed in no way from the previous. The same work should be done - to fill the sacks with mortar, to run upstairs, to stack them in a wall, and to run downstairs - the same up to the end of the work.
At that time, the work was more complicated. One of the shifts of the staff had already worked there, and we had to lay out the wall up to the ceiling. We mounted the sacks on a high trestle and the group of people laid them out in a wall. We made two walls with the distance half a meter from each other that obstructed the opening in the wall. In two days, we stretched the hoses and poured concrete. Together with the layers made of sacks, filled with mortar, we got a wall of two and a half or three meters wide. Concrete earners kept delivering concrete mix and poured it. That looked like a live conveyer. We often met concrete carriers on our way. How much concrete was poured in the fourth reactor, could hardly be supposed.
The second shift arrived from the station. They were working on the roof of the fourth reactor; where they pulled radio-controlled tractor, called "Lunohod", from the roofs edge. The part of the roof of the fourth reactor was safe from the side of the third reactor. The tractor was about to fall. We often had to do that sort of work. Printed circuit cards of the tractor did not stand the working test under high level of radiation. They broke down, and the tractor became out of control.
The days took their normal course with arduous toil and problems, resembling one another, sometimes slightly different, which made them remaining in the memory. The group arrived from the station, and the people said, that gauntlets were not enough, usual, canvas gauntlets. That was not for the first time, when people worked barehanded, without any means of protection. They could rightfully refuse to work, and no one could have made them work. Nevertheless, they worked. Immediate contact of skin and radioactive dust or radioactive items was intolerable. I had already reported that at the headquarters and insisted on that not to be repeated again. At that time, the first company reported the lack of gauntlets.
I connected with the staff of special zone N3, reported on the situation, which emerged during the work at the station. They replied that the chief of the crew reported on the issue, and it would be settled. Nevertheless, as the further events showed, similar things had already become a problem. I had to go to the headquarters of special zone N 2. We were under their command according to the placement of the battalion.There I met a newly arrived chief of political department of special zone N 2, colonel Dehtyarenko. I explained the situation, showed the report of the officer from the first company to prove my words. He promised to help and asked to leave him the report. Therefore, with this we parted.
Again, we had to meet newly arrived soldiers to change the shift, which meant a sleepless night. Well, I was used to sleep three or four hours a night. A human, I think, can hold on the will power and fortitude, but how long, no one knows. The work in the headquarters was going on. The military clerks were writing the notes into military identification cards of those people who were leaving. They, as usual, stated the period of their stay on the station premises according to command, wrote the dose of radiation up to the cumulative list. The battalion commander signed and sealed the list. The deputy Commander in finances gave the payment references. Those who were leaving, aligned in front of headquarters' building; they gave them the papers, expressed their gratitude, and said good-bye. The people got aboard and went to the departure ground. That night they would take the soldiers to the transit camp, where they had changed clothes into military uniform before. They would put on their civil clothes and go home.
We checked newly arrived against the list and military identification cards, instructed them. Commanding officers formed their military companies according to staff schedule. The work has just been finished and the dawn was about to break. The new day started, which meant new problems.
The next day, they summoned the battalion commander and me to the staff at the station. The meeting was, as usual, short. It was reported that unless the level of radiation lowered the eviction of Kyiv population would be on the agenda. "That, as you see, is a city of many millions. Everything depends on you. We know that you work on the edge of your possibilities. This is not the command; it is just information for you. We cannot enlarge the number of workers in the building with the reactor; they will hinder each other in their efforts. Therefore, the same forces will fulfill the task. That is your battalion only. How to do more and better work in an hour at such a fast pace, as you do? We do not know either. Overall, everything depends on you, whether they will evacuate Kyiv population or not. If radiation level declines, the problem of evacuation will disappear." That was August.
When arrived at the battalion, the commander reported this information to the staff.
In the fourth reactor, some processes, logically possible only within this reactor, took place. When we arrived at the station next time, we were not allowed to work. There was a thump, and the level of radiation dramatically rose. That sort of thing occurred from time to time before. Unfortunately, the trucks left for the parking site, we were not able to stop them to get back to the battalion headquarters. That is why we had to stay for four hours in the rooms of the station. No one had the right to be outside the building; that was the command. The second shift of our battalion worked that day.
Service in the battalion was normally going on. One group of people was leaving; the other one was arriving to replace them in order to do that hard twenty-four-hour work with renewed strength. When got acquainted with the service routine in the battalion, the work at the station, they joined the group and became a unit.
Each time, when we were at the battalion headquarters, returning from the shower after the next trip to the station, we were walking across the meadow, where were the goals for playing football, but we did not play football, not once. First, all of us had a terrible headache; we felt weakness, sometimes some sickness, especially when we were at the station. Secondly, we did not have any time to play, working all the time. Thirdly, it was better not to breathe in that radioactive dust. Those minutes, when we were walking across the meadow, were our private, we could think of something but work. I remembered that I did not get an answer to my letter. A Sergeant of a secret department of the staff also complained that he did not get an answer mail either. He had been working as a miner before the disaster. Today he had to write a short letter about his arrival, that was all. The letters could have been inspected; for that reason, they could have not been delivered.
Soft green grass spread out under our feet. Steps could not be heard, long stems of plants were occasionally lashing against the tops of the boots. Aroma of meadow herbs and flowers intoxicated. The Sun was shining brightly. The air was warm. When drawing in great lungful, we felt its warmth and aroma. It seemed to fill us with some energy. The rays fondled and lulled us into a light doze; no wind breath could be felt. Soft warm haze spread along the grassland, and the trees stood as if fascinated by the beauty and some mysterious power. Something was lacking, though, in that same nature. It was difficult to guess what exactly. That thought had worried me since my arrival. Only now, I realized what was lacking in that amazing nature. There were no birds, no tweeting, and the surrounding remained silent. They left those contaminated with radiation places. I made one observation more. There were no smiling faces. That was a real disharmony in nature. Disaster left its traces on everything.
Sounds of axes and hammers interrupted my thoughts. The work in the battalion was in full swing. That was the lunchtime. The companies went to have lunch and dinner in turn in order not to stop working. Everything went quickly and in an organized way. Looking at the construction site, its scale and rate, I thought, that staff summoned from the reserve could do everything. They had a very good life experience. For some reason, I compared them with the soldiers of active military service, and thought, that they would probably build all of that for the whole year.
Having had lunch, we got involved in work. The supporting frames of some tents were in a row. They planked the tents from inside and outside. Between the planks, they filled up the walls with the mix of sawdust and sand, then firmly rammed. Some openings were left for windows and doors. Inside, they laid the floor and set up cast-iron moveable wood stove. Outside, they put up a winter tent, provided with heat insulation, which was grey camel's-hair cloth. It turned to be a nice warm hut. I happened to meet an officer at the military department in Agricultural Academy, who was in the battalion in winter. He told about the tents "a good job", it was warm, he thanked. They built the club and the canteen the same way. More problems arose during the construction of the vegetable storage facility. It was of large dimensions, and needed many logs for walls and ceiling. The storage facility was half under the ground. They heaped it with soil and covered with divot.
Therefore, days were passing in tense work. One day, two associates came up to me and specified if they were not paid for their work at weekends. I, in my turn, clarified where they got that sort of information. They replied that was the way the twenty-fifth subdivision was treated. We would have not been paid at all, but if they paid, what was the difference between the work in a working day and a day off. I replied, "It should not be so", and promised to check that information.
It was necessary to neutralize that information. In case it was confirmed, we should find its source.
The most important thing in any team, as you know, is morale, discipline. Especially it is a concern of military units. When any destabilizing problems of discipline occurred, no commands would restore primary order, unless the source would be neutralized.
Having talked to battalion commander, I left for the subdivision N25, our neighbors, who were encamped on the right of us, across the meadow, about five-seven kilometers away. On our way to the station, we always passed them by.
On the pass control, I introduced myself and reported about the purpose of my arrival at the headquarters of the battalion. Before going to the staff with that problem, I specified it in the place. Information was confirmed. In the staff, as they told, there was a secret instruction at the headquarters of Ministry of Defense about the elimination of disaster aftereffects in Chernobyl nuclear power station. That headquarters was in the town of Chernobyl, in the building of a former town committee of the party. I had to return to the battalion for an officer of Secret Service. They would not allow me a firsthand view of secret papers because I did not have an access.
I arrived at the battalion, reported the situation to the battalion commander, considering that I should not postpone the fact.
Together with the officer of secret department of the battalion headquarters, who had an access to secret papers, I went to Chernobyl town. On our way, he told that he did not receive any letters from home. He came from the area of mining. He sent a letter long ago, and was going to leave soon, but the family did not answer his letter. I advised him not to write where we worked, what radiation level there was, let them know only about his successful arrival.
We had to instruct the same way newly arrived, proceeding from our own experience. The answer to the second letter then arrived surprisingly quickly. Thus, my first letter was not delivered.
We found the staff very quickly; it was in the centre of the town. All the officers there were senior, ranging from majors to generals. We introduced ourselves and explained the reason of our visit. Some time later, the major, officer in charge of finances, appeared. He informed us that there were secret instructions, which we should follow. We would certainly like to study them. Major said that we needed to have the access to secret papers. Having found out that we had it, he seemed not to be very pleased with the course of events.
We entered the secret department, showed the access rights. Major named the numbers of instructions; they gave us the book of instructions without privileges of carrying it out of the secret department. The major went away on official duties. We started studying those secret instructions. We had three of them to learn. Each of them contained roughly the fourth part of a standard sheet of paper overall. We had read, them for some time, but did not find any sense in them at all. What was the purpose of those instructions was not clear either. Those documents contradicted any logic and statement, especially in the sense of military papers. The officer of secret department commented on the documents like unprofessionally compiled. Everything was approximate, about something and about nothing. In general, he said, we should try to sort them out ourselves. He could not get the sense of those instructions.
We distracted from the papers to have some rest. I just needed to learn the instructions by heart. At first, I could agree with the conclusion of the officer of secret department, but later on, having learnt the style, the summary, resumed that clever people wrote the papers. The statement contained regularity.
First, the instructions gradually followed each other: the second one resulted from the first one, the third one resulted from the second one, the first instruction resulted from the third instruction, making a self-contained document. There was neither sense nor accuracy. It was very difficult to summarize the information given in the papers. Second, the words in the sentences were selected and put in a complicated way. Third, when changing the word order or replacing the words with some others, alike, you changed the sense of the sentence, its idea. Therefore, you should memorize the instructions, word by word. Having learnt the directives, we returned the papers, and went in search of a major. He was still referring to the instructions, and when he understood that we knew them by heart, he made pretence of surrendering. He advised us that we should talk to a general. Major entered the office of general, and in five minutes, he went out of it into the corridor. Right away, the general called me.
I entered the office, asked for permission, and introduced myself. There was not enough light in the office, and clearly not enough day light. The lieutenant general was standing at the window, and abruptly asked with stentorian voice, "You, the political supervisor, don't you understand the policy of the party and the government, don't you?" When speaking that way, he came up to the window, drew himself up, as if stretching, showing his importance (lieutenant general facing lieutenant, what objections could have been there?)
We could clearly see his face. It was of sallow complexion, down in the mouth. The chin, massive features, everything was telling self-sufficiency and conceit, which everybody accepted. The other opinion one should not have. He was the sort of men whom you should report boldly, confidently, clearly and loudly.
I did so. When addressing him, I told that I should clearly report to the staff on the reason why they would not pay to the staff for their work at weekends and holidays. The directives did not instruct on the brought up issue. If the staff refused to work at the station at weekends or holidays, a military tribunal would try no one but me. For that not to happen, I needed clearness and lucidity of mind. Who just had the right to stop the breakdown elimination at weekends?
Silence fell in the office. I saw from his eyes that he did not expect such a conversation. He asked with some other, usual, but still annoyed voice to call the major. He was standing with the officer from the secret department in the corridor, discussing something. As soon as we came in the office of the general, he ordered that major should go with us to the battalion and report those directives to the staff. I did not want to take that major to the battalion. I thought that would lead to controversy among the staff. Nothing should be done. Command was command.
On the premises of the battalion, near the headquarters, they made a ground for personnel gatherings. There was a low stage, made of planks and benches put in a semi-circle line.
The results of the trip were reported to the battalion commander. He ordered to announce the staff gathering over the loudspeaker. The major was introduced. We were listening to his speech, so to say. He did not possess any abilities to communicate with the audience. The soldiers, who removed radioactive waste with their hands, washed the floors with the mops, decontaminated the walls for several times, which were just hectares of cleaned area. They should listen to those pathetic words of a major from financial department, who implemented verbal instructions to save money. One could understand that economy as for other military units, who worked far from the station, in the villages, in the forest, in the laundry, etc., but they should not touch the people, who worked in the epicenter of explosion, where the reactor entombment, as you know, was not built yet. Better, they did not pay at all, just; nobody knew that they were going to pay for work there.
The speech of the major, seemed to come to his desire to demoralize the personnel, to split the group up, to create uncertainty and probable non-participation in the work at weekends, I thought without exaggeration. Questions arose from all sides. Then, one by one, people started coming up to the major and asking him the same question, "What is the difference between working on Monday or on Sunday? If they paid for work on weekdays, why then they did not pay for Sunday?"
Major denied payments for weekends and holidays. Many people started proving that he was not right. Some of them began gesticulating, thinking he was the main person responsible for that. I had to interfere in the situation for it not to go out of control. Reassuring the people, I made my way through their dense ring to major, and said that the car was waiting for him, and he had to go immediately. I was eager to take him away from the military unit. Near the car, I said goodbye and asked him not to come to our unit any more. I nominated the officer in charge of transport, and set the task to deliver the major to headquarters of Ministry of Defense in Chernobyl and return to the military unit. Then I phoned to checkpoint and told to let the car out.
Then I had to speak, to explain the events, to summarize. I successfully normalized the situation, though partially. We again set to continue with building. The discussions on the matter among the soldiers continued, though less, the next day. Being busy with their work, they little by little forgot about everything, the more so, because the weekends did not differ from the weekdays. They gave the references as usual.
One day a telephone message arrived. The headquarters of the second sector summoned the battalion commander and me to the village Teryohy, where the staff was located in the school building. We subordinated to the headquarters according to the place of battalion location. Having talked things over with the battalion commander, I made up my mind not to go. I had a lot of work to do in the battalion. From my experience, I knew that they would discuss how to arrange everything for winter. The battalion commander was aware of all the problems, how to cope with them. It is another matter to be at the meeting at the power station, I was sure, I had to go there.
When in the evening, the battalion commander returned from the meeting, he said in mysterious voice that he was trying there in the battalion, but the political supervisor won laurels. He presented the letter of commendation to me, a participant of a disaster elimination at Chernobyl nuclear power station, signed by the commander of special zone task force Major General I. Lymarenko and the chief of special zone political department Colonel Kushnyr. It turned out that our battalion won the second place in the socialist competition.
We immediately expressed our considerations. How, I wonder, they summed up- according to hectares of cleaned area, according to moved radioactive waste? Who could know that, and whom did they compare us with? Since the time of getting the command to get prepared to winter, we had not ever aligned the personnel, not to put them off work in the building area. That evening we aligned the staff and the battalion commander announced that our battalion won the second place in the socialist competition, and thanked for the service. We presented the letters of commendation to the best soldiers, though it was always a difficult thing to choose the best. All of them were working with some amazing persistence and true grit. Some energy guided those people. I had never had a chance to see such patriotism. Of course, they deserved orders and medals, but they were not given.
So many times the nurses from military hospital arrived at our battalion to test the blood! They brought the results of the previous tests. They said everything was normal.
Many people felt skeptical about that. Was everything so good? What about terrible headache, reddening of open parts of the body, weakness, tickling feeling in the throat, extreme tiredness, fatigability? Could have the blood test been normal under such circumstances? It happened that it could be in our state. The same about the letters home with true information, which had not been delivered.
Then, they did not announce about the disaster, and people were walking in the parks and streets on May Holidays in Kiev as well as in other cities and towns. That is why no one believed those blood tests. The following years after the disaster showed that we, disaster fighters, were not needed any more and the state was getting rid of us morally and physically. Morally, means the law about Chernobyl disaster, where they indicated the benefits, but did not provide them, which led to moral suppression. Physically means that free medicines are not provided in the hospitals according to that law and Ukrainian Constitution. They did not raise pensions received by Chernobyl disaster fighters up to the year 2006, and they were many times lower then those the officials got. Most of them receive minimal pensions.
Education for our children is paid, although Ukrainian Constitution reads (articles 49 and 53) that education and medical care are free. We cannot allow good diet and rest. We cannot get health tickets when we need to enhance our health. We do not receive a deserving help from the state. Incomings per a family member are lower than subsistence level. Because of the lost health, we cannot provide our families with worthy living standards. What is that sort of definition - subsistence level? Something invented by some bureaucrats. Let those who invent such laws and minimal standards try to live on them.
That is a real humiliation. The same situation is with the participants of military operations when medicine and pensions concerned. Soldiers who went through a hard trial of war got pensions less than those who served in the Army now and retired. The officer who participated in the military operations got a pension, which was less than a pension received by an officer who did not take part in any war. That is discrimination. The state cannot develop when it treats its rescuers and volunteers with contempt. The pensions of Chernobyl disaster fighters were raised to mark the twentieth anniversary of the disaster; not many could survive to that tragic date.
The work in the battalion was confidently moving on. Sometimes they were lacking for this or that, but always found the way out. I was reasoning: that is what people, called-up from reserve, mean. That is of great importance. All men some time served statutory service, have civil jobs. They can turn their hands to anything.
The tents where we were sleeping seemed small compared with those winter ones we built. We built only half of all the tents. We were faced with a lot of work to do.
A secret agent from special department arrived at the battalion again. He left the transport, GAZ-69, as usual among the bushes, within some distance from our checkpoint, for others not to notice it.
Then, by alternative route, he penetrated into the rooms of the battalion. He arrived to us before. He was attached to a number of military units, and had to visit them in order to send a report up the line. That time they informed me about his arrival right away. They had never informed me before. Although we all were busy at the construction site, we noticed a new person, who appeared in the battalion, at once. They also let us know that he was an employee of a large enterprise in Kiev. One soldier from our battalion recognized him. He was walking along the area of our battalion, talking to the people. We did not pay attention to him before. Nobody wanted to divert attention away from work, there was no time for talking. At that time, he wanted to talk to me for the first time.
He was curious about the sentiment of the staff', and about what was new (as I knew about his awareness concerning the situation). With his manner of behavior and way of meeting people, he did not win people's favor. That is why the talks were of short-term.
The trips to the station did not differ from each other, except the work itself - first at the third reactor, then at the fourth one. The way was tiresome - two hours trip to the station, two hours back to the battalion. On our way, there were distressing situations, of course. We were going to the power station the first shift. On our arrival in Chernobyl, we turned left, and not entering the town, went to the station. The road was wet (street sprinklers were working regularly); the station appeared in front. Suddenly, we saw armored troop carrier BTR-60 PB, which was lying upside down at the side of road. We felt anxious. There were no people in it. What happened to the crew? Everyone knew there could be traumas, injuries. Without stops, we went to the station in order not to lose the time, precious time for us. We immediately informed about that happening. The doctors came to help. The station was near. If that happened far away, we would have to deal with it. The closer to the station, the more intense pain appeared in eyes. We started feeling xerophthalmus, as if there was no eye water (tears) in eyes. It felt like filled with fine sand. You should screw up your eyes and often blink.
When arriving at the station, on the right, in the vast area there are foundation pits and reactors' bases. There are large plates, which show the places of building sites for the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth generating units, and farther - the basements without any plates, they look like some cemetery of future sources of jeopardy, buried in its first stages. That gigantic construction site is well within view. It was stopped with such a high cost. How many such giant - reactors would have been built, no one knew.
I reported about the incident I had seen. We were ordered to remove radioactive waste and decontaminate the rooms of the fourth reactor, and thirty people were going to remove the upper layer of soil near the fourth reactor. We came up to the managerial complex N 2. The armored troop carrier had already stood there. When changed clothes, I divided the group of thirty into three of ten, appointed the people in charge in each group. The armored troop carrier was supplied with the radiation indicator. The first group often left for work, the rest were waiting in the building, then they changed. We, the main group out of fifty people, left for the fourth reactor.
We took the shortest way, though the radiation there was higher. There was no energy to run through the territory of the third reactor, we needed to keep it for work. The area from the managerial complex N2 to the third and fourth reactors was enclosed with the barbed wire, having left the space for the entrance.
At that time, they changed the composition of decontamination agent. That was clear from the smell, washing characteristics, and the color just seemed to be somewhat pinkish. Some research institute, probably, implemented its product.
We were working in two groups simultaneously. One group was removing the debris; the other one was decontaminating the rooms. The same problem occurred again. The rubber gloves were reusable. Those were usual gloves, which the electricians used. One could easily put them on. Some of them had already had ruptures and punctures.The necessity of new gloves supply should be proved again. We decontaminated the area for several times. The radiation level lowered. All of us were wet with sweat and decontamination solution. The second group finished removing radioactive waste. We returned to the managerial complex - 2. We were tired and could not walk very fast - did not have energy, - not just run. High radiation level and breakneck pace completely exhausted people. Human body cannot restore its energy even partially. It was clear at a glance who and where were working. Some were powdered with dust, others were all wet. The third group had not come back from the fourth reactor yet. We threw the dirty clothes off, had a shower and changed clothes. We did not have to wait for the third group for long. We finished one work; in front of us, there was the trip along our roads, and then again, the work at the battalion.
The substitute group arrived at night. Then, for the first time, the dispatch was loud; everybody raised his voice. Deputy battalion commander in charge of finances was not in a hurry to give the payment references to those who were leaving. He started gesticulating, explaining loudly, that his eyes just could not see and he could not even write; he asked to leave him alone. Nonstop work and a constant lack of sleep, definitely, affected the nerves, the officer in charge of finances showed. That was the only incident of such way of behavior in our battalion. That happened, probably, because of his prolonged work in the battalion; his substitute officer had not arrived yet. Everything took place in the officers' tent. I smoothed over contradictions, promised to talk seriously to him in the afternoon.
The intense work at the headquarters was in progress. The clerks made notes in military certificates and gave irradiation references and cards of radiation dose records according to an accumulation register. The employees of the headquarters, like all the people in the battalion, went to work at the power station. If you did not go there, you should stay at the battalion for one hundred and eighty days that is half a year. The district military registration and enlistment offices sent us for that very period. That is why everybody tended to a limit of allowed twenty-five Roentgen of irradiation, and went home when substitute workers arrived.
In ten minutes, the officer in charge of finances came in, went through the headquarters in silence, got into the screened off place in the far corner of the officers' tent, and started giving the payment references. He had served there for one month and a half. People served in the battalion about a month overall. Under such conditions of work at the power station and in the battalion, constant lack of sleep, human body could not just bear a longer term of stay there. Either their nerve failed them, despite their consciousness and understanding the circumstances, or utter exhaustion could occur. That way, possibly, happened to the deputy commander in finances.
A colonel came up to me and said that he was from the special department. The man was not tall, pleasant looking, with welcome voice. He seemed to have the ability to win people's favor, and had great experience. Looking at the deputy commander, he displayed interest in his behavior: "Why, does he always behave that way?" I explained that was the first incident in our battalion, may be because of nervous exhaustion, intense work and lack of sleep. The colonel showed his understanding, nodded his agreement, and did not ask more about anything.
In the afternoon, I had to talk to the deputy commander in finances. The conversation took place in the Lenin room. That was a separate tent. From his side I felt repentance for such a discreditable conduct.
The whole day and night, I spent working on the construction site. What made people work that way, no psychologist would answer, if did not come through that in their life. No one, you know, would believe, but if they did, they would think of us to be mad. There were other values and other education at that period. Nowadays that sort of feat nobody would repeat. So, let no disasters precede that.
The next trip to the station was no way different from others. We were to work at the third reactor. At the headquarters, they reminded again of the fact, that they registered only 0.5 Roentgen, though we should fulfill the whole task for all that. It happened that we should do the amount of work adequate to two Roentgen, though they registered 0.5. They explained that they should often change the staff and a big number of people got radiation. It happened that we should get even more radiation, up to 25 Roentgen, therefore, we had to go to the power station four times more. At the expense of own health we should save health of many other people, who would have taken our place. From personal point of view, that was a subversive activity and disregard. On the country's scale, that was the way out, for less people got through the epicenter of explosion and received the amount of radiation we had to get.
We all understood that perfectly well, we sacrificed our lives in order to save others. Only through years, when you see scornful, arrogant attitude to you from bureaucrats, you start thinking over, whether you did well working and sacrificing yourselves. The people just did not get any lessons. Even the explosion did not teach them. Hundreds of thousands consider themselves the disaster fighters. Some only entered the thirty-kilometer zone and left, others gave them their business trip warrants to mark, not even leaving Kiev. That is why many have illegal certificates of disaster fighters. I concluded, who would have eliminated the disaster sequences but us? There were about twenty - forty thousand of people: fire fighters, helicopter pilots, station employees, as well as soldiers summoned from reserve, working at the nuclear power station for the period from the moment of explosion up to the radiator containment covering, seven months overall. Now only twenty-five percent survived, that is about five to ten thousand. Where did hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl disaster fighters appear from? They accepted the law on Chernobyl for chiefs. They use It in full. As for us It does not allegedly exist.
How could they consider people to be disaster fighters even for five years after the disaster, if they covered the fourth reactor with the containment in the year 1986?
I give the suggested quantitative contingent of disaster fighters, who worked at the station since the explosion up to the covering of containment in 1986, the period of disaster elimination (seven months), and the subdivisions that took direct part in elimination.
Fire fighters (three hundred) 300
Soldiers summoned from reserve: 2,800
Our special battalion 731 –
400 (four hundred people) for seven
months (two thousand eight hundred) people.
The battalion, which raised the containment and other soldiers
(two thousand eight hundred) 2,800
Subdivision N 25 5,000
The detachment of the regiment of Civil Defense
(two hundred) 200
Helicopter pilots (one thousand) 1,000
Conscripts (one hundred) 100
Police officers of security line and intelligence service
(one thousand) 1,000
The civilians, who were busy with the containment and
other work (two thousand) 2,000
Miners (four hundred) 400
The drivers of concrete trucks (five hundred) 500
The headquarters of special zone N 3 (was in the office
building of the station) 50
Total (sixteen thousand one hundred and fifty) people 16,150
Let it be just 20 thousand people. We were four deputy commanders. By the year 2009, only one remained alive. That is 25%. The same number of the battalion staff remained, 25%.
I can tell the same about the number of subdivisions' contingent, because all of them worked at that period near the fourth reactor under the radiation of tens and hundreds Roentgen. Thus, about 5000 disaster fighters are in the country. We have to consider the period of disaster elimination the time since the explosion up to the containment covering, and the disaster fighters those who worked at the station at that period. All the rest are sufferers.
We entered the building of the third reactor, the staff stayed at the checkpoint, the dosimetrician and I went upstairs. Our crew was facing the task to contaminate the area at the top point. When opened the door, we got in a large room. There were some more doors on the left, which led to smaller rooms. A bit on the right, the room gradually passed into the corridor. The pointer of the device went off-scale. The dosimetrician switched it over to other scale. The same, the pointer showed the right ultimate mark. The measurements in different places differed - seven, ten Roentgen per hour. We moved along the corridor, the level sharply rose. We were not able to move on. A metal grating blocked our way. It was rusty, welded out of reinforcement rods and some other material at hand. It was clear that they put them after the disaster not to let somebody get into that corridor. I memorized that the corridor turned on the left and the day light illuminated it from there. The pointer of the device again went off-scale.
We switched the scale of the device over to the next grade. The level of radiation was high. There was the draught of fresh air through the door. On the map, it led the way to the fourth reactor. There was no metal grating shown on the map. We calculated the average level of radiation and the working hours at 1.95 Roentgen per person, but the chief radiologist would register 0.5 Roentgen. If we did the calculations at 0.5 Roentgen per person, we would work four times less. First, we would not fulfill the amount of work set. Second, we would have done not much work for less time, only travelled to the station and back. That was all. Nevertheless, we should do the amount of work, which was supposed to do. We were put in terms and conditions.
We had to divide the crew into two groups. They were supposed to work in turn. The doctor of our battalion would work with the first group, and then would stay on the landing to get less radiation. He just had to stay there until the second group finished working. In the first aid kit, there were all necessary medicines for rendering first aid. The shift doctors took active part in the work with the group. All were equal there.
We came running in the building, time reading started. Having finished the work, we came running downstairs. The second group went running upstairs and fulfilled the same work - washed the walls and floors. Having finished the work, in an organized way, we returned to the managerial complex N2.
We reiterated everything as usual-took off filthy clothes, had shower, put on our uniforms, and walked to the area of administrative building. Then I rendered an account of work done In the headquarters, and we left for the battalion.
For some reason, they initiated coming from the military hospital and took samples of blood for testing. They brought the results of blood samples that had been taken before. The results were satisfactory, and that raised doubts. All had the same symptoms - headache, tickling feeling In the throat, weakness, easy fatigability, reddening of open parts of skin when working at the station, abnormal dryness of eyes. Some of the crew asked doctors about things that they were Interested in. Then we continued working. Those who wanted to give blood were less; that was on a voluntary basis.
The work confidently moved on. The building of the vegetable store took the most energy. There we used only logs. We unloaded those logs from the trucks, squared them with the axes, sawed them into certain lengths, carried and set them vertically Into walls; we also built celling out of the logs. We needed many logs. The work was very difficult.
Before that construction site, it was easier; after work at the station, we could have some rest at the battalion. Still, we sustained such a high tempo of life. After years, recollecting those workdays of the year 1986, I just say, "What a beautiful thing you are, the youth, with your energy, virtues, power." We just slept only four hours; the rest of the time, we worked at the station, where the radiation level was tens Roentgen, and the way was exhaustive too. The youth is for sure beautiful because could sustain anything.
At night, a small group was leaving; their substitute was going to arrive. I remembered that because they were called lucky men; they had worked only for seventeen days. All were telling that they were fortunate with the substitute group. Replacement was arranged on a proven scheme. From the very evening, Colonel Tymchenko, officer in charge of politics in the task force of special zone N3, attended the battalion. He did not interfere with the work in the battalion, was present as an observer. None who arrived interfered. That was, may be, because we arranged everything perfectly well. They saw our intense, vigorous working tempo, which was outside the limits.
Difficult, almost nonstop work, together with radiation, left traces on all of us. It was clear, that people were working pushing themselves to the limit. Labor competitiveness did not leave them. They knew that their heroic efforts would save humanity and the same soldiers from the battalion, who were going to come to change them, and they should save them from winter cold.
Work force does not have limitations, but if a man is lacking fortitude, he becomes weak, feeble, like wax or putty, which can be used for modeling anything. Some people lost their fortitude because of uncertainty in their private lives, no letters from home, for instance. Among some hundreds of working people, these are always notable for depression, they cannot do anything right, they are absent-minded, etc.
We had to figure them out immediately, to take them to Lenin room, and in a confidential conversation to find out the reason of such state. That was one of techniques when working with the staff. It is always better to prevent, than to reap the fruits of something that had happened. In the tent, in a quiet atmosphere, I asked and wrote down all the data - the last name, platoon, company. I also asked about home, if everything was good, whether they wrote letters and so on. We should create friendly talk, be sincerely interested in the topic of conversation which was important for the interlocutor (that could be seen from the voice intonation, eye expression), and lead the conversation in the concernment. That always touches people and they become frank, when speaking about their family. At that time, the conversation went according to a usual scenario. The main reason, as always, was the lack of letters from home. That was clear, written in detail it would not be delivered. I advised to write a short letter. You should not write where you were working, and what radiation level was. Get home and then tell. There were always new sheets of paper and the envelopes in Lenin room. One was not clear - why did they need to halt the letters home? Anyway, people came home and told everything. Those were not occasional cases.
In some days, when the letters come, happy soldiers come up and thank. Their eyes are burning with life light. A human, sure, does not need too much. There should be someone to support when they lost their fortitude.
I remembered the case. Once, a soldier came up to me. There was some confusion and despair in his eyes, which was the most dangerous. In despair, a person could do anything. That is just the same when there is nothing to lose. I found out during the conversation, that he received a letter from his wife. She wrote, that together with her baby, she was evicted from the hostel, and she did not know what to do. We went to the headquarters together. In his presence, I wrote a letter to the enterprise, where he worked. I wrote, that he was implementing an important mission of the party and government (at that time, those words were easy to understand for administrators). I wrote another letter to the district committee of the party, though the soldier was not a member of the party. In the left top corner I put a stamp, sealed it at the bottom, and affixed my signature to it. The battalion commander also signed the letter. I registered the letters in the book of outgoing papers and left them for sending off. Promptly, the answer came. It reported that the problem with the hostel was settled, and the administration was proud of their employee.
The next day, he received the letter from his wife. Everything was good; his family was left in the hostel. I heard heartfelt gratitude form that young man. It was difficult to explain, you should see how happy the man was, what strong desire to work and to live he had. He glowed with inner vital energy.
The human sure can be softhearted, even more flexible than wax, but can also be as true as steel.
The next time, when we arrived at the station, the headquarters issued an order to decontaminate the premises of the first power- generating unit. That was the news. We had never worked in the places with low level of radiation. It turned out, that they were awaiting the arrival of Prime Minister of the USSR Mr. Ryzhkov, and were going to demonstrate the first reactor.
We entered a large room on the first floor from the side of administrative building. The radiation level was less than one Roentgen. It was clean, they decontaminated, for sure, often. The floor and the equipment were shining. All together with the crew we had been working for some hours without having a rest, as the building was huge.
There was a lot of fixed equipment - pumps, turbines, pipes, etc. We washed and wiped everything several times. Being tired of work, wet with detergent solution and sweat, we left for the managerial complex N 2 to wash ourselves and change clothes.
Therefore, nobody arrived at the nuclear power station from Moscow. They told at the headquarters, that they might get scared of radiation.
At the meeting at headquarters of the second sector, we subordinated to, according to the battalion disposition, the task was set to speed up the building of the battalion objects. They supposed to do that at the cost of timesaving while travelling. The route of the motorcade to the station and back was changed. That is why we had more time for construction.
At battalion headquarters, we were acquainted with the map of the route in detail. That trucking route ran through the village Terekhy, from the side of the fourth reactor. They fixed the time and speed of motorcade moving. In front of the station, the road turned right, and we had to move about two kilometers towards the fourth reactor. There, they set the highest possible speed to pass that dangerous section of the road quicker. We were to get high- level irradiation when approaching the station from the side of the fourth reactor, which was ruined.
The road on new route was narrow, that was a simple dirt road. Driving through the countryside, we did not lower the speed, because there were no residents. On the exit from the forest to the open space, there was a checkpoint. There, we should show our pass, staff list and the map of motorcade travel. That was, of course the waste of time for us.
Having turned on the right, we drove out to the open space of the area. In the distance, there was seen the station, the building of the fourth reactor was ahead. Eyes again began somewhat aching because of lack of liquid in them. We speeded up to highest possible. The closer to the reactor we approached, the more visible were awful disaster aftereffects. There were no walls from the right corner of the reactor. That looked like some pile of debris, ruined beams, pipes, and some other waste. From the station inside, we had not seen that yet. The aftereffects of the disaster were large scale and terrible. The construction works were in progress.
On our left, there were buildings of the fourth, the third, the second and the first reactors. We had already arrived at the unloading ground. That time we had to work in the rooms of the fourth reactor removing radioactive waste, put in the sacks, carrying them downstairs, loading them in lead-lined storage containers. I remember the words of the employees from the power station. They showed on the map where we had to work. One of them said, "Look, guys, where are you trying to get?" The second added, "You are suicide attackers."
We looked at each other with comprehension, came out and ran upstairs to the point where we should work. The second shift was to do the contamination of these areas. Radioactive dust would have already partially accumulated by that time.
To battalion we returned the same way. When passing the fourth reactor, we pulled down the canvas on the rear side of the truck in order to get less radiation, and accelerated. At first, it was unusual for the guards of checkpoint that the motion of military technical equipment began on a regular basis, several times a day, on that former quiet road. Only some lightweight vehicles, basically, passed by from time to time. All the rest vehicles were moving on the route, which we had before, Oranoye village - Chernobyl - Power station. Later, they had already known our trucks, the place where we were working, and did not stop us any more. We only reduced speed in front of their checkpoint. That way, at the cost of the soldiers, who were exposed to radiation, they settled other matters.
Irradiation during the way was not registered, exactly as the stay at the station. They registered only the actual time of work. We did not raise the question; that was not the time. We lived according to wartime. All knew that they should do as much work as possible and go home.
The battalion commander Major Gytulyar gathered the officers of battalion administration in the headquarters and announced that there was an order about his transfer to another place of his military service and appointment of other battalion commander. He ordered me to meet new battalion commander. I needed to go to Teryokhy village to headquarters. Before we left the checkpoint, they communicated on the phone that the new battalion commander was in Kiev Operation Unit, and was arriving by the car GAZ- 69. Kiev Operation Unit was on the left of the crossroad Chernobyl - Zeleny Mys (Green cape). We always passed by that military unit, when going to and from work. At the checkpoint of the unit, they confirmed that some officers arrived from headquarters. Three officers were going towards me. One of them was our new commander, Major Shcherbynin. I reported that I was commissioned to meet him and accompany to battalion.
With the arrival of new battalion commander nothing changed, everything took its normal course. The discipline was as usual of high level.New personal radiation indicators for measuring radiation level were delivered to our battalion. As it turned out later, they were written off, exceeded the time limit, non-working fingertip indicators with clips. Everybody should wear it. Inside, there was a scale and a line that showed the radiation level. However, none of them worked, they even could not be charged, and they should be nested for charging.
They could not bring indicators in good order for us. The level of radiation accumulated in battalion premises, during the way, at the station, and it was impossible to work because of overexposure. That is why they registered only actual time of work. If we did not travel to the station, then they would register irradiation dose received in battalion. We, officers, got accumulators. They were less in size than a matchbox, and we were carrying them on the belt. We began to examine them. None of them showed radiation level. Two of the officers were sure that their accumulators would show, because they got them by right of succession from those who were leaving. They also did not show anything, though they had been at the station for two terms. Therefore, the number of radiation levels fixed in the military card should be multiplied by some times.
From the headquarters of the second sector lieutenant colonel in charge of politics arrived again, he got interested in the fact how the political work was done in the battalion. We subordinated to the headquarters according to our battalion stationing. I answered him that after the dinner I always reported news from the newspapers and radio. We stimulate the interest of employees and encourage the best soldiers, giving them letters of commendation, gratitude in front of the crew alignment. After dinner in our canteen, he stayed in our summer club. I had to arrange the hour of political information. When you are busy with construction work, the tempo is intensive, and the discipline is excellent, those political hours are unnecessary. You should depend on the circumstances. If we had spare time, like before such an intensive work, then it would be different. He was not the one who understood what was happening in reality. Moreover, he was not our regular guest. To make him sure that we had those political hours of information we had to give a talk, hoping that they would not arrive with the purpose of control so soon. He liked everything, started taking photos. Lieutenant colonel did not expect that we had political hours of that high standard. During his next visit, he showed his photos, but did not give any as a keepsake.
We were not decorated with orders
Before the next trip to the station, I prepared the list for awarding particularly notable soldiers at the station. That time, the work was near the fourth reactor; they removed soil, rolled up the layer on the roof of the third reactor. That layer, when stiffened, absorbed radioactive dust. Then it was cut into segments and rolled. In the headquarters, I reported about work, which had been carried out. Then I handed in the list for awarding. I reminded that people worked beyond the limit, they did not take care of their health, doing their utmost, taking no notice of radiation. They followed the orders and went to the places, where there were no people after the explosion, and fulfilled the work in spite of the amount of it and radiation level. They did everything at a run to have time to do more. They defended Kiev; evacuation of it was out of debate. The disaster fighters worked in advance of the schedule of construction plan. The soldiers built units for living in winter, tents, the vegetable store, the club and the canteen. There had not been any cases of misconduct so far, even the least. Our battalion won the second place in socialist competition among the military units, taking part in the elimination of disaster after-effects.
In headquarters, we looked through the list, and began discussing the situation connected with some officer's report to the staff of the second sector about protecting gloves shortage. That was, you know, the reason for the governing body not to sign the list of awards. That was a sort of diplomatic refusal. It came out that we should work even without protecting gloves, take radioactive dusty things, debris that absorbed tens Roentgen radiation, with our bare hands. We informed headquarters about some problems if they arose. We always reported to headquarters after work. Then I looked at them and thought what a mean-spirited attitude they had towards people.
What could you do without those battalions of "condemned men" (we were called this way at the station)? Each time when something like that happened, they summoned soldiers from reserve. Where were your subdivisions of civil defense, information services? Everything was concealed at that difficult time. Now, they do not just want to notice heroic labor of people because of their own carelessness.
One of the employees of headquarters suggested that they should reward me. That made me answer, "We work in close liaison with each other; that is why to be the one who was marked out is unworthy". That was the end of the story of awards.
Many years later, I had an opportunity to see the lists of awards of the officials of enterprises. They were decorated with the orders in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of birth or some other date. That was, you know, at the time of economic recession and breakdown of the country, corruption of officials and top management. Even the highest country's awards of the Hero of Ukraine were given in the peacetime in such a big number to people who never had any merit rating in defense of the country.
Soldiers of reserve, having done their duty, retired and nobody would remember about them. They were of common and became common people again. The others won laurels.
There was an attempt to mark the disaster fighters adequately, but the office chiefs did not want to. No regular officer from headquarters of task force of special zone N3 went to see the working conditions of the crew. They reported to the government in agreement with our information.
They, probably, did right to summon also the officers from reserve. We all worked together. We did not have any differences between us in our work, and that was a good indicator and example for subordinates.
We deep bow to you, soldiers, and disaster fighters of our special battalion. We are unknown, that is why nobody can remember who saved many generations of many countries from frightful misfortune.
In addition, the state will never achieve high level of progress, If its saviors are forgotten.
The last days in the Battalion
They were hot, stuffy days. In the sky, the Sun was hanging overhead in one place, being very hot. There was not any breath of wind. The road, which led across the meadow towards our battalion, was covered with thick layer of dust. From the backside of battalion premises, on the right and on the left of it, there was a meadow stretching, covered with shrubbery and trees. In the distance, the trees seemed transparent and light bluish haze cloaked them in gentle mystery. It looked as if the bushes were in some slumberous land. From the fourth side, the fields, the skyline was like a mirage, and it was difficult to distinguish it from the sky. Warm breath of air, coming from the fields, was clear. It rose up and distorted the scenery in the distance. The horizon seemed to breathe with these warm airwaves, with this burning summer. All nature seemed to be connected with by invisible links. The trees, the grass, all living beings intercommunicated in this world. Each cell was vibrating in harmony with that tranquility and quiet.
The quiet was in battalion too. It was dinnertime. The construction was coming to an end, and we were able to allow ourselves not to work at dinnertime. That was the time, when the people could have had some rest from a hard physical labor, though there was no place to hide away from the heat. It was overwhelming. That was the time of crop, the time of harvest. It was late August.
The lunchtime ended. Again, the silence was broken by the noise of hammers and axes, falling logs and planks. What a quick time it was sometimes, slowing down its pace from time to time. It either runs like a mountain white water, or is like a quiet pool. It seemed to stop for us. The day seemed to be a year. What big amount of work we had to do during the day!
Roaring with engines, the motorcade was moving along the earth road. The first vehicle appeared; the rest were in the clouds of dust. Those were the first shift people who returned from work. Having passed the checkpoint, the trucks stopped not far from the tents. The dust spread in different directions slowly and accumulated on the grass and bushes. The noise of thrown off sides of the vehicles was heard, and the unloading began. It seemed that all the soldiers became heavily dusted. They were going to take shower and have dinner, and again to the station. That intense labor exhausted people. Constant lack of sleep, standard army diet, radiation, - all that affected the state of people's health. They were challenged only by the power of spirit and hope. The power of spirit was in that deep understanding of great responsibility to eliminate the disaster aftereffects. We worked in the epicenter of explosion, having millions of people and our families behind us. We had already seen the results of our and other detachments' work. We hoped for the substitute group to arrive in a month. That is why during the month we all were working flat out.
The next trip to the power station did not differ from the others. We worked in the rooms of the fourth reactor. Having reported to headquarters about the work carried out, I got the information that my substitute would not arrive soon. The departure of deputy commanders in charge of policy was supposed to be delayed. "Battalion is in good repute. You know the staff very well. To change often the deputy commanders in charge of policy, like we do with the rest of people, does not have any sense," they said. In any case, that did not bother me. More over, nobody asked us about the replacement. For some reason, the rule was to send deputy commanders in charge of policy, deputy commanders of headquarter companies in charge of policy as the heads of the groups. When they received the utmost radiation level, and the substitute did not arrive, the heads with the groups were officers from the staff and the commanders of companies.
The days took their normal course. The work, it seemed, took the last energy. One day, on 9 September, as usual, we went to the station to work first shift. Having arrived at the power station, we started building the vegetable store facility. More than a half of it had already been constructed. That was the most effortful object. Suddenly, the assistant of the headquarters chief came up and said that the telephone message about my replacement came. I should hand over the work; show the routes of travel on the station premises. I phoned on the call sign. Yes, that was right; the substitute was prepared. The sending off was at that night. The applicant for my position, colonel, was arriving from Afghanistan. I understood everything. To all those, whose radiation dose was about 25 Roentgen, they sent substitutes. If it exceeded, the administration should pay five times more or five salaries according to pay rate schedule. That is why they always sent immediate replacement.
The substitutes were eight people. A usual system of execution of papers contained the order, payment information, references on service at the training camp. In the military card, in the column of special information, page 17, there was a note. It said that for the training camping period under the military unit 32207, since 30 June up to 9 September 1986, I had been carrying out the military service duties in eliminating aftereffects of the disaster in the most dangerous area N3 of Chernobyl nuclear power station. It also said that I got 23.18 Roentgen of radiation. In accordance with the resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and Central Trade Union of 5 June 1986, N 665-195 the above-mentioned period of service was included in work experience that gave the privileges to have preferential pension on the list N1, three times as much. People of that category could have all benefits. The name of Commander of military unit 32207 Major Shcherbynin and the sealed sign closed the document.
I put all my papers in the desk drawer with care, though everything there was in order anyway. People in battalion were not in the habit to take things from the other people desks, even if that was a pencil, a ruler, or a pen. That is why there was no one to break the established order. How strange it could seem from the first sight, but the discipline in battalion was perfect. Any battalion, any military unit could envy that order. I was on active service in Germany, in Dresden. I witnessed the laws under the former USSR. That is why I am writing as a soldier, who was a conscript at one time, and who has something to compare with.
After twelve o'clock at night, we got papers, said goodbye to the officers of administration, employees of headquarters and all the people who were working at the building site. I thanked everybody for their excellent military service, wished quick fulfillment of aftereffects' elimination and return home. The secretary of battalion party organization, Senior Lieutenant Rogozhinsky presented letters of commendation to us, for active performance in Chernobyl disaster elimination. My letter of commendation supplemented the number of earlier received letters, and gratitude from headquarters of special zone N3 task force and the staff of the second sector. We got in the ambulance van, and when approached the checkpoint, got off to say goodbye to the soldiers on duty. Our vehicle was gradually moving along the earth road, illuminating the trees and bushes in the dark. All were silent. That was the period when inside our hearts we were with the battalion and its problems, and did not think much about home yet, which was strange. There were still plans for the next day in our heads. One would think that the staff changed regularly. Some arrived, others left, but still, I got used to that battalion with its constant physical and psychological burden. It became own. We built and improved everything ourselves.
Forty-two days of intense work were behind. In front, there was a return to normal, ordinary life, but not that it was before the disaster at the power station. That disaster left traces on each of us.
At last, we drove out to the highway and left right towards Ivankov town. Thus, in front, there was the final place of destination, Belaya Tserkov town. Outside there was a dark night. Monotonous drone of the engine soothed and relaxed. Tired of nonstop work and lack of sleep, we suddenly fell asleep. That was a nap. It was dawning. The night surrendered to the day. With the dawn, the field of view broadened. A beautiful area was stretching around us. There were almost no vehicles on the road at that early time. The morning broke out, quiet and tranquil. On our left, the day was breaking steadily and surely. That was the dawn of new day, new life, which was split for us into before and after Chernobyl disaster. We were not those who we were before, we were different, radioactively labeled. That became our seal for the whole of our life.
The truck was rushing along the highway at full speed. The tree- tops, lit with the dawn light, seemed fabulous isles in the milky fog, stretching at the bottom and across the meadow. That was some sort of flight in some fairy space with the sun dawn, the birth of a new day and a new life. We stepped over the symbolic border from dangerous and hard past to unknown future that were bound to each other and depended on each other. We will not forget the past; it is inside of us; and it will remind us of it for the whole of our life. Under radioactive influence, organic affection of the body took place, its change.
In some hours, we arrived in the town Belaya Tsercov, at the military unit, from which we were sent to battalion. At headquarters of the unit or, more exactly, that transit camp, we reported about arrival of our group. Telephone operators sent information about our arrival to the task force and battalion. I said to the person in charge of the vehicle to take me home on our way back. He said no problem. The transport was to go to battalion with just appointed officer in charge of policy. We met with him at headquarters of the military unit. He was standing at the open window, smoking a cigarette. That was a man of middle age, wearing his everyday uniform, in the rank of lieutenant colonel. The clerk of the staff introduced us to each other. We said hello, shook hands. When finishing smoking, he had time to tell me, that he arrived from Afghanistan. He worked there as a party secretary of regiment. He was deprived of the opportunity to call on home to see the family. They sent him as a person in charge of policy to our special battalion to eliminate aftereffects of the disaster at once. The fact, why they did not give him an opportunity to have some rest, to see the family, and sent him from one hot spot to the other, surprised me. As if there were not enough military men in our country.
The whole of our group entered the storehouse and got then- civil clothes, changed, returned the uniforms, which were supposed to be annihilated.
We left the military unit and drove to a coach station. Some people needed to go home by coach. Then we went to Fastov region, village Yakhny. In the evening, our vehicle stopped at the house, where I was quartered about a year ago. The windows of the neighboring houses had already been lit up. The house met me unfriendly. It started being overgrown with weed, seemed hollow and deserted. That was the only house, which did not have light in the windows. My family stayed with my wife's parents. I asked to come in, but everybody wanted to go home as soon as possible. Some people wanted to be in time at the railway station in Fastov to get on an electric train. I said goodbye to everybody, wished them good luck on their way home, and the transport passed out of sight.
My heart was empty and lonely. Nobody came out to meet me. There was long grass, which had grown up along the front garden, near the house and the barn. When entered the house, I switched the light on, made some tea, and with the thoughts about my wife and the son, I felt much better. Therefore, everything reminded me of my family, as if they were here, with me. I had a quick shower, and having touched the pillow fell into deep, long sleep.
After the disaster. Anxiety and concern
When I got up the Sun was high above the skyline. The f T same day I went to the head of the collective farm and had a talk about my vacation. I had not taken a vacation for three years, and there were no, just, any days off at the collective farms those days. He signed my holiday leave application and said, "Get well, you look much worse." I do not know what affected him, either my look, or the fact that I was at the power station. All who met me asked whether I fell ill.
The next day, I left for Ulyanovka, Kirovograd region, to my family. Everything was fine there. My son was growing up, learning to speak. My wife told me that when her mother had seen me, she started crying. "How thin he became!" Then I thought I just did not look good. I felt some sickness when walking, staggered, felt my health worsened, though all the people who worked at the station had those symptoms. My vacation was ending, but I did not feel better in spite of eating fruits, vegetables, breathing fresh air, drinking good water from the local artesian well.
Golden autumn was in its full. In the yard, grapes with bunches were hanging above the head from both sides making an arch. The Sun looked as if it was saying goodbye to yellow leaves, fluttering from the trees, trying to warm them with its heat.
My vacation passed without being noticed. There was something strange and wrong with my health. I was having a rest but could not feel it; some persistent tiredness did not leave me, and that sort of things. I told my wife that I could not work without weekends any more. The state of my health will not let me. I will have to quit work. After I quit I will apply for the job at the plant.
Why am I writing about post damage period? It is because all the disaster fighters got through that period. They all came across with our medicine, careless treatment, and complete neglect of the government. We should know about it and remember everything.
The state of my health did not get better. Headaches sometimes faded, sometimes appeared again. Some strange things were taking place in all my body.
I remember, when I was signing the passports of made products, I felt sharp pain appeared in the eyes.
I could see only one letter, which I was looking at; the next one was a dark space. I shifted my gaze to another one, the same result. Later, some crook, shining, zigzagging lines, glowing with yellowish and greenish shade began to appear within eyesight. They were some sort vibrating. At that time, I felt some dull pain and discomfort. I consulted a doctor about those symptoms; she prescribed some usual medicine, but it did not help. I had to know later that at that time there was an All-Union center of radiation medicine in Pushcha Voditsa. Why did they not send there for medical treatment? The doctors just should know the medical establishments. Then, on the palms, some edemas appeared. On the upper hands, some sores appeared, and on the elbows bends the skin cracked, with blood and lymphatic fluid, yellowish liquid, leaking. The shirt was stuck, and you should take it off by jerks to feel less pain. The doctors prescribed some ointment, pills, wiping around wounds with alcohol, but that did not help either. The sores on the palms became one solid blister. The hands swelled and turned red; I could not put fingers together. It was clear, that you should cut the blisters and let the liquid out, but not to grease as doctor recommended. At that time, I formed my own opinion about medicine. I did not just have to consult the doctors before. When I got in the hospital, I remember how an elderly doctor exclaimed, "Sunny, you just have a radiation burn!" Then, as if he gathered his wits, he added, "We cannot write that; let's write the other diagnosis." What they would write was none of my business. To stop that pain was the main thing for me. Otherwise, I could not sleep.
In some years, I got a flat from the plant in turn. Before, I had to rent one. I applied to all the executive offices on my housing problem, but failed. When I got a flat, the district executive committee (under the soviet power, in the nineties) allocated the flat on the same landing to just-released from prison lonely man. They did not allocate a flat for me earlier, giving any reasons, and I had to wait in turn. One more example: at the same period, the director of some small enterprise after fictitious divorce got the second flat in three months period as a man, who did not have place where to live. It was then clear for me, that we were not needed to our country any more, and what the state was like, I understood too. We were used materials, ballast to get rid of. They depressed morally and financially. Medical treatment is paid, you cannot always get health resort tickets, and education is paid. What do we have to buy clothes and food for? Not saying about theatres, concerts and other things, we cannot provide our families with necessary things for living a decent life. We live lower living standards.
I remember, when I was in hospital, in All-Union radiation medicine center, in Pushcha Voditsa, I wanted to know if I could have healthy children after getting strong irradiation, and where I could be tested. The doctors could not give me an answer, though they had a cytogenetic laboratory. I had known about that only some years later. They for some reason kept silence about that laboratory. Only some years later, I was able to have my blood tested in cytogenetic laboratory. A doctor asked me where I had been working. For the first time she came across the disaster fighter with such a big number of affected chromosomes. I was given the paper with the results after updating by the top management, according to the rate of aberrant cells and chromosomes, according to the frequencies of chromosomes type and the like, taking into account, that the average value of absorbed dose was 50-100 REM (mammal - roentgen equivalent). The detected mutagenic effect was the result of radioactive influence. Even after the years, they put a veto on true information about your own health. Who are we, those who saved your lives? Why should not we know the true information about our own health?
Looking for the methods of treatment, I had to study folk medicine and medical literature. Having read the full medical encyclopedia of Academy of Medical Sciences (authors Stochyk A. M., Varnakov O. V., 1989), I came to conclusion that all of us got radiation lesions, but medicine did not appreciate that. In concise medical encyclopedia (Chief Editor Academician B.V.Petrovsky, volume 2, page 84), it is said that laboratory characteristics, like chromosome damage rate (aberration occurrence) in the cells of marrow and lymph cells, really matter, and so on.
On page 86, it is said that radiation lesions become apparent in the form of radiation bums, which look like thermal bums, and differ from them only in the time of occurrence, they develop not at once, but in some time (latent period). One of acute radiation damage of skin, moist epidermal (formation of small bubbles filled with serosal or purulent substance in radiation-damaged areas).
On my request to the Centre of radiation damage diagnosing, the doctor replied that encyclopedia was nothing for them, because they themselves knew everything. The summary was that the illness, coinciding with the description of the disease in encyclopedia, radiation damage, was not the reason for diagnosing, though they had documentary confirmation of the illness. The disaster fighters of Chernobyl power station were coming through that same way. They are coming through this way now. They are those, who in the year 1986, under the order, having shoulder straps, went to face radiation of tens and hundreds Roentgen without means of protection, carried on their shoulders tons of wrecks and debris, were not marked by the government up to now. Glory to the soldiers, glory to those, who gave their lives and health in the name of living generations! That sacrifice was a big price to pay. Whether the descendants understand that, depends on the memory, written in simple letters in the books and embodied in monuments.
Let this book be the history and the memory about those tragic events from our past.
From the recollections of special battalion soldiers. The first signal
In the magazine "The state of emergency" (11, 98), the article "Special battalion" was published. This article tells about the formation of our battalion.
On April 26 1986, at twenty past four, the soldier on duty in the regiment of civil defense of Kiev, Captain Chelyshev received battle alarm. The word of command to get ready for leaving for Chernobyl power station was announced. It was necessary to prepare urgently technical equipment, people, and means of defense. Then nobody had known anything about the scale and nature of the disaster yet. So, at twenty past six, the motorcade with the regiment commander Colonel Grebenyuk at its head, left the military unit.
The detachment consisted of about 145 soldiers of the staff and 20 units of equipment. At fifteen past ten, the motorcade arrived at the area of Chernobyl power station. They immediately started a reconnaissance of the routs and the attached area. The commander of the platoon, Senior Lieutenant Logachev checked radioactive situation with the device DA-3, which was in the special armored troop carrier (2PX). The results were hard to believe. The pointer of the device went off scale inside the carrier and at the canteen. The maximum scale was 800 Roentgen per hour. Taking into consideration the fact that the armour plating of the carrier lessened radiation background by three to four times, the reconnaissance officers registered 2080 Roentgen of ionizing radiation of neutron flux per hour near the canteen. These figures were top secret for long. Even now, many do not consider them true. After the report about the results of reconnaissance to the State Committee, they decided immediately to withdraw the militiamen from their checkpoints at a distance of 300 to 500 metres from exploded fourth reactor and from some areas of Prypyat. People fell into a swoon, they were vomiting, and many of them were taken to hospitals being faint. Above the reactor block, or to be exact, above its wrecks, a white smoke was rising. Many people were watching some unusual tints of glow, which were seen even at daytime.
When it became clear, what a terrible large-scale disaster had happened, many people were at a loss, lost heart, in despair they did not know what to do. Nobody could even remember that there was a civil defense service at the power station and in Prypyat. All scattered. It was necessary to begin immediate mandatory evacuation of inhabitants, but nobody wanted to take that responsibility upon oneself, because they would sure punish for "instigation and panic."
Meanwhile, ordinary people were watching strange glow with great interest. When the armored troop carriers of radio prospecting appeared in the streets, everything was clear, and everybody was eager to leave Prypyat and go away as far as possible. Only after the time when people started walking away from town, the authorities began evacuation. That was April 27.
At that time, the fourth reactor radiated in the atmosphere 12- mega curies daily. The process of nuclear fission was in progress, absolutely out of control and unpredictable. The employees of the third power-generating unit during the first hours after the disaster poured water on its ruins from the system of cooling. That allowed controlling temperature processes; but the main task was to lower the level of radiation up to minimal. It was decided to bury the area under the substance, which would make protective cover over it. That job was laid on helicopter pilots and the staff of the 731st detached battalion of special civil defense regiment of Kiev. It was formed out of summoned reserve soldiers.
According to the law of war
The last lights in the windows of the hostel of Kiev plant 1 "Communist" (Nowadays Radar") went out. A warm quiet night went down with delicate aroma of spring. The next day set in peacefully and calmly. That was April 29 1986. The workers were having a rest after a hard day; the night-lights in the corridors cast a pleasant, subdued glow.
That day was the beginning of a new day in the life of those eleven chosen by destiny. That night remained in their memory forever, having changed their life. Milling machine operators Anatoly Kyfa, Alexander Komarynets, Vladimir Tyslitsky, Nickolay Gorbyk and seven more people even did not suppose that they would meet next morning close to Chernobyl nuclear power station.
Some vehicles drove up to the hostel. The employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Moscow district military registration and enlistment office opened the doors wide. A loud command "Stand up!" sounded. An employee from the military office came up to the people and demanded military cards from them. After that, he announced that there was a bus, waiting outside, and ordered to take only necessary things. Those who wanted to obtain information that was more accurate, were threatened to be tried by a military tribunal, and just specified that it was only a training camp.
In that way the detached battalion of special defense was formed, DBSD 731. Reinforcement was sent by the district military registration and enlistment offices of Kiev, Makarov, Borodyansk and Fastov. What was the reason for forming the battalion out of the reserve soldiers stayed absolutely unfounded even now. Not many people know about the work and significance of DBSD 731 during the period of disaster elimination, only a small group of specialists and the disaster fighters themselves, though there is an instruction of General Staff dated April 28 1986 numbered 490, according to which the battalion was formed. Not a single archive will give the lists of the staff, - "Top secret". Why is that? They say, "Why bother people?" Even after the years, a phantom of secrecy still exists. No one knew what exposure dose the soldiers would get, how many of them would die. Nowadays there is such information, but a limited number of specialists are informed.
When the necessary number of 353 people was enlisted, after the execution of documents, on the base of Kiev regiment of civil defense, they were immediately dressed in military uniforms, fed with soldier's cooked cereal, and aligned on the drill ground. Then it was announced, that the detached battalion of special defense would be set in motion at Chernobyl power station disaster elimination. During the fulfillment of the task, martial law was introduced within all responsibility. Formed in record terms, for some hours only, (according to call- up plan, the formation of such military unit should take three days), the battalion was not provided with personal radiation indicators (for a group of 10-15 soldiers they gave ungraduated DP-50, "pencil") or gas masks. There were no even gauze breathers and goggles. There was no time to think about the safety instructions in extreme conditions of haste in the zone with exceeding level of radiation, about protection, about first - aid kits, about antiradiation medicines.
The battalion arrived upon the bank of the creek of the river Prypyat, between two points, Kopachy and Lelyov. There was no time for providing facilities. We immediately started helping people to evacuate, decontaminated the roads, loaded up the helicopters with the sacks filled with sand, dolomite and lead.
There were two tons for each of us a day. The heat, deafening noise above the head, sand in the mouth, it was every day the same, for 14-16 hours. The battalion commander, reserve Colonel Nickolay Fedotovych Bosy and Alexander Komarynets with his friend Anatoly Kyfa recollected that every day was as long as the month. At first, the helicopters were loaded up with the sacks, and then the containers were made, which could open up above the reactor. Nevertheless, because of high temperature the lead was vaporizing, not reaching the place, the sand was melting. Then, they invented a crafty method - parachute package - a sand layer, a lead layer and a dolomite layer. The helicopters MI-6 and MI-8 took up to four packages, about a ton each. Not to waste much fuel and time, the helicopters did not land, just hovered above the ground at a meter's height. It was needed to catch a holder at the bottom of a helicopter with a ten-kilo hook end, when it was difficult to keep balance against the force of the wind made by helicopter propellers.
Through the coming up dust and sand, it was needed to view the holder and catch it with the hook end. That was done without any protective means, at full enthusiasm of the soldiers. The helicopters were working on the roundabout principle - having dropped the load, they returned to take the next one, and that way endlessly. We had to advance in loading parachutes. That was a heroic labor. Each helicopter brought 4 - 5 Roentgen radiation with it. In a day, the clothes glowed, and the dosimetricians tried to bypass "guerillas", as they called us because we indicated radioactivity and created radioactive background. Thanks to heroic labor of pilots and "guerillas", the reactor was brought under control. On May 8, the level of radiation was not 12, but 0.01 Mega-curie.
Only on the fourth day, we changed uniforms. Alexander Ko- marynets decided not to change his soft leather boots for hard "wooden" kersey boots. Later, he paid back; he got radioactive bums of inferior limbs. The situation came up to amputation. Munich University helped. On charity program of Bavaria Red Cross, German doctors saved legs of Alexander. Our doctors did not see the connection between his illness and his work at Chernobyl power station.
Anatoly Kyfa, when he was on therapy in the radiation therapy department of clinic N25. He nearly died, being in the state of clinical death. None of us could look at the bright light more than a year, retina and cornea were burned by ionizing radiation.
They downloaded five thousand tons - that was the result of labor of battalion soldiers. In addition, pilots dropped five thousand tons of loads on reactor. The helicopters were brought to burial ground a long time ago, the metal failed. Remained alive soldiers want people to know the truth about those events and about nowadays, how the state, saved by them, neglects them.
"Guys, who has any proposals?"
It is worth remembering some interesting and sad situations, which describe unpreparedness for such a terrible disaster. Alexander Komarynets tells, that once, during the morning alignment, military commanders aixived to greet "guerillas" and asked, "Who has any proposals, ideas about elimination of aftereffects?" It was a feeling, that they were at a loss and did not know what to do. The battalion commander, reserve Colonel Bosy N.F, remembered, how there were about a hundred of soldier's cookers in the yard on Chernobyl "Fanning machinery" premises, one hectare in size. Around each cooker, there were 4-5 soldiers. They cooked thin solution of film for covering constructions and trees with thin layer. However, after sprinkling test, it was clear, that to apply a thin layer of that substance with fire pumps of a fire engine was not possible. That method of radioactive decontamination turned useless. At the plants, there were made two large machineries for preparing film in large amounts. They named them "Polaris". They just stay somewhere on a burial ground, rusting.
So, what was the cost of digging over the farmsteads with the spades? They were digging all over as if they had a purpose to remove the upper radioactive layer to put it under the lower layer. The effectiveness of such activities was hard to imagine. It went as far as some absurdity. Now, it is the history, but this history still has witnesses.
Lower temperature immediately!
You cannot find true information about the second phase of disaster elimination in any published documentary evidence whatever. This is either intentionally, or for some other reasons, that they turn around the real course of events and rearrange people involved, when describing pumping out water from the scram circuit of cooling fourth power-generating unit, and pumping in liquid nitrogen there. Twenty-five soldiers from the third company of battalion 731, headed by Captain Peter Zborovsky, fulfilled that hazardous and difficult work. The list of that group of volunteers who were given governmental incentive wages, remained.
Afterwards, when a solid covering weighing 5,000 tons, was constructed above the ruined reactor, the temperature of nuclear fuel mass started quickly increasing. That could lead to unpredictable aftereffects. It was necessary to cool the temperature urgently. They decided to do it by pumping liquid nitrogen in the scram circuit, having pumped water out of it before. The task was very? difficult, taking into account the degree of breakdown and the level of radioactive emission. The main amount of work on pumping water out was done by regular vacuum pipelines, which were in use at that time. In a day and a half, liquid nitrogen was being pumped through just laid special water main into the scram circuit of reactor. The threat of nuclear explosion was removed. It is a pity that many wanted to pull over not work but merits.
Twenty-five Roentgen, was that the limit?
How could you define the radiation dose if you do not have a personal accumulator? It turns out very simple. The dose, accumulated in different areas, was measured "by eye". For the sake of justice, I need to say, the staff of Detached Battalion of Special Defense 731 was treated more objectively. Everybody knew that we worked in a real hell, but the truth about the dose was not necessary to know for ordinary soldiers of the battalion.
They fixed 35 Roentgen per person. The fact, of course, was unique. After that, few people received dose more than 25 Roentgen that was registered. There were many reasons for that, but not the least was the secret instruction of the Soviet of Ministers of the USSR N 964 dated 17 May 1986, where it is said.
"...With the purpose of acceleration of aftermath elimination at Chernobyl power station allocate extra one hundred thousand rubles salary schedule at the disposal of Ministry of Energetic. In those cases, when an employee gets maximum permissible level of radiation (25 Roentgen), and because of that is not allowed to work further on in the areas of danger, he gets a flat fee of fivefold monthly salary on tariff rates." According to that document almost all disaster fighters of the first months, who could get more than 25 Roentgen, should get extra pay; that is why they registered in military cards 24.7 - 24.9 Roentgen.
Helicopter pilots often refused to register the dose more than maximum permissible, because the doctors automatically gave early retirement on medical grounds, did not admit them to flights. Removal of an officer who had been studying for five years from work and service did not fit him.
Low Bow to you, disaster fihyters!
On 15 May 1986, the second wave of "people's volunteer corps" came to replace the soldiers of detached battalion of special defense. They were to decontaminate the area of power station and the resettlement zone. The soldiers of first conscription, who lived on dry rations, drenched in sweat and breathed in radiation dust, which was whirling around by rotary-wings, were going home. That did not mean return to normal rhythm of life. That tragedy set everything on its place, made their fates tragic. A lot should and could be said to them, to disaster fighters, but we wanted to tell only this, "Low bow to you, our fighters, you won. The only one was left: to win misunderstanding and indifference". These words end the article "Special battalion" in the magazine "The state of emergency" N 11, 1998.
Flights above the target
The first class navigator-instructor of helicopters MI-6 and 1 MI-8, reserve Colonel Pismensky Igor Yuryevich recollects.
At night on 26 April 1986, ten helicopters MI-6 took off from the airport Alexandria, Kirovograd region. The crew transferred then- base to the airport in Chernigov. On 27 April, they flew out to reconnaissance and testing flights from the ground on a hanger bracket. The flights to blown up fourth reactor of Chernobyl power station started from 28 April. The crews were flying to the reactor to put out fire and lessen radiation emission into the atmosphere. At first, they buried the reactor under sand, lead and then dolomite. The flights were carried out from morning until late night. The release of the load on the fourth reactor was carried out from the height of 200 meters. The reference point was the pipe on the right. That was the pipe of the fourth and the third reactors. They worked on festive days, 1 and 2 May. Loading was on the ground 12-20 km from the station.
The pilots carried out the flights without any protective means. The only ones were breathing masks. The other crew replaced us on 5 May. They proceeded with their flights on our radioactive helicopters.
Before, they fulfilled their international duty in Afghanistan.
Helicopter MI-6 navigator, reserve Colonel Myzko Andrey Alexandrovich recollects.
On 30 April 1986, the whole of regiment was called out on alert. They started the preparation for relocation from the aerodrome in Prybylovo, Leningrad military district, to the aerodrome in Chernigov. On 4 May, the telegram with the order to prepare eight helicopters MI-6 crews for dispatch, ready to carry out the flights with cargo on bracket suspension. On 5 May, on a plane AN-12, we were delivered to Chernigov where we took the helicopters from Alexandriysky regiment crews, and continued carrying out the work on elimination of disaster at Chernobyl power station. We delivered the load to the ground at 12 km from the station. We also flew from the loading ground to discharge the cargo on the fourth reactor (lead, small shot in bags of 10 kilos), loaded lead in sacks (100 sacks of 10kg each).
They executed the flight on the route to Prypyat. Then they turned to the riverside, took operational readiness, the navigation officer unfolded the doors of machinegun compartment (to give distinct orders to the aircraft commander to drop the load), to drop and to leave for the ground to be loaded for the next trip.
They canied out flights to exploded fourth reactor under the guidance of flight executive officer, who was in Prypyat on the hotel roof.
On 27 May, the crews that arrived from other military units changed us.
In three months, I was allotted to a group of helicopter squadron, and left for Afghanistan to fulfill the international duty.
Helicopter MI-6 navigation officer, reserve Colonel Bakeyev Nickolay Mikhaylovich recollects.
On 1 June 1986, I returned from vacation, and on 2 June, with two crews we arrived in Chernigov. We redeployed cargo from Chernigov to Goncharovskoye, then to industrial areas and sites 1, 2, 3 (block 1, block 2, block 3) of Chernobyl power station.
From the means of protection, there were breathers, lead mats on the floors of helicopters, which should be changed after each flight, but they had not been changed though. If they accumulated 25 Roentgen, they had to leave military service and flights - they were sent for examining by a physical evaluation board. That is why we intentionally lost those dosimeters.
Decontamination of helicopters took place very seldom; in a month and seven days it was only two times. Then I retired from work as a pilot on health grounds. The last helicopter was sent to the site of radioactive technical equipment in 1988 to settlement Maleyky (former reserve aerodrome Podskoka).
Before the disaster at Chernobyl power station, I executed international duty in Afghanistan twice, in the years 1981-1982 and 1985.
Let us ask your dosimetrist and go to check
The former deputy battalion commander, reserve Captain 1 Shekhterman Igor Samoylovich, summoned from reserve, recollects.
The headquarters of special zone task force was in the basement of the station (we called it the bunker). They knew us in the bunker. We often had to argue about our work and prove the results of it.
It seemed to the officers of the headquarters that we worked little (as for time), they did not believe our indication of radiation level. Only one phrase made them sign the documents, "Let us ask your dosimetrist and go to check".
On the points of special treatment, our vehicles could not pass the control from the very first because of high level of radiation. Only after repeated thorough special cleansing, they could lower the radiation level for some time and pass the point.
After the disaster, in 1988, I underwent a course of medical treatment in radiological center Pushcha Voditsa. Minister of Healthcare (we called it health burial place) arrived at our place. He said that our radiation doses would be more accurate if we multiplied them by 3-7 times, depending on the place of work. The doctors said that the immune system of irradiated people did not almost work. Executed an order - sign your name Vladimir Demchenko shares his recollections.
I was summoned to the military training camp by the district military registration and enlistment office on 8 May 1986. It was a hot May, cold nights. The military camp was situated in a village Oranoye, on the premises of a military unit 53893. They made us sign for execution of orders. A few believed that to be true. Each of us was a patriot of homeland. Therefore, such orders were absurd and inappropriate for us. Nowadays, there are not many people, who believe in sincere patriotism, but that was so. We were brought up in other time, and life and health of millions of people depended on us. The battalion consisted of 500 people and they called it a construction battalion.
The first trip to Chernobyl power station was the first shock - empty villages, deafening silence, which was unusual and anxious. Sometimes we heard mooing of cows, mournful bleat of goats, which were not milked, saw wandering pigs and dogs. All that painfully oppressed and depressed. Here we are at Chernobyl nuclear power station. We stopped near the monument to V. I. Lenin. From twenty soldiers they selected a group of six. Besides me, it included Bashtovy Alexander Nickolaevich, Rud Nickolay from Vasylkov town, Kulyba Fyedor, operator on water supply at the third block of reactor, Belokon Anatoly Grigorievich and a soldier from the other platoon, the name of whom I unfortunately do not remember.
We were given the order to search the passage under the ruins of the fourth reactor. I should say that the things we saw, the ruins of the top part of reactor, oppressed us. Strong beams and all the buildings were a large pile of debris and wrecks, which was scary? We found the passage under the reactor, cleared it up the way it was possible, and got down to work - to set the transformer under the reactor. That transformer was necessary to bum through the walls 1.5 m thick under the reactor. The tool was like a wheelbarrow with handles, which could be joined and separated. There was a protective shield, which secured from a welding arc, made up when two graphitic 1.5 m rods joined. That arc fused concrete, turned it into glass; reinforcement rods in a concrete wall were fused too. The first attempt to activate the tool failed. The safety devices did not stand and the knife switch burned down. The next day, everything was delivered from Moscow by a plane. The openings in the wall were necessary for lead-in of a pipe with liquid nitrogen into the fourth reactor for cooling. At that time, to provide cooling for the reactor, was an achievement, though not so large. We all understood that. We carried out that task for four shifts, which were 4.5 hours each. During the work, our commanders changed every 15-20 minutes. We stayed without substitute soldiers. Though the time passed quickly, we were in time to get a substantial radiation dose. It was lowered up for registration to minimal, three Roentgen. The means of protection were very simple - military respirators, which made us drip with sweat that bit skin of face, the boots, which were torn against the wrecks of everything that collapsed in explosion. We were wandering in liquid nitrogen, which was continuously poured out from the top.
There were also unpredictable circumstances, when the transformer was stuck in one of 1.5 m wide doors. We were carring it to replace the burned one. Then we, together with Sergeant Kulyba, stayed in a trap under the straight affect of radiation. We tried to hide in the opposite door. Therefore, just only wit and life experience allowed getting out of the situation. Manipulating with the pipes, we moved the transformer centimeter after centimeter in that narrow room, as it was. Two from one side, four from the other side - that way we pushed it through that narrow place. The level of radiation that we got above the limit was not registered. Later, we could not understand, how came, six of us succeeded in pushing the transformer of 850 kg weight through all those service lines in the dark basement of the fourth reactor. That looked like some phenomenon of Chernobyl.
We lived, drank and ate in the bomb shelter of the station. We began working at 2 a.m. and finished at 6-30 a.m. At daytime, we had a rest. There were others having a rest disaster fighters, who also carried out important tasks. Here was the headquarters of disaster aftermath elimination. Some unknown faces were flashing around, as I remember with no smiles. We fulfilled the task, were proud of it, because we knew millions of people needed that. Now, probably, such feelings are missing from people, and they cannot understand the sense of the above sentence. During two months, we with my friends had to do the work that was not connected with our profession. We did everything not because of prizes or fear. We did our best to have no remorse, and uphold the honor. That was one of episodes. There were works on removal of the roof, protective lead covering of the window openings' remnants, doors of corridors on the premises of the fourth reactor, loading radioactive waste In containers and many others. Now the country does not need us, It turned away from us.
From sun heat and radiation, it was tickling in the throat and we felt dizzy
From the recollections of a sergeant major of the third motorized company of special battalion 731 Revchuk Michael.
There was a warm May night in Kiev. At 1-30 a.m. there was a door call. On the threshold, there was a captain of district registration and enlistment office. He clarified my surname and said, "Dress! The taxi is waiting near the entrance!" Then we went to some other addresses, where some more people were raised from bed and taken to the district registration and enlistment office of Moscow district in Kiev. On the second day, 11 May, they transported us to a civil defense regiment, which was in Krasnozvezdny Avenue. They changed our clothes into military uniforms and announced that we were under oath. All seven people of us got into the military ambulance and went beyond the regiment premises. To my question, "Where do you take us?" the major answered, "You will see, when we arrive!" We arrived in the settlement Gorodyshcher, at the disposition of special battalion 731. The battalion commander was Lieutenant Colonel Bosy N.F.
Once, the commander of Kiev military district, General-Colonel Osipov arrived at the battalion and announced in front of the formation that our battalion was put on a war footing.
We were busy with decontamination of the area without any means of protection. I remember, on 23 May, all the third company on the lorries ZIL-130, not equipped for transporting people (not covered with tent), left for Chernobyl area to remove radioactive soil on the premises of the station, loading in special containers following, and burying in stationary burials.
We worked without means of protection. On the faces - gauze bands "petal". We had to work all day long, for 16 hours, in shifts of 15-40 minutes in the areas with high level of radiation, at the walls of reactors, near fuels and lubricants, radioactive waste storage, and so on. From sun heat and radiation, it was tickling in the throat and felt giddy.
Some young men fainted; they had a nosebleed; vomiting. There was lack of water. We ate in the canteen on the second floor of the station. Even now we, survived, say, "Thanks" to you, our country, that you "do not forget" us today".
We decided to cope shedding hard у any blood
From the recollections of commander of the second platoon, first company, special battalion 731, Major of reserve Vatskel Yury.
On Friday, 30 May 1986, it was hot as before. In the morning, at the planning meeting of Industrial amalgamation "Electronmash", they announced a Subbotnik (day of unpaid work) on Saturday, 31 May. Money will be transferred to Chernobyl fund. After work, University reunion took place. When I arrived at the hostel, a caretaker said a major was looking for me. I guessed that could be a classmate, who had already become a major. Having had a chat with guys on the storey, I went to take a rest. Towards morning, a knock on the door woke me up. On the threshold, there were two militiamen and a warrant officer. The officer was holding a conscription order.
They gave me fifteen minutes to get ready. I could not even inform my wife about my departure. She was at her parents' place with a little son. A taxi was waiting for us at the entrance. A warrant officer and I arrived at the Leningrad district registration and enlistment office. There, we had to listen to resentment of a major, commander of conscription division, who visited me. We were a small group of reserve officers. They brought reserve officers from other districts as well. At nine o'clock in the morning, we left for Chernobyl; arrived at the disposition of brigade 25, on the outskirts of Oranoye village. In front of the alignment, they announced to us that we were participants of disaster aftermath elimination at Chernobyl nuclear power station. That was the zone of wartime. Non-compliance with the regulations supposed military tribunal, which meant imprisonment and stay in the zone under more hard conditions.
After the alignment, we were distributed to military units. We called for a vehicle from battalion. And aboard the lorry, along the soil road, raising the dust, we got to the military unit 32207, which was a detached battalion.
In battalion disposition there were almost no people, all of them were at the station. The chief of staff said what platoons and companies we were distributed to as substitutes. The battalion arrived at the place of dislocation. That was a tent camp on the meadow with a small grove. We were four officers, arrived to change the command of the first company. Having looked in the officers' tent, we saw some tired soldiers lying on the mattresses. When they had known that we came to change them, they revived and started telling about the order in battalion, and about the work at the station.
We spent the night in the tent, which was a battalion deport.
Just from the first days in battalion, I noticed that the staff looked extremely tired and all of them had a cough. That was not a cold, but grave consequences of work in radioactive dusty environment. Means of protection did not save. Later, I was sure about that. Intensively working at the station, we were wet with sweat. We had to breathe in full. The air was saturated with radioactive dust. Wet with sweat gauze petal did not let air in, and we were panting for breath. That is why we either had to remove the petal, or just tore it away. I remember the first trip to the station. We were going through abandoned villages. It seemed as if people were somewhere near. In many gardens calves were grazing, pigs were wandering; rabbits were running, hens, ducks...There were cars standing here and there.
At the station, paramedics gave us potassium and iodine tablets and watched us to take them. After that was distribution to the sectors. They set us a task - decontamination of turbo machinery of the second reactor. We measured radiation level, calculated the time of work, and decontaminated. We passed through barbed wire entanglement to medical post N1, where we changed into white suits, and white shoes. After finishing work, the dosimetrician measured the level of radiation. He registered the amount of work, which we had done, levels of radiation, and received by the staff dose. Then we returned to medical post, took shower, changed clothes, and left for the hall of administrative building. We reported to the headquarters of task force of special zone N3 about work done, and waited for the rest groups of our battalion to return. Then we boarded the vehicles, and went to battalion disposition. In the future, we carried out work in different places of the station. Everything took its normal course.
Especially, I remembered some events from our work. The change for the staff of the first company arrived. Those were young men from Kryvoy Rog and attached settlements. For the next trip to the station, which was on 9 June, we received the task to remove radioactive waste from the roof of machinery room of turbine department in the area of the third reactor. After the explosion of the fourth reactor, radioactive waste (bricks, wrecks, pipes, reinforcement rods) were lying not only on the attached to the fourth reactor areas, but on the roofs of the third reactor and machinery department, where we were supposed to work. For that work, we changed clothes into white cotton suits, caps and shoes. On our legs, we got some extra polyethylene shoe covers and on arms, polyethylene long radiation-resistant gloves. On faces - gauze masks "petal" - type. Those were all protective means. Later, they started giving military cotton uniform, kersey boots, lead apron, goggles. We were subdivided into two groups. I headed the first group; Lieutenant Kotov headed the second one. The man who helped us out to the roof, I thought, poorly orientated, and took us to the ruined roof of the fourth reactor, to the pipe. Then we were running over the debris, which heaped the roof of the third reactor, to the exit that was near the roof of the second reactor. That distance was long; we needed to run along the roof of the third reactor. In a superstructure of the exit, we stopped and recovered breath.
From the top, there could be seen green woodland, and only fiery-red stripe showed the direction of radiation shot from the opening of the fourth reactor. Prypyat town also was seen through light foggy haze. In the sky, above the station area, the helicopters were flying, spraying adhesion liquid agent.
We got work instructions what to carry out. We walked down the steps onto the roof of the machinery room. Aside, there was a radio-controlled tractor. It was clear that it was out of order. The machinery could not stand. That is why, our battalion cleared up the debris on the roof of machinery room, third reactor, near the pipe of the fourth reactor, and at the bottom, on nearby area of the fourth reactor by hand... In that situation, the work time on the roof of machinery room was 2 minutes. The time started. At a rapid pace, we shoveled up the wrecks and sand, loaded in black polyethylene sacks, and carried them to the outside edge of the roof of turbine room. We saw such bags for the first time then. Many tried to lift heavy sacks on shoulders to carry them easier. Nobody realized what radiation was like. We had to argue with them. Having finished work, wet with sweat, dusty, we were running to the building of the third reactor, ran upstairs into the superstructure on the roof, then, down the steps into the building of the third reactor. If we came here that way, we would not be running from the side of the fourth reactor along the roof of the third reactor. We would not have accumulated that high level of radiation. Later on, we specified the reasons why they made us go on the roof up to the fourth reactor.
Obviously, to one of us, a task was set to help us out to the place of work. Therefore, he just did wrong. Someone, who was working there before and knew all the paths, entrances and exits, should have done that, but not the newly arrived. The radiation doze that they registered was only for actual time, which was in that situation 2 minutes. The next day, the staff of our groups looked very poor. All had a bad cough, many felt physical strain, old illnesses exacerbated. I became voiceless, and had excessive somnolence. They sent me to traffic police to be on duty on the crossroad. I could not stay on duty full time on health reasons, and was taken to medical battalion, which was in an old wooden school of a village Hornostaypole. They diagnosed bronchopneumonia. I was cured there for 5 days and then asked to discharge me. Almost all, who worked on the roof, came through that medical battalion with the same diagnosis. Lieutenant Kotov was sent to Kiev district hospital.
Having returned to battalion, I continued travelling to work at the station.
I remembered the next trip to the station because we removed radioactive waste and decontaminated the rooms close to the ruins of the fourth reactor.
We ran to the needed room, and when appeared in the place, through the opening, which probably was at the same time a door and a window, we saw the ruins of the fourth reactor.
Then we were on some reason sent to work night shift. We left battalion and returned from the station when it was dark.
They changed us, the third group of personnel, only on 15 July, after one and a half months of intense work under high radiation level. Who could bear that, if even machinery could not stand a test.
I remembered the words of one general, who came to our battalion with inspection. On my question when we were going to have a replacement, he replied, "We decided to cope shedding hardly any blood". Yes, we made the most of us, gave youth, health, energy, for other people to get less radiation, for the sake of those, who were going to come after us, and those who peacefully work far from the station.
I would like to cite a good quotation of Lev Bocharov, a deputy chairperson of a committee within the Ministry of Machine Building of the USSR in charge of elimination of disaster aftermath in Chernobyl in 1986, chief engineer, "... there, near the pipe, in November 1986, in some places were spots up to 10,000 Roentgen..." (Video-photo laboratory of Chernobyl power station. "On the edge of impossible").
At the beginning of elimination, there was chaos and confusion
From recollections of a soldier of Special Battalion 731 Reznik 1 Vladimir.
Having arrived at the place of battalion stationing, which was in the zone of high radioactive contamination, I noticed that there was some chaos and confusion. Some friends of mine and I, were summoned to the testing area as fire fighters trainers for testing welding and pouring objects, which underwent radioactive contamination, with a special layer. The task force under the governmental committee deployed mobilization ground.
Everything was done in haste and with confusion. Top officials of high rank were rushing about, being preoccupied and anxious. Ten people were standing near the field kitchens and melting film. Then it was tested on soil and on the roof of a house. After that, the papers of successful testing were signed and that was all.
After that, we became real disaster fighters like hundreds of our simple young men, not just fire fighters trainers. We were decontaminating scattered radioactive waste, graphite In the station area. Thus, we were preparing the space for other subdivisions to get down to construction of reactor containment. We had been working for 16-17 hours a day, until dark. We did not have any protective means, but gauze mask "petal"-type on a face. Either from heat, or from radiation, some people fainted, had some ringing In the ears, nose bleeding. In the mouth, there was some taste of iron and blood. Yet, that might be because of large amount of work to do every day. No one left the battlefield. Those were conditions, the disaster fighters summoned from reserve soldiers and officers, were working in. Those were fearful days of May-June 1986.
"... I am still there, in nowadays Chernobyl zone"
From the recollections of Peter Pavlovich Zborovsky. (Author Sergey Babakov).
Before fishing, my friend and I called at garage cooperative to take fishing tackle on the way. "What procedures you have here!" I remarked to my friend, watching that meticulous control of admission, which a man on duty at the checkpoint did, "Just like in Army!" "That is right," he agreed, "We just have almost all former military men on guard here."
"By the way, you, I guess, wanted to write about job placement of retired servicemen. Write about our people. One of them, they say, in 1986, pumped out water from under the fourth reactor. Do you remember, then, much was written about that. His name is Peter. I once talked to him, a very interesting man..."
Some days later, during the shift of Peter Pavlovich Zborovsky, we were sitting with him in the guardroom of garage cooperative and talked about the events that took place twelve years ago...
- The day before I met with you, I looked through published in 1986 reference book "Chernobyl, events and lessons." Thereby, it is written in it, that pumping out radioactive water from under the room of the fourth power-generating unit was entrusted to fire fighters. You, as I know, are the former officer of civil defense...
- Yes, I am from civil defense. In April 1986, I was a company commander of the fourth mechanized company of Kiev civil defense regiment. On 26 April, Friday, there was an evening general regimental roll call. It finished late at night, and I stayed in military barrack for night. At night, the regiment was put on alert. An accident at nuclear power station happened in Prypyat. Transformer oil was on fire. There were no details. All the officers were summoned from all parts of the city. Military vehicles and technical equipment was formed into a motorcade. Somewhere around six o'clock, as it was provided for by the detachment, mobile unit headed by regiment commander Colonel Vladimir Vasilievich Grebenyuk left for Prypyat. That was a hundred of soldiers and officers and thirty vehicles. From my company, with the staff, a platoon headed by Senior Lieutenant Makeev, left for Chernobyl as well. I myself stayed in the unit. Those events did not cause particular anxiety. Up to that time, I have already had sixteen years of experience in civil defense service, and participated in elimination of any sort of disasters. Towards evening, they started talking about explosion on the fourth reactor. To reinforce the crew, some more officers left for Chernobyl. The next day, in the afternoon, we received the command to deploy special battalion 731 on the premises of the regiment. In the evening, new people began to arrive.
- Was that a special subdivision for elimination of disasters at nuclear power stations?
- No, that was a usual battalion of chemical protection. They formed and set it from reserve soldiers and officers in case of war. They were three companies and some detached platoons, about three hundred people. Only two positions, of battalion commander and chief of staff, were held by regular officers Lieutenant Colonel Nickolay Bosy and Captain Sergey Volkov. Reserve soldiers were summoned from all military registration and enlistment offices of Kiev and region. During the night, they were dressed in military uniforms, and distributed into subdivisions. I was working at an officers recruiting center. In the morning on 29 April, just before boarding the vehicles, regiment Commander Colonel Grebenyuk (he arrived the day before from Prypyat for that battalion) made a decision to reinforce chemical battalion with four more regular officers. I was among them. I had time only to send a soldier for an alert suitcase and trousers for military training camp. I changed clothes just on board the vehicle. I had a feeling that I would soon return, just, one-two days for soldiers to get used to the staff commanding officers. We reached Chernobyl in no time, and immediately went to helicopters to load them with sand, dolomite and lead. Heat, dust, din of engines, everything repeated from morning till night.
- How did you appear at Chernobyl power station itself?
- On 1 May, towards the construction sites, where we were working, a red cloud was moving. They stopped helicopters. People boarded the vehicles and forwarded to Chernobyl. Our camp was in the North, on the outskirts of the town, 6-7 km far from the station. We left everything in the camp, had time to take only the field kitchens, and bolted. We did not return there any more. The other camp was deployed near the village Dytyatky. They delivered new tents, bedclothes uniforms. In the evening, we arranged a bathhouse, washed the soldiers, changed clothes. Somewhere around midnight, the officers reached their turn. I had just left the bathhouse, was standing and drying myself, when heard that someone is looking for me. Unfamiliar major general and colonel came in. General asked, "Who is Captain Zborovsky?" I answered. "Get ready. The head of Governmental Committee summoned you." I looked at my watch - 1 a.m. I had just had breakfast in the morning, and not a bit more. Yet, my brother-officer, who brought my things, some alcohol, we were going to have a hundred grams as preventive measures. There was a prohibition law, everything on the sly. "Until I have dinner", I said, "1 will not go anywhere." The general replied, "All right, we shall wait." I had something, but did not come close to alcohol drink. Before my leave, Volodya Klymenko, who was the head of headquarters of civil defense of Kiev, said, "Do not worry, Peter, I have a stash, we will leave it for you."
- Did general explain why they summon you?
- No, he did not explain. You will get to know it there. We arrived in Chernobyl. The Governmental Committee was working in the building of a district committee of the party. At the door, there was a militiaman; admission was only by order. We went upstairs to the second floor. In the reception, an assistant, you know, prompt and dexterous, like someone, just, here, there and everywhere, gave instructions whom and how to report. I entered the meeting hall, reported about the arrival. Sylaev, the head of the governmental committee on Chernobyl disaster elimination, got out from the table to meet me. Medium height, the sort of a man, you know, grey-haired. He was standing upright, jus an expert in frontline service, attention! "Captain, you have a governmental task - to pump out water from under the fourth power-generating unit." I did not have any time even to think, replying, "Yes, sir!" Sylaev said, "You will know the details in the headquarters, from military people. They are in the executive committee. Full alert, state of readiness is 9-00," and that is it. I went downstairs, something in my head... What will I do for just fifteen minutes? I will get my 700 Roentgen, that is all...
By that time, I had already known from Alexander Logachev, platoon commander of our regiment, who carried out the research at the fourth reactor. He found out that there was 2800 Roentgen at the reactor's wall. From technical school I remembered that 700 Roentgen - deadly doze. Therefore, I reckoned that a quarter of an hour would be quite enough for me. I was trying to think it over. I was going to the executive committee, when regiment commander and deputy commander in charge of technical equipment met me. Grebenyuk asked me, "Well, Peter, what task did they set?" I told him. Deputy commander in charge of technical equipment, Lieutenant Colonel Bukatynsky said with sympathy, "If at the wall there is 2800 Roentgen, how much is there under the reactor?"
I had a sensation that if they felt sorry for me, I would burst out crying.
- Why did the lot fall upon you?
- I do not know. I think, what really mattered was that I had worked as a commanding officer of a pipeline platoon for many years. I mastered the skills in operating the pumping station. Many knew me in connection with demonstration lessons in a civil defense administration department of Kiev military district headquarters...
When I came in the task force, all surrounded me, started interrogating how the things were going on, and that sort of things... General Shmatko, who was in charge there then, specified what resources I needed for carrying out the task, how many people, and what technical machinery could be necessary.
I said that I myself would go to the regiment and arrange everything necessary. The general agreed; that was more reliable. I got in touch on the phone with the regiment, explained what I needed, got in the vehicle, and left for Kiev. Up to my arrival, the pumping stations had already been ready. I checked the package contents; the embarkation of pipes was ending. People were from fire platoon of our regiment of civil defense. I knew well all the soldiers, who served in that subdivision before, four months passed since I left the platoon for motorized company.
Three officers went with me - the company commander, Captain Akimov Nickolay Mikhaylovich, and two platoon commanders, Vadim Zlobyn and Gennady Khetsev. Towards the da(tm), everything was ready. We left for Chernobyl. Deputy Commander of regiment, now late Lieutenant-Colonel Anatoly Ivanovich Kharin, headed the motorcade.
- Did you have a chance to visit home?
- Yes, I called on the way for some minutes. In the corridor, I took off' all my clothes, why should I take all that filth into my flat. I awoke my wife, asked her not to worry; just ever^hing was all right. I did not tell her anything, because, you know, I was leaving for Chernobyl. We did not have a telephone at home then. I kissed my son, who was sleeping. He was twelve then. I did not say anything to my wife. I thought if an^hing happened, they would tell her. Why should I worry for nothing? In general, I said goodbye.
At nine I was at Silaev's "Are you ready?" he asked. "Yes, sir!" I answered. "Well, do not be in a hurry. They have not decided where to pump water to, yet." At ten, you should be present at the meeting of Governmental Committee. Now, deploy the people. You can occupy any convenient hostel". I set a task to platoon commander, Lieutenant Khetsev to take care of placement of people. We together with the commander of fire company, Captain Akymov went to search the area for working. We, as I see, should know the place where we were going to work. We approached the station from the backside. We could clearly see the ruined reactor. A dosimetric device with electronic scale was inside the armored troop carrier. I was looking from above the carrier, from the armour, when the numbers started flashing 600, 700, 800 Roentgen... I shouted to the driver, "Let's go back, boy!" We left.
I arrived in the district committee. The meeting of Governmental Committee started. Very different propositions on the problem where to pump water were heard but there was no integrated opinion. We argued and argued... Eventually, Sylaev fixed the date of the next meeting for later time. He charged the chief engineer and me to go to the station and define where to pump water on the premises.
- Have not you defined the place for pumping water to yet?
- Theoretically, you can try here or there.
We arrived at the station, started thinking, where we could get to the water from? Under the power - generating unit there was a service tunnel, but to reach it, we should make an opening in a concrete wall. The proposals were different - to break it with the gun shot or a grenade launcher, to bum it through with the hollow charge mine. Only who could say, how the reactor would work after that firing. We decided not to take risks and to punch a hole by hand. I aligned the fire company and set the task. I said, "The work is dangerous, we need volunteers." Afterwards, the newspapers wrote that all the line stepped forward. In reality, five were the first - Sergeants Pasha Avdeev, and Vanya Maximchuk, two Corporals Igor Malodushev and Sanya Korshunov. There was also a platoon commander Lieutenant Khetsev. I left the officer, someone should give orders, you know. Those four soldiers went with me. On the armored troop carrier, we approached the wall. The levels of radiation there were high. I calculated we could work only for 12 minutes, not more. The young men two by two ran out of the troop carrier, and punched out the wall with the sledgehammer. I saw that the work was going on with difficulty; we might not manage to meet the deadline. I joined to help them. We broke the hole. They tied the rope round me, like a diver, (no one knew what could be behind the wall; what if the level of radiation was too high and I would faint). Therefore, I got in. In the tunnel, I could move freely, though it was rather dark. I was moving further and further. Then felt some water under feet, went through, squelching. The water felt warm, somewhere 45 degrees it was. It reeked of hydrogen sulfide. I looked around. No, it would not be possible to move around with the pipes and devices, not enough room. I went on, searching. I went some staircase up, looked around, that seemed to fit. After that, I took a guide from the station with me, two soldiers, and reached there through the third power-generating unit. That was it.
- What sort of place was that?
- A service tunnel between the third and the fourth power-generating units. A sort of a tunnel. Like a carriage in size. There were also rails laid, strong entrance gate. I reported to the governmental committee, that the place where we could pump water from was found.
- How did the meeting of the committee go off? What did you remember?
- I do not remember the details very well. I was exhausted. I could sleep only in snatches, for some minutes. I did not shave at that time, but no one paid any attention to it those days. Silaev, well, he is a figure, of course, and so simple. He made the best use of his opportunities. He was strict but polite. He did not speak any filthy language, though there was always a cause, could hear out. There were many opinions on any problem. Sometimes it went as far as shouts, arguing. I remember a night call of Gorbachev. His voice was well heard in the room. "Well, did you make a decision where to remove the water? I also have a working group sitting and thinking. You think too..." The temperature of water was gradually rising. The reactor did not weaken. What will happen if the concrete under the reactor breaks down and the reactor dives in water? Nobody knew anything.
Yet, I remember the words of Academician Velykhov, only do not remember in what connection, "That should be entrusted to military people. They will carry out the task without any questions, and will not lay down conditions..."
I was sitting at the meetings and listening. Around, there were academicians, generals, and me, like a small fry. I just was a pawn, you know. At the fifth or sixth meeting of the committee, Silaev said to me, "Zborovsky, pump water into radioactive waste storage. Is the task clear?" "No, sir," I answered.
"Well, what is not clear? There is a point A - the fourth reactor, and a point B - radioactive waste storage. Your task is to pump water from the point A to the point B". "That is, just clear", I say, "but I will bum my people on these premises of two hundred meters. There is, you know, about 2800 Roentgen radiation by the power- generating unit, by the storage - 1000 Roentgen! "Silaev looked at the chart in front of him, but the numbers there were many times lower. "Who is in charge of reconnaissance?" he asked. "General Vitalyev" (the surname was changed on P. Zborovsky request, - the author's note).
In some minutes, the general arrived. I asked him, "How come comrade general you give such data of reconnaissance? We have already been three times in this area with the chief engineer. Why should we trust your chart?" That man tried to object. Silaev listened for while, and then gave the task to the chief engineer to take two dosimetricians from the station, the general and me, and go to the place to sort out the situation. We got in the armored troop carrier (the chief engineer has already been there with me, and did not want to get some extra Roentgen radiation). We were on our way. The general was in the earner, I was on the top. The driver was the other, not that with whom we were last time. Soldiers should also be changed not to undergo the affect of radiation. I was giving the command where to turn - left, right. There was fifty meters up to the fourth reactor, when the device started counting, "800... 850..." The general instinctively started gripping the levers of the gearbox, where there were four of them, trying to change into backwards. The soldier turned to me, ready to complain, "Comrade Captain, tell him! The carrier will break down!" ... We went backwards. The general told, "Perhaps, we will not report, will we?" I answered, "1 agree, in case you go to pump water instead of me!"... He looked aside, and kept silent the rest of the way.
- Thus, what did you report to Silaev?
- I did not report anything. When we entered his room, he asked, "Well, how are things, Comrade Captain?" I was silent, looking at the chief engineer. He said, "Everything the way Zborovsky reported." On the spot, the Army Headquarters' Commander General Gerasimov ran up to general, tore the shoulder straps off, the service cap falling on the floor. He swore like a trooper. "How dare you! We report to Moscow! Be off!" Vitalyev left. Silaev turned to me, "It is clear with the armor carrier. What do you suppose?" I myself, each time when was at the station, asked the people from the crew where to pump that water. Thus, before that conversation with Silaev, just taken the watch engineer told me, "Why are you beating about the bush for two days? At the end of the station there are two tanks and the branch line reaching them". He gave us a soldier to accompany, and we with Akimov went to look. Right as it is, in 100 meters from Prypyat, there were two pools 20,000-25,000 cubic meters in size. One of them was empty, the second half filled with fresh water. We pumped it to Prypyat then. The level of radiation was not high there, maximum 0.5 Roentgen. That was just exactly we were looking for. Onto the top, we could pour some incombustible service oil, not to let water vaporizing. I reported about all that to Silaev. He immediately set the task before academician Alexandrov to study the proposition and announced two hours break.
I went to find somewhere to have a snack, and on my way, met Lieutenant Colonel Mironov, the head of engineering service of Civil Defense in Kiev district. He was informed about our work. He asked, "Pete, why should you get involved with those metal pipes? Ask Silaev to give you fire pumpers PNS-110. They have flexible hoses and efficiency twice as bigger than our pumpers do". How did not I come to the idea myself? I estimated, made calculations... At the next meeting of the Governmental Committee, I raised my hand. "In Ministry of Home Affairs they have fire pumpers, PNS-110..." Army General Gerasimov interrupted me, "Do you want to shift the task onto Ministry of Home Affairs?" I replied, "No, I have experienced soldiers, they will cope, but we do not have appropriate technical equipment." Silaev nodded, "Continue!" I read out all my calculations, specifications of fire pumpers. Everything sounded persuasively. At once, the order to provide all necessary things was announced...
- What are those pumpers PNS-110?
- You saw them for sure. They are like fire engines, only with pumping installations in the car body. They pump 110 liters per minute. We got them from the fire station in Chernobyl. Here appears the messenger, running. "You are called to the meeting again!" It turned out that the temperature of water began to rise and reached 80 degrees. I got the task to speed up the preparation for pumping. I returned to the fire station, aligned the firemen, and said, "Guys, we will pump water from under the fourth reactor. I need only drivers, but if anyone from the crew goes with me, it will be better, of course. You know your technical equipment. If not, we will cope ourselves".
Major Nagaevsky from Belaya Tserkov stepped forward and five people joined him. True, one fled later on. The crew from Zhitomir arrived. I do not remember many of the names; let them not be offended. I did not tell anyone for many years, had forgotten some things. Well, there were my twenty people. We unrolled hoses, checked the pumpers. Up to 2 a.m., we were ready to work. I phoned Silaev's secretary and reported. He got information that is more accurate from Silaev. "Wait for command!" In the morning again, "Wait!" I, before the verdict is in, found the commander of the guard who protected the station. We needed to build the pass through the barrier facing the pools. From the side of the fourth reactor towards the ruins, we could drive up freely; the next part of the area was protected, the barbed wire entanglement was under high voltage. The commander of the guard could not settle the problem. I should phone them in Kiev. They there promised to disconnect the wire at the area of our work that was 362 meters long. We needed only to wait for the command...
- Why then did they not give it?
- The situation then was difficult. We were afraid of the reactor explosion. On 5 May, the command came up, "Forward!" We approached the fence of the station. I threw a piece of wire, - it sparked. We had no time to look for someone who could disconnect the fence. Therefore, I gave the command. We brought down the wall of the fence with the help of armored troop carrier. Then we set a remote controlled machinery, directed it, the driver jumped off, and it started pressing the wire. Everything began sparkling and sparking. The electric area 18 meters long was disconnected. We made our way through the second pass in the fence. Then we started laying the hose. That was about 1.5 km. Every 20 meters we should link them with the clutches. In the area of 250m, it was extremely dangerous; the level of radiation was 250-800 Roentgen per hour. Closer to the first block, it was 50-80 and less. We led and set the pumpers. With the help of armored carrier, we destroyed the flight of stairs, - it prevented from setting a pumping hose and activated the pumper. All seemed to be fine. The water flowed. We took people away to some safe place, and just we sighed with relief, the pumper worked for while and failed. We with Kolya Akimov went to sort out what happened. We went over the pumper; it seemed to be in order. It needed to be tested in practice, we decided. We started up engines, waiting.
Then we saw that some smoke was filling the tunnel more and more. The engines made some sounds as if sneezing, and stopped. We had nothing to do but open the gate into the building. The level of radiation rose by ten times - 250 Roentgen! We could do nothing, except to leave the gate half-open. One trip to the pumpers and back, if quickly, gave 3-4 Roentgen. Every 3.5 hours, we had to fill petrol in the tank. One more pumper went out of order after eighteen hours of work, and needed to be changed.
Hardly had we arranged the work, a new problem arose again. Some reconnaissance crew arrived by a crawler and damaged our hoses. From the helicopter, which was monitoring the work, informed that they saw the water springs. We had to remove the leakage. I had only six people left who had already accumulated 20 Roentgen...
- What maximum permissible dose of irradiation was established then?
- When we were at the start of our work, it had not been established yet. I knew that in urgent tactical situation it was permitted to get 50 Roentgen per hour for four days. How much radiation in peace time?..
Being aware of radioactive emission level around was for sure frightful. Do you remember the title of the film "No one wanted to die"? That was as it was there. We should measure the level of radiation and the temperature of water. I reported about the results to Silaev, at night to his secretary. We had to go to the pumpers through the first, second and third blocks and went two of us at a time, in case one fainted or lost his bearings. Thus, it was my turn to go. I checked who accumulated less in the register, and said to one officer, fire fighter, "You go with me!" He rejected my command". I aligned all the officers and said, "Don't bring out the beast in me! If you, bastard, don't go, I will give the order to soldiers to bind you and throw off at the fourth reactor! In fifteen minutes you won't be able to say anything at all".
I addressed to Major Nagaevsky, "Could you sort it out with your people?" He said to me, "Peter Pavlovich, we will go out to have a talk". I did not know what was there between them. In five minutes, they returned, both red as a turkey cock. Captain put on protective coverall and went with me...
I understood everything. All were frightened. I probably should have behaved the other way with that officer. What provoked my violent rage? You see, the boys of 18 risked their lives, and he was my peer, a captain - we had already lived some of our lives - he tried to hide behind their backs...
- I want to apologize beforehand, if I wound your feelings, but it inevitably comes to mind in connection with your story. Did they give those front hundred grammes for bravery? In Kiev, there were different speculations in this regard.
- Did you happen to be at the station?
- Yes, I did. In February - March 1987 I participated in decontamination of basements and the roof of the third power-generating unit...
- Then what should I tell you? There were so many those corridors, rooms, stairs, passages, basements, - only sober just could have sorted it out. It seems that we were walking on the second day with Nickolay Akimov from the tunnel to our shelter. At the mark 9.8, we should turn left, but we made a mistake, and turned right. We got in some corridor, started running along it, and then saw a wall made of lead bars. Behind it was the fourth power-gen- erating unit. We turned around and ran aside. I said, "Kolya, let's sit for while. I am ready to drop with fatigue". What if there were not lead walls?
No, officially they did not pour out for bravery. Some of chiefs from fire station gave a bottle of alcohol to fire fighters. Nagoevsky asked, "So, what, commander?" I allowed having a little to people in free of work shift.
- What about you?
- No, I didn't. What sense to tell a lie now? I had to give a word of command to people. What would have they thought of me?
- Did you have fear? You just understood what awaited you.
- At the beginning, it was not much. I reassured myself with the thought that they would not have sent us to a certain death. Then, when I was walking in the station, talking to people, I had a feeling that they looked at me as If I was condemned. The staff knew about the fate of those who were taken out to Moscow then, on 27 April. Then, I got it.
- But still, we went to pump water.
- What remained? I, you know, up to that time, controlled the situation, knew what, where and how. I myself proposed what pumpers to use, where to Install them, what place to remove water to. I estimated, made calculations not to expose people to danger of irradiation. How could I turn everything over to somebody else at that time? I don't know... Then, I did not have such thoughts... Yet, I had some hope for a miracle, that everything would settle one way or another, and I would survive. When I was studying at the military school, I heard many different stories about radiation. There were some with a happy end... Besides, I had some experience of work with radiation. Once, when I was studying, they took us from military school to Chelyabinsk firing ground of Civil Defense. There, some time, was an explosion of a reactor. There were 13 routes, the more the number, the more the level of radiation. At the thirteenth, they just could move only in a tank - 250 Roentgen! We were five- a driver and four students of military school, - going along the route. It cannot be so; the tank went down from the embankment and got stuck! I activated the radiation monitor DP-5 - it went off scale. We left the weaponry and knapsacks in the tank, locked it and ran to a "clean" zone, 3 km far. At that time, everything ended well. After Chernobyl, as the doctor explained to me in this connection, my experience was of benefit to my health.
- How much time was the pumping of water?
- We held out more than two days. At night from 7 May to 8 May, people from Odessa regiment of civil defense replaced us. I showed and told everything to major, my shift man. It was 70 centimeters of water left to pump. We started from 4 meters 30 centimeters. As I know, the work had been fulfilled up to the evening on 8 May.
- It was dangerous and frightening. Didn't you have the idea to refuse? You just could find the reason. What radiation dose did you get before the beginning of pumping water?
- I have had 12 Roentgen ever since I was under the helicopters. Then there were four reconnaissance trips. My personal dosimeter, which could calculate up to 50 Roentgen, went off scale by the beginning of pumping water. After that, we used the devices of staff. It turned out that station radiation monitor showed twice as big radiation level in the same areas as our army dosimeter. I know tint when they calculated the radiation dose again for some people, it occurred on average three times as big as they registered.
- Did they count again for you?
- Why was that? Now it does not matter... As for the reason, some people found it the very first day. They gave me the deputy commander, lieutenant colonel from the district service of fuels and lubricants. While we were setting the pumpers, he disappeared. I was told then, he went on foot. Anyway, I should thank him, actually, that he sent two petrol tankers to me the next day with senior lieutenant...
- When making inquiries I phoned some organizations that dealt with disaster fighters and on my question, they asked counter-question, "Why? Is he still alive?" Peter Pavlovich, did they all forget about you?!
- But why is that? From our regiment, they send invitations on the Military Unit's Day every year. Brother-officers from battalion 731 call me. That is it. It does not hurt me, you know. I am fine. My son is a senior lieutenant, followed in my footsteps. My granddaughter is growing. I am still working... There is no reason to complain. At that time newspapers wrote about me. In the museum, there is a stand devoted to me... I am thankful to fire fighters; they remember. I did not see myself, but somebody told me that there is... Oh, nearly forgot. In the year 1986, I became the seven - millionth visitor in the museum of Great Patriotic War.
- How did you manage?
- I was lucky. Somebody phoned from the political administration, "Captain Zborovsky and ten soldiers should arrive at the Museum of Great Patriotic War". I arrived and turned out to be a jubilee visitor.
- Before the meeting, I read again some issues of the years 1986-1987 about us, but did not find many important facts, which I heard today.
- What did they write then? I read; it seems to me that it is I, and at the same time, not me. Too proper I was, and yet, they told fib about some details - "Punched out a hole in reactor and pumped water". Yes, sure, so it was published. In one magazine, they wrote that I was given a new flat, a car and a dacha.
- What was in reality?
By the end of the second working day at the station, some civilian man brought me a thousand rubles, a bonus from Silaev. Fifteen people were awarded then. From military men I was the one. The money was in the envelope. It was written not Zborovsky but Borovsky on it, the rest was right, "Peter Pavlovich, Captain, regiment of Civil Defense". The civilian man said to me, "So, this is for you"... On the eighth at night, we were replaced, and the next morning, summoned to Silaev. As I was wearing white "station" clothes (the uniform "radiated" from the very first hours of work), so I went to him. There was some meeting; 15-20 people were present. He, as at our first meeting, got up from the table, stood at attention and said, "On behalf of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Soviet government, I commend you for your successful fulfillment of particularly important task". I replied the way it should be, "1 serve to the Soviet Union!" Silaev said to me, "Come up to me, sonny". He shook my hand, embraced me. "1 thanked the way I could in this situation; the rest depends on the government. Now - to the hospital"...
I returned to Kiev. It zoomed in on that I was nominated for a Hero of the Soviet Union. Well, Hero, let it be Hero, it is not for me to judge. In December, the award presentation of Chernobyl disaster fighters took place in Moscow. From our regiment, no one received the awards. Our people, as you know, in the impressment crew, participated from the very first hours after the disaster and were worthy the awards. I was talked about, that it did not come out to become a Hero. So that may be the decoration of the Red Banner. What about me? The order, let it be the order. February was coming up the Day of the Soviet Army. Everybody was waiting; well, the decorations for sure would arrive at the regiment. But still, it was in vain, again missed. Sanya Logachev, he was a truth- seeker, was exasperated by the fact, started writing to Gorbachev. At last, the decree was issued. Sixty-four people from our regiment were awarded the orders and medals. Among them were those, who some time argued with me. The regiment commander and I were missing. The people said, "A good sign, an extra decree is supposed to be, you will get maximum". Some time passed, and in May 1987, my award arrived - the order of Red Star. I read an extract from the decree, "For mastering new mechanical equipment and weaponry". Much later, when he retired, Grebenyuk was awarded the order "For Serving Motherland" of third class. It was difficult to say, "1 was far from all that backroom"...
Later, one clerk from the staff explained how that could happen. "It is quite possible, he said, that there was no order for nominating somebody from civil defense regiment for a Hero award. Yet, you were not worthy. Agree. Twelve years of working as a platoon commander, you were accepted from the party, (it was as it was, on my way home, when I was drunk, you know, some guys attacked me, stole all my things, the party card disappeared), I was reprimanded. Your polish nationality could have played a part. Moreover, if they awarded a Hero to you, to the second, the third, what the world would consider then. That the disaster was enormous, ho-ho-ho... Our politicians did not need that at all. Thus, the nomination was moving, moving from one department to the other, until your surname was placed in a number of others in the next order list. It probably was so. I do not know. The order of the Red Star you know is a high award. It was given to our soldiers in Afghanistan. If one is to judge, then Sanya Logachev and all the helicopter pilots should have been awarded a Hero title. They flew above the reactor where the level of radiation was tens of thousands Roentgen. What about our people from battalion 731? They breathed so much radioactive dust. They were not just awarded a medal...
- I cannot help asking about your health. How are you after all these checkouts?
- Thank you. Now, I felt more or less normal. At the beginning... Why were we replaced then, at night on May 8? It happened that while I was reporting to Silaev from the checkpoint, I lost consciousness. The soldier on duty took the receiver and explained what was going on. Silaev ordered to replace us immediately. On our way to the hospital, I fainted three times more. I brought people to Kiev, settled them in the hospital, and asked to let me go home, just to know what was with my family and that sort of things, I think you remember what situation was in the city then. The head of the inpatient department strongly denied. He said, "In no circumstances". It brought about a scandal; they phoned the deputy commander of regiment and complained that I did not want to go to the hospital.
I said, "1 will leave anyway". Eventually, they let me go up to 9a.m. I went to the regiment. When I called on the way, I gave 100 rubles to the deputy commander in charge of policy. I knew that brother-officers laid the table and were waiting for me. We sat down to table. I had two wine glasses, but it rushed to the head as if I drank two bottles. Kolya Olishevsky drove me home in his "Zhiguli", accompanied me to the flat. I came in, nobody home, went out, and phoned to my sister. She said, "Your son is here, and Lilya is in the hospital". I caught a taxi, arrived at the hospital. It was one or two o'clock at night. Only some windows were lit. I stood in the middle of the yard and started shouting like a nerd, "Lilya! Lilya!" In some windows they switched on the light. On the fourth floor, the window opened. I looked; it was she, my Lilya. I shouted, "Lilya, I am alive!" She said, "Well, well, come tomorrow, don't wake the people up"...
- What did the examination in hospital showed next morning?
- In the morning, I did not get into the hospital. It is a shame to confess, but I stayed late. I wanted to go home from the hospital, but... Later, in the afternoon, my wife found me at my friend's place. "Peter, they are looking for you around the city. I went home from hospital, thought that you could faint at home. There is the military patrol waiting for you. Come on, to the hospital, quicker!" It was so embarrassing. I promised to return up to 9 o'clock. I rushed home, through a neighboring balcony into my flat, changed into a military uniform and went to the head of in-patient department. I repented; he forgave me. In the hospital, they made me blood transfusion three times. That was an unpleasant procedure. I was trembling all over for two hours, had high temperature. My blood was tested twice a day. There were a lot of scientists from the whole Soviet Union. They studied us. The next day, my friends came to visit me. I asked one of them to buy something to drink. At that time there was a tense situation with alcohol, you know, He brought two bottles of "KV", thirty with something rubles a bottle. The second friend came with a bottle of spirits. In the evening, in my ward Chernobyl officers gathered. In a day, the head of inpatient department Colonel Stepanov summoned me. "Peter Paclovich, did you drink alcohol yesterday? I became alerted. "Why?" "Your blood tests became normal". Well, I told what bouquet of alcohol we took. The doctor asked me, "Did you have breakfast?" I answered, "Not yet". He opened the safe, took out a bottle of cognac, poured in a wine glass and said, "Drink!" I was embarrassed, and he said again, "Come on, come on! You can in small amounts. But don't drink before going to bed!" ...
- So, what, did it help?
- It is difficult to judge. I was only five days in the hospital. My son with schoolchildren was going to be taken off to Donetsk, I had to prepare him and see him off, for my wife was in the hospital. They did not want to discharge her from hospital, but I promised to donate blood every day. Thus, they discharged her. Anyway, there was no any treatment, but two pills of Benadryl in the morning, two in the evening, that's all. More and more new disaster fighters were arriving, it was needed to make room for them...
- Were you examined later?
- Yes, I was twice in "Chernobyl" medical center. Then, in 1986, I did not feel myself very well. I remember the commander, who felt even worse than I did, asked me, "Peter, do you faint?" I opened my mouth to say something, and lost my conscience right away. Then retinal detachment began. However, thanks God, I recovered.
Grebenyuk himself caught it; he could hardly pull through. He, you see, was in Prypyat...
In 1993, when I was a major, not having served until 25 years, was transferred to the reserve. I do not want to touch that topic. I was given the rank of lieutenant colonel when in reserve. In civilian life, what jobs have I not done, what work have I not been engaged in, until my health allowed. The year before last, when I was driving my "Moskvich" back from my relatives place, I had an accident. I fainted when was driving at a speed of 100 km per hour. My wife was sitting behind me; she told later that I began to wheeze, fell, the hands gripping the steering wheel, the head on a seat. They tried to unclasp my hands with the tire lever. The car turned upside down some times and stopped the roof down. I was injured. The sixth vertebra was broken, arms and legs did not move, but I survived, as you see. My wife, you would not just believe, she did not have a scratch! I was discharged from the hospital and started drawing the papers to formalize disability. I have been busy with this for a year or so...
When I came into our adult outpatient department for the first time, the doctor looked through my papers, and shouted, "You are crazy! People with 18 Roentgen burst into my room, and you with your 65 Roentgen did not come to be registered after retiring!" Now I have the second group of disability... Work as a caretaker, you know. By the way, when I was drawing papers, I needed many different references. I had to provide only originals, not duplicates. Therefore, I went to the archive. They found the documents of our regiment. They looked them through; there was the registration of the order for my departure for Chernobyl, the order of my return was missing. It looked like the clerk of the staff missed my surname because of carelessness. That is why, according to papers, I am still in Chernobyl zone now...
You don't count on it!
Many years later after the disaster at Chernobyl power station, I have to review those events of 1986, and the attitude of the governmental officials towards the disaster fighters.
It is hard to imagine, that survived and left alive soldiers, disaster fighters, who gave their health then, and afterwards even their lives, should fight for their right to live the years remained.
The law of Ukraine "About status and social protection of citizens-survivors in consequence of Chernobyl disaster" is not a Law for government employees. There is a Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, which make changes in the Law. For instance, annual payments for health improvement are cut down by several tens of times; pensions are reduced by several times; the number of sanatorium vouchers also is some times fewer.
It turns out that supreme executive body, Cabinet of Ministers, can change the Law, approved by the supreme legislative body of Ukraine Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Government) on their own discretion.
And when Chernobyl disaster fighters gather for a meeting at the building of Cabinet of Ministers to defend their right for life and to remind of a Law, it becomes so sad that the disaster fighters who saved the country are protecting themselves now from the very same country, which suppresses these people by its indifference and illegality.
Few executives from the building of Cabinet of Ministers will go out to meet Chernobyl people. Behind the heavy doors and closed windows, it is heard as if they say, "You don't count on it!"
Yes, the leaders of our country come in turn, but the statement is invariable. I had to participate in such meetings for some times, though I do not like these actions. I was filled with a deep shame at the actions taken by the government. Those are your saviors standing for their rights in accordance with the law, which you, "the leaders", infracted. They rescued you, your children, the whole generations, and you humiliate them now. You make the laws to show to the foreign observers they exist, and the executive body immediately changes them.
We do not participate in the meetings nowadays, because there is almost nobody to take part. After the second edition of the book in 2009, my pension was cut down by 12%, then by 2.5 times. In the pension fund, they added, "You should have written more..." The lawyer said that on Chernobyl people, only 10% of applications made from 100 win. When I was going home, I thought, "People, why do you hate us? What are we guilty of?" As the answer to this question, I remember the words of a Foreman of the third company Revchuk Mikhail in his short interview to a correspondent, "We are guilty of the fact that we are still alive!" It is short and clear. It is unfortunate that our society is on such a low level of morality. It eliminates its saviors. When we gather at the memorial to disaster fighters in a Disaster fighters Day or some anniversary of Chernobyl disaster on April 26, I stand "Attention!" in front of survived soldiers of our special battalion. You did such a hard work in that distant 1986! What an excessive toil you shouldered, what a level of radiation you got! Nevertheless, the humanity in general did not understand that, and it does not want to know. Everything in our country was under top secret.
Into International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), they sent reassuring Information about the level of radiation, the scale of disaster, the sickness of disaster fighters and the inhabitants. Even now, after many years since the disaster, there are no radiation monitors on sale. Up to now, the leaders of the party, legislative and executive authorities were not disapproved at least morally of their concealment of the disaster, irradiation of millions of people, untimely demise followed. Up to the year 2009, only one out of four deputy commanders of our battalion for the period from June 30 to September 9 1986 have survived. From three battalion commanders of the first conscription only one left alive. From 700 people of May, June, July 1986 conscription only about 200 survived. While preparing the book for publishing, Captain Zborovsky, Captain Polishchuk, mentioned above in the book, had gone from life. We will always remember them!
They do not want to settle the problems either in the name of those who have fallen for the sake of the country or those who survived. It runs into absurdity and profanity. For example, the disaster fighter died. He had a degree of disability - the illness connected with the elimination of the disaster in Chernobyl. The widow cannot have the pension of her husband. Only after the act of confirmation that the reason of death was the disaster, signed and registered by a pathologist, the widow can apply for 50% pension of her husband. You can imagine what limits the doctors had in that situation. Only appropriate people could have invented that abnormal instruction.
Such problem does not occur to government employees. One of spouses alive, writes the application to the pension fund, and automatically changes the pension into the pension of a dead spouse- civil servant, which rises with rise of salary.
In health care and medical treatment, there are also some different contrivances; I cannot call it some other way. For instance, if you want to get into Chernobyl hospital for cure, you need to take a doctor's referral from your residential outpatient clinic. In case, you have a doctor's referral to be hospitalized according to the outpatient department order, you will get a coupon for hospitalization in Chernobyl hospital in a month or two.
I remember, I had a medical examination to be hospitalized. One Chernobyl disaster fighter left the doctor's room with some embarrassment. He was confused. It turned out that he had 190mm blood pressure, and the doctor said that it was marginal and he needn't to be hospitalized.
Vasily Kapusta from our battalion was receiving treatment in the hospital. The doctors said to him that the tumor of his leg is caused by irradiation. When his pain intensified, he arrived in Chernobyl hospital to be examined. He was given a coupon for hospitalization after four months. He phoned me and told that his pain is unbearable, and he was going to wait for 1.5 months more; if he waited, he would need to be cured at psychiatrist's.
One more example. I had an incoercible vomit and a terrible headache. My wife called for an ambulance. They defined vascular spasm by the symptoms. Can you imagine what a hard way you needed to go through to get to Chernobyl hospital? I have been suffering for three days for that was the weekend. On Monday, I reached the outpatient's clinic, where they gave me the coupon to Chernobyl hospital. I did not get there then, was out of energy. The next day, I arrived at clinic, explained everything to a doctor. They gave me the list of specialists for examining. First, I had to undergo medical tests.
To undergo medical tests next day needed fasting.
That was the third day. You needed to undergo medical tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), and rheoencephalogram of brain
Blood tests will be ready only the next day. That was the fourth day of my stay in the clinic. Having the tests ready, I could go to see the doctors.
It turns out that you need a week or more for medical examination to have the conclusion as for hospitalization. If it is positive, they give you a coupon to be hospitalized in a month or two. Before, they gave those coupons at the regional outpatient clinic, and that was less problematic.
On health reasons, I could not go to be examined. In addition, there was no sense. If I had energy to be examined and could have got the coupon for hospitalization, I would have been hospitalized in a month or two. Up to that time, probably, it would not be of any use, which happened very often to disaster fighters. Among the staff of our battalion, the death rate is very high - 75% by the year 2009. Thus, I went to Chernobyl clinic. If they did not hospitalize me, everything would be counted on self-survival. What should be done? There they listened to me and hospitalized immediately. I am grateful to the doctors for that.
It is a pity that there is no proper attitude of the state towards real disaster fighters. This disaster, probably, was a test of humans from the side of nature. What level of spiritual development the people are. It is possible that the nature was preparing the other way of progress of our society after the disaster. Unfortunately, people did not stand the test, the test of power, the test of money, the test of attitude to citizens, like to brother and sister, daughter and son, father and mother. Greed, thirst for lucre, - they are all vice of our society. Those who saved them in war and in peacetime are not needed for them. What if the nature comes to a decision that it will not need such nation... It will not take away humans one after another. Then all nations perish. Few people probably think about it. I am sorry for this digression.
The only answer, which disaster fighters, who survived, can reply to government officials, is their own phrase, "You do not count on that!" in the sense of that we, disaster fighters, are going to live more. Unfortunately, this phrase can be heard from real disaster fighters more and more rarely with every passing year.
Open letter of a commander 01 a radiological protection battalion 731, reserve Colonel Bosy N, F. to battalion staff
Dear brother-soldiers, the time spent at Chernobyl nuclear power station will stay deep in our hearts. Remember, when the employees of eleven military registration and enlistment offices with militiamen, equipped with the government-issue weapons, took you from your working places, hostels, wedding ceremonies without any explanations, and brought you to an assembly point.
Remember, how they boarded you, having changed clothes, which were 70% military uniforms, in haste in civil trucks, and drove you in unknown direction at 5 o'clock on April 29 1986. At half past ten the same day, you were on a deserted bank of the Dnieper, near the village Lelyov. Remember what task was set to you to carry out, "the governmental task of special importance" - to load the helicopters with sacks filled with sand and lead bars, which should be put in cargo parachutes, called "parachute dolls".
Those dolls were then hooked up to a helicopter coupling, which was hanging 1-1.5m above the ground, picking up terrible radioactive dust, which was eating up your eyes, getting in your nose, affected your unprotected hands and faces. Radioactive dust accumulated in thick layer on upper clothes, penetrated through them and irradiated underwear and body. Airflow from under helicopters' propellers was so strong that it was very hard to keep balance.
Two flights of helicopters were enough to cover all the charging ground with solid radioactive dust layer of 30m high. As a result, constantly working helicopters brought on their bodies radioactive dust. Picked up dust accumulated more and more doses with every next flight, 16 hours day by day, from April 29 to May 6 1986.
You also should remember that for the fulfillment of the helicopters' flights schedule, the next day, because of the lack of sacks on April 29 and April 30, after stopping the helicopters flights, you had to fill in the sacks with loading materials when vehicles lights, straining yourself to the utmost. After sleepless nights, you should have been loading helicopters, which were incessantly flying up to the charging ground. What guided you? What source did you take your energy from? Most likely, the fear of possible fatal after effects for a City-Hero Kiev, for Ukraine, overcame the exhaustion. Being real patriots of your country, you did not take into account anything; you took the path of unequal battle with outrageous nuclear monster. That was day by day, 16-17 hours a day. You have won.
Remember, when there were no clean clothes, you had to wear contaminated radioactive clothes for several days.
Remember that joy on May 2 1986, when according to radiological reconnaissance data it became known that emission diminished, though insignificantly. That was the first victory, though. It gave you energy, and you were working with the only desire to disable the reactor, to save Ukraine, its people from awful trouble, to save Kiev from eviction, from turning it into a dead zone.
Unfortunately, the authorities did not properly value, your attempts, your physical strain and emotional tension and effaced with time. You paid much for saving Ukraine, having given your health; many of you made children orphans and wives widows.
From May 6 to May 19 1986, the second period of work on forestalling the frightful for Ukraine hydrogenous explosion began. According to assessments of international specialists, academician Legasov, for example, the destructive force of such explosion could have annihilated everything alive in the area of 500km in diameter. At the same time, 35-40 ml people could have perished. Those were soldiers from Detached Battalion of Special Defense 731 who carried out the assembly and maintenance of a pipeline for pumping water out of the fourth reactor. The Governmental Committee marked the whole crew. They received money bonus.
The replacement of the battalion staff took place on May 16 1986 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Muravsky Vladislav Vladimirovich, who did not live until nowadays, pity.
The task of the battalion was carrying out decontamination of Chernobyl power station premises by hand removing of the upper layer, contaminated with radioactive by-product of reactor. We removed soil with the shovels and loaded it into containers for transporting by special vehicles into temporary radioactive waste storage.
You could have seen it in a dream or could have read it in fantasy books. It was inconceivable for a sensible mind that close to heavy machinery of armored troop carriers - type covered with 10mm thick lead sheets, having five degrees of protection and vehicles with a cab covered with lead, having a narrow rectangular slot for a driver, the soldiers were working with shovels. The soldiers from a detached battalion of special defense 731 who were military men summoned from reserve. From protective means, they had only gauze breathers (civil gas masks "petal") on the face, wearing cotton soldier's uniform and kersey boots at the time, when the level of radiation in some areas reached up to 1000 Roentgen per hour.
You could watch the like on a firing ground Kapustin Yar while nuclear test explosion in Semipalatinsk area, when they tied up animals (sheep, horses, cows) at different distances from the epicenter of the explosion to test the affect of radiation.
All these measures and activities were planned, arranged and provided by imposing military functionaries, wearing General shoulder straps, and ignorant officials from different higher echelons of society and party authorities who considered a simple citizen, who saved them, to be a sort of an experimental sheep.
How can one appreciate at its true value the contribution, which you, soldiers, made, working hard in order to save nations of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and other nations, having entered battle with a nuclear monster, which went out of order?
The disaster was contained.
You loaded more than 5000 tons sand, lead and dolomite.
The pipeline for removing water from the fourth reactor was laid.
Three trainloads with marble aggregate were unloaded at the station Vilcha, Chernobyl district.
Decontamination of Chernobyl power station premises was fulfilled, which made the start of constructing the fourth reactor containment possible.
Contamination of 226 estates was carried, out.
For fulfillment of such amount of work in ordinary situation, you would have needed to activate 3 or 4 motorized battalions.
For you valorous work you were paid with
- Irradiation of the staff - 100%;
- Disability - 100%;
- You became unprotected from the side of the government;
- You lose you friends who die prematurely. When considering the percentage of the officers' staff, by the year 2009 25-30% have survived; the same is with the soldiers' staff of Special battalion 731.
The battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Muravsky V.V. died. The battalion commander Bosy N.F. has an artificial electric heart controller. The same situation is with the soldiers' staff of battalion 731.
Then, it will be said that not everybody can report this information on different reasons.
Was it necessary to mobilize urgently the forming of battalion 731?
As a senior officer of a tactical and strategic task force, I state, "No. That was not supposed to do even in a strategic plan". The units of civil defense of Chernobyl power station and Chernobyi district, Kiev region should have carried out the tasks set to Battalion 731, first, under the guidance of their commanders and chiefs of staff. If any necessity to involve military forces occurs, then according to military instructions ever, they activate subdivisions step-by-step: forward echelon, rear echelon, so on and so forth.
The Detached Battalion of Special Defense 731 belongs to a military unit of the third echelon with the combat readiness in 72 hours (3 days), stipulated by the plan of mobilization, which is the law. In this case, the commander of Kiev military district could activate one of military units put into operation in the area of ChNPS.
Unfortunately, not any of the structures had worked out in this direction, especially subdivisions of civil defense at all levels. They even did not inform through mass media about this formidable disaster. Their executives demonstrated their ignorance, incompetence and inaptitude to arrange and manage even some rescue operations.
It was known about the danger after the first minutes of disaster. The chief radiation supervisor Krasnozhon reported to the top executives that the level of radiation in the epicenter of explosion was more than 2500 Roentgen per hour. However, that data was distorted, and they gave other numbers in the reports. Here is the extract from the report of one of the department:
"As of the 26th of April, at 3 p. m., radioactive situation in the area of the disaster is defined by the level of gamma radiation in immediate proximity to the epicenter up to lOOmicroroentgen per hour... the situation at Chernobyl power station, in Prypyat and nearby settlements is under control; it was reported to the Central Committee of CPSU of Ukraine".
I personally had to meet the head of civil defense of Kiev region in Prypyat on April 26 1986 who at least was trying to provide coordination of their units' operations, though all his efforts were vain. The main majority of the soldiers from civil defense units went far away from these places. Soon, their chief district administrator followed his troops. There occurred the vacuum, which should be immediately filled up; and at the same time, of course, not to be in charge.
That is why, dear soldiers of Battalion 731, it was the main reason to send you who had nothing to do with atomic power engineering to that hell to rake up Chernobyl heat with your hands and your health, and you turned to be the live shield for covering the irresponsibility and inability of top authorities of all levels.
An unbelievable ignorance of the chief of Kiev district civil defense, who headed up incompetent staff, was revealed, and they let the people of Ukraine down. When planning the evacuation of the people from the zone of alienation they violated the order of evacuation and failed the total sanitization of evacuated machinery and people at the checkpoints. As a result, all radioactive dust was spread and carried on the outer garments of the people and the frameworks of the vehicles.
In that case, the state represented by the military department, acted subversively towards the people liable to military service, summoned from reserve. They did not get any instructions as for safety while working under radioactive affect. They were not supplied with personal radiation monitors DS-50, DKP-50, goggles, anti- radiation medicines, special rubberized military uniforms. The evil deeds, which are considered a crime against humanity in the international communities, were performed against you, soldiers. Let it be the divine justice.
It is a great pity that the government did not properly appreciate your heroic work and your substantial contribution in salvation of Ukraine and other countries from inevitable destruction. We addressed the Presidents of our country and the authorized representatives of the Supreme Soviet on human rights as for the implementation of the Law about Chernobyl disaster with no results. They made use of us in arduous period, and struck us from life as if we did not exist.
That was an open letter of a battalion commander of a Detached Special Defense Battalion 731, Colonel N.F.Bosy to the officers, warrant officers, sergeants and soldiers of that battalion, their families and relatives of the dead.
The fourth reactor burst. The photo was taken from helicopter, (The Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G.S.Pshenichny).
The preparation for climbing up the reactor's roof Protective clothes included a lead helmet for head and a lead apron for body. (Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
Helpfulness of reserve soldiers. The preparation for climbing up the reactor's roof to remove radioactive waste. Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
The work of disaster fighters on the roof of mechanical room. High level of radiation affected the film. (Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
The work of disaster fighters on the roof of the reactor. High level of radiation affected the film. (Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G.S.Pshenichny).
The work of disaster fighters on the roof of the third reactor. Protective clothes included an army cotton uniform and kersey boots. (Central State cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G.S.Pshenichny).
The work of disaster fighters on the roof of mechanical room. (Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
The work of disaster fighters on the roof of the third reactor, (Video-photo laboratory of Chernobyl power station, "On the edge of impossible"
The work of disaster fighters on the roof of mechanical room. (Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenkhny).
The miners are working. The drift under the fourth reactor. (Central Governmental Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
The basement rooms of administrative building of Chernobyl power station. Here, people had a rest after work. (Central Governmental Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G.S.Pshenichny).?
When walking down from the roof of the fourth reactor, (Central Governmental Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G, S. Pshenkhny)?
"A Miner, Where do you take your energy from?" Donetsk miners are working. The temperature is+35 degrees Centigrade. Tunnel under the fourth reactor. (Video ~ photo laboratory of Chernobyl power station. "On the edge of impossible".)
The graveyard of radioactive technical equipment (Rossokha) (Central National cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenkhny)
Points of special spray washing. Soldiers, disaster fighters are busy with decontamination of vehicles. (Central Governmental Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
The next trip in turn to Chernobyl power station. (Central Governmental Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
Return from the station to the military unit.(Central Governmental Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G. S. Pshenichny).
While waiting for the wreath-laying ceremony at the monument to perished soldiers-disaster fighters. Those who survived from Special Battalion731 revere their memory, (Photo taken by non-governmental organization of disaster fighters "Nabat").
Sarcophagus (protective cover) above the fourth reactor of Chernobyl power station, 60 meters high. Those were 7 months (206 days and nights) of tough schedule and intensive work, (Video-photo laboratory of Chernobyl power station. "On the edge of impossible")
The work of disaster fighters on the roof of mechanical room. (Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G.S.Pshenichny).
The admission pass of the author of the book Gudov V.A. On the pass, it is written in red "OVERALL". That pass gives the right of unlimited access to any restricted area of 30-kilometer zone in any time of day.
Radio controlled tractor on the roof near the chimney of the fourth reactor. (Central State Cinematographic Archive of Ukraine after G.S.Pshenichny).
Appeal to parents, wives and children of disaster fighters
I address to the parents of Chernobyl aftermath elimination disaster fighters at Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986 from our battalion. Your sons did an enormous work for the sake of salvation of humanity from radioactive Irradiation. That was a heroic job. They eliminated aftereffects of the disaster at Chernobyl power station, and staved off the iterated, larger-scale destructive, with more radioactive contamination explosion.
In extremely dangerous for people's health conditions, they loaded helicopters with sand, lead and dolomite. 5000 tons of loads passed through their hands for discharging on the fourth reactor. Tons of radioactive waste were removed and packed in special containers for shipment to radioactive waste storage. They decontaminated the floors and the walls In the rooms of the third and the fourth reactors; those were hectares of cleaned areas. Without any rest, at night, sparing neither strength nor health, they built winter tents, vegetable storage facilities, a canteen, a club. At that time, they stood for such a quick pace of work, did everything at a run. They did their best for other generations to live good standards of life. They were real sons of the nation. They were summoned from the people and left for the people. Unfortunately, no one will remember about them, but us. You, parents, should know that your sons are worthy of praise and awards. Thank you for such sons.
The wives of disaster fighters of our battalion, painful duty have fallen to your lot! Many soldiers departed this life, some after an endured disease, lying In beds. Some cannot control themselves being nervous very often. Do not leave them in these hard times. They are not guilty that had become the like. Remember, they protected you, your parents and your children by themselves. Let your care and devoted attention help them, show mercy.
Dear children, you are our future, and should know and remember about those tragic events in our country in the year 1986. If your father took part in elimination of aftereffects of disaster at Chernobyl nuclear power station, he is a real hero, a savior of millions of people. This is not an exaggeration.
We, summoned from reserve, were not given any decorations. The others, who were in authorities, assumed these merits. On this reason, do not judge person's merits by the awards. Nowadays, in peacetime, many officials, the heads of enterprises get the title of a Hero of Ukraine and orders only to commemorate some their next anniversary, or simply their posts and positions allow this.
That is why the merits of your father cannot be compared with anything. Be proud of him! He protected you, your future children and all the generations from radiation. Let his feat never fade in your memory and in the hearts of people.
Men, remember that tragedy for the sake of that not to happen again. Love each other, respect. Be always with dignity and self-respect. Never humiliate others and abase yourself. Be always worthy of the high title - a Human.
Address to the heads of the states
I address to the Presidents of the countries where the soldiers, disaster fighters of elimination of aftereffects at Chernobyl nuclear power station in the year 1986 live. I ask you to help and take care of them for the part of your government. They loaded the helicopters, removed radioactive waste, and decontaminated the rooms of the third and the fourth reactors. They took on their shoulders the main onerous burden of duty and responsibility. Nowadays, by the year 2009, from our special battalion 731 only 25% survived. They were summoned from reserve.
Now they are not needed. That was just them, who fulfilled the main work on elimination of the disaster aftermath at Chernobyl power station, and prevented even more disastrous explosion. Only people having shoulder straps, under the command, should have worked in the situations, where the machinery failed because of high- level radiation. The printed circuit boards in remote-controlled tractors, which worked on the premises of the fourth reactor, broke down. Those people worked without any protective means. They were called condemned men. They rescued from radiation the whole generation by themselves, being a sort of a live shield. They preserved the nature and ecology of the whole planet.
In Russian Federation, they appropriately treated the disaster fighters of aftermath elimination. In the republic of Belarus, there is an integral program of reconstruction of areas after radioactive contamination, and worthy financial support of Chernobyl soldiers on the governmental basis. That is why, being a close witness and a direct participant of those tragic for all humanity days in the year 1986, I address to all the states, despite the names of the countries, the people were summoned from, and what country they were living in now. Do all possible for normal life of soldiers, disaster fighters of the year 1986 who worked at Chernobyl power station. The fire fighters, helicopter pilots, miners, station employees and other people who were constructing the reactors' containment were in the same situation. They were undeservedly forgotten. If the past is forgotten, the mistakes cannot be excluded from the future.
Equity and concern for those people should be restored. They should live appropriately in any society. That is the duty and the debt of gratitude of any country for saving millions of lives and the ecology of our planet. You should remember about this not to repeat mistakes. Let the peaceful sky be above our Earth.
That is all that I could remember about the elimination of 1 aftereffects of the disaster at Chernobyl power station in 1986. Certainly, to recollect every day trip to the station is impossible. To make notes and to take photos was prohibited. Besides, the film under such levels of radiation would have been spoiled.
From my radioactive doze registration chart, you can see that there were many trips to the station.
In July, one day out of two was spent at the station.
In August, twenty days out of thirty-one were spent at the station.
In September, five days out of nine were spent at the station.
Approximately, the same number of trips all our battalion crews had. The health reminds of those formidable days we had to overcome. A person can have a rest from his manual labor, but stiff dose of ionizing radiation of tens and hundreds Roentgen leaves its pathological changes, which will constantly remind of it for the whole of your life. That is why there is one more phenomenon of Chernobyl-chronic fatigue syndrome. A person is having a rest but no result, having some constant tiredness. That is unusual. With the years, thinking about my fortune, I conclude - everything in nature is logical.
That is why we are not offended by the destiny for its trial, which it put us on. Each of us has predestination, and we passed it with honor; we saved health and lives of millions of people, having left our own. We wish you happiness, health and love.
25 years passed since the disaster at Chernobyl nuclear power station, but people are still worried about that tragedy. This is natural that everybody has his or her own reminiscences and problems connected with the post damage period. Especially it touches on the aftermath disaster fighters. Under the soviet power, the disaster fighters were socially protected. They received top pensions, could get health tickets to have rest at the health resorts, had free treatment at the hospitals and so on. After the Soviet Union disintegration, they started treating the disaster fighters in quite a different way, in a way they treated those who were not needed for society any more. It is sorrowfully to perceive this truth but we accept it as It is. Some sort of apathy towards the rescuers appeared from the side of the people. Moreover, that sort of attitude Is not In our country only, but In other ones as well. The European community says, "You are our rescuers", but not a single country of the world took up the cause of us as for the people's rights, observance and execution of laws In Ukraine, concerning us, the disaster fighters.
The positive is the fact that in Germany In 2011, there were held exhibitions about the disaster elimination at Chernobyl nuclear power station under the motto "Forgotten rescuers of Europe". The Initiator was Dortmund International Educational Center (Dortmund, Germany). The exhibitions took place in 50 cities of Europe. Later, in 2012, these were held in Ukraine.
In the years of Independence the Law on Chernobyl disaster Is not being fulfilled, not a single country of the world provided support to us. It looks as if the problem does not exist. If some politician, an oligarch, is brought before the court, the whole world starts shouting about. All are worried about the fortune of a single person. Nevertheless, why are they not worried about our destiny?
It happens so that the fate of one person is a tragedy, and the destiny of thousands of people Is statistics. From our Battalion by the year 2009, only about 25% are left alive, that is 75% of staff are dead and buried. They are hundreds of gone from life being at the height of activity. Young fellows, men left their lives. Women were left with small children. They needed to be fed, dressed, put shoes on, to be taught. There was no help from the country. The question was how to survive.
Survived soldiers from our Special Battalion 731 during the years of independence of Ukraine are trying to make the authorities to fulfill the law on Chernobyl, but without any success. We picketed the Administration of the President of Ukraine and announced the hunger strike, took part in the meetings at the walls of Verkhovna Rada. The only demand was the fulfillment of the Law on Chernobyl, and payment of pensions according to the Law. Not a single service man answered for the failure of carrying out the Law. It turns out that authorities of all levels fight against us. We are not needed any more.
Not a single country of the world supported us. The European Court of Justice keeps silence, the same silence the United Nations Organization and other organizations keep. We are not needed to anyone. Thinking about this problem, and comparing the facts, we see clearly that post Soviet countries (Ukraine among them) are subject to rigid exploitation from other more developed countries.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund), which is affiliated with the UN, gave the credit to Ukraine in 2011 under the condition that women would retire 5 years later, at the age of 60, like men. Ukraine, according to the information of Ukrainian Independent News Agency on the level of life expectancy, took 113- th place. So, life expectancy among women in Ukraine is 73.5 years, among men 67 years. For the last 15 years, the number of people in Ukraine has decreased by more than 5 million, birth rate decreased by 40%, death rate increased by 30%. Mortality among the able-bodied inhabitants is constantly rising.
According to research that was carried out by the Institute of Demography and social analysis of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, our country is on the last place in the European list of life expectancy. The population of Ukraine is simply dying out.
The International Monetary Fund is going to release the next tranche of the loan under the conditions of raising the housing and communal service tariffs. What privileges does the IMF have to demand to deteriorate life conditions in our country? They are the issues of politics, and the IMF should not act that way. The task is obviously to make the native population to die out quickly and to settle another nation. Thaw of glaciers, lack of food, and increase in number of infected and disaster areas, shortage of fertile areas dictate tough methods of seizing the lands without a single shot. It is known to all that received in Ukraine loan will be sent by our tycoons through fictitious companies, and transferred to offshore businesses on Cyprus. That money will work not for our country, but for IMF. The loan should be paid back at high interest. The heads of other countries welcome this, and then their countries use this money. When a revolution takes place in some country, then they quickly block the accounts of the president and his family. That happened in Libya. Why do not they block the accounts of our leaders, who cannot earn such money being the government employees? This is called corruption. In addition, this corruption is international, on governmental level. Billions of dollars are being transferred from our country to foreign countries. According to the data of National Bank of Ukraine, 29 billion dollars were transferred to offshore banks on Cyprus only in the year 2010.
In 1986, we shielded millions of people in our country and abroad against radiation, protected millions of hectares of land, saved ecology of our planet, speaking without exaggeration. My pension, for example, is $ 200 a month, or 170 Euros. One kilo of apples costs $1-$1.5, or 1 Euro. How can I live for this money? At the same time, our oligarchs transfer irretrievably billions of dollars from our country abroad, and they accept this money. Why should we, who rescued you, look at that international corruption and keep silent. Why should not we get appropriate free medical treatment?
As you know, not a single president or prime minister of developed countries keeps money in other countries. That would not be acceptable to their citizens and leaders of other countries.
As for the reasons of explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power station, they will never be revealed. The only purpose, evidently, was set, to disintegrate the Soviet Union. The method was found, and no one carried the responsibility, but the little man. To prove that, I should say that not a single head of legislative, executive or party officials was punished for disaster concealment. They did not even announce true information, for the soviet people were irradiated. The versions why the explosion took place could be several.
1. Engineering mistakes of this class of reactors (RMBK 1000).
2. Divergence of standards and objectives during the construction of this reactor.
3. Lack of professionalism or negligence of the employees of the station during the maintenance of the reactors and carrying out the tests.
4. Subversive act (prepared and fulfilled explosion of cooling system, which should lead to 100% burst of the reactor).
Intellectual subversive act. They processed all the data of that sort of reactors on the computers, and as a result received the characteristics that could lead to reactor's explosion. The command system of controlling the country was activated. The only person could have known about that. Under the experimental test covering, the command to carry it out was launched. The time and the place of this experiment was chosen successfully from the point of view of a supposed enemy.
1/ Densely populated areas, which include Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
2/ The experiment was carried out at night, when the attention and efficiency of the employees was always lower.
3/ The scientists were absent at such a dangerous experiment with the reactor.
4/ One employee of that shift was a young specialist, that was a man without any job experience at nuclear power station.
5/ The experiment was carried out before the weekend and May holidays, when great mass of people were supposed to go out for a walk and stay outside.
That may be some coincidence of events in such number, but why then they did not announce about the danger after the explosion, and millions of people of all ages got radiation? We can only suppose that it must have been the system, existing at that time. Why did the General Secretary of the Central committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union announce about the explosion on television for all the country only on May 14, nineteen days after the disaster? He did not tell anything about the real radiation levels. Is it by accident he was in the United States at that time, far from the explosion? Later, the USSR disintegrated, and Gorbachev was awarded the Peace Nobel Prize. The leaders of Europe, Great Britain and the USA respect him. His 80 years anniversary was pompously celebrated on the country level in Great Britain. Let me ask you, what merits did he deserve it for? Why did not the International Court of Justice file a claim on him for millions of irradiated and died prematurely people? May be because they were soviet people? Many questions stay without any answers.
It should be noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency was established in 1959, and Regulations of International Agency was validated on October 26 1956 at the International Conference, which was held at the Headquarters of the United Nations Organization. The Agency started its activity in Vienna beginning from July 29 1957. On November 14, The General Assembly adopted and sanctioned the agreement between IAEA and UN.
The revision of the Agreement WHA 12-40 between the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency was signed on May 28 1959 through its review at the World Health Care Assembly.
Article 1 of the Agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and The World Health Care Organization reads as follows. "In all the cases when one of the parties is going to start any program or activity on the issue of great importance for the other party, the first one should consult the other one to adjust the issue on the basis of mutual understanding".
For research works, "to settle the issues on the basis of mutual understanding," means to deprive the World Health Care Oiganization of any freedoms in the sphere of atomic disasters. Thus, after the disaster in Chernobyl, Doctor Hiroshi Nagadzima (the director of the World Health Care Organization from 1988 to 1998) wrote after the Conference in Geneva in 1995, "At the beginning of the year 1990, the Ministry of Health Care of the USSR appealed to the World Health Care Organization to set up a program of international help. In May 1991, the International project was completed by the efforts of the International Atomic Eneigy Agency". Therefore, it was just the IAEA, not the WHCO, who presented the project on request of the Ministry of Health Care of the USSR. That explains why the genetic lesions were ignored; those are considered the most significant after the publication in 1957, the reporting year of a research group called by the World Health Care Organization on "Genetic consequences of radiation effect on human".
Article 3 of this Agreement dictates, "The International Agency of Atomic Energy and the World Organization of Health Care should impose specified restrictions with the purpose of keeping a secret when offering confidential information. As it was mentioned above, that confidentiality brought to the fact that the propositions of the World Health Care Organization in Geneva in 1955 and in Kyiv 2001 about "the consequences of Chernobyl and other nuclear disasters, and their effect on human health" were not published. Doctor Nakadzima, who was the director of the WHCO up to 1998, corroborated on Italian television that the theses were subject to censorship in connection with the legal subordination of World Health Care Organization to the International Agency of Atomic Energy.
As we see, this anti human or blasphemous agreement exists up to now, for more than 50 years. I cannot name it some other way.
The disaster in Fukushima in 2011 proves that. The Prime Minister of Japan Naoto Kan was not informed immediately after the disaster. The information was delayed.
Hence, the facts make us feel sad. The humanity does not learn from the mournful lessons of the past; it continues pacing the same way as before. That is the road to the deadlock, where there is no way back.
Many questions arise, who we are, whether we are destructors or creators.
The task of our generation is to teach the youth to be kind, to have high moral and human merits, honor, virtue and mutual understanding. And for that, one should start with oneself.
There are three sorts of laws in nature.
1. Visible laws, people write them (the law, written on paper).
2. Visible laws, but people do not write them, and they do not depend on people (day-night change, seasons change).
3. Invisible laws, people do not write them and they do not depend on people.
That third law works in nature. It is said in the Bible, "the first will be the last, and the last will be the first. It is easier for a camel to get through the needle's eye, than for a rich man to get in Heaven". But people do not think of it, you know.
The people live decent lives when there are three principles of development of a state.
1. The idea (the purpose, which they seek to reach).
2. Welfare standards.
3. Religion (spirituality).
In the Soviet Union, the third principle was missing, and the country existed only 70 years.
These principles have been made and checked by humanity for many years, and people of all highly developed countries live according to them.
I, as a human, who survived in Chernobyl tragedy, appeal to the youth of all countries in the world, "You, young men, you have the whole life to live, all the roads lie open to you. You may live it with the problems created by the old generation, or you can create a life with new thinking of an advanced society, taking into consideration the mistakes of the past. You should not focus your attention on racial, religious, territorial and other problems. They will disappear if you think in a new way. You should have a new thinking about the arrangement of the World, without wars, violence and other negative phenomena.
Look at our planet from above and see how beautiful it is. You should take care of it. That is our common home we are living in. Its condition, its purity and comfort depends on us, on our mutual understanding. Everything is in plenty on our planet. You do not need to pile up all the riches in your own hands, which is the way to destruction. Accumulation of the riches is the remnant of the past, insignificance of human existence. It is their cupidity and primitivism. The people do not need too much; they need to live without problems. Accumulation of the riches is the scorn for other people, display of power and at the same time their own spiritual purposelessness.
Gudov Vladimir Anatolievich CV
Was born in a village Machulishchy, Putivlsky area, Sumy region in 1956.
In 1975 graduated from Rylsky State-farm technical school (permanent department), technician-mechanic.
1975-1977 served in the Group of Soviet Troops in Germany, Dresden, military unit 60560-M.
1977 - senior mechanic of motorcade N 2 at a motor-transport depot N 2 in Kharkiv.
1978-1983 Ukrainian, of Labour Red Banner Award, agricultural Academy (permanent department), engineer-mechanic.
1980-1983 - military sub-faculty; was given a military rank: lieutenant (deputy commander in charge of politics of a tank company).
1983-1985 - an engineer on auto-tractor fleet exploitation of the collective farm "Way to Communisms, village Pylypovka, Fastov area, Kyiv region
1985 - military training camp, deputy battalion commander in charge of politics. A training regiment in Merepha, Kharkiv region
1985-1986 - chief engineer of a collective farm "Zhovten", village Yakhny, Fastov area, Kyiv region.
In 1986 - took part in elimination of a disaster aftermath at Chernobyl nuclear power station as a member of a military unit 32207 (summoned by a regional military registration and enlistment office).
1986-1993 - worked at the plant MMI&AE (Monitoring-Measuring Instruments and Automatic Equipment), later it was reorganized in BOMP (Bortnichsky Experimental Mechanical Plant).
- Senior engineer of a Department of Technical control.
- Senior Control Foreman of Group 2.
- The chief of a Technical Monitoring Bureau.
- Deputy Chief engineer.
- Acting deputy director in charge of production
- Deputy director in charge of production
1993-1996 - the chairman of a City Sports Club "Sputniks
1996-1997 - the main expert in Administration of Energy and Resources saving of an Industrial Ministry.
1997-2000 - Vice-Chairman of the City Sports Club "Sputnik".
2000-2001 - the coach in physical Training (Sambo).
Since 2001 - entrepreneur - paints pictures on canvas.
2009-2011 - Doctoral Candidate of International Academy of Human Resources (International Open University, Inter-regional Academy of Personnel Management).
2011 - Doctor of Philosophy in the sphere of International Relations. Member of National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, Special correspondent of newspaper the "Chernobyl Post", Reserve Lieutenant-Colonel, Ambassador for Peace.
Combat path of Battalion 7
Before the disaster. Peaceful life 8
Conscription. Wartime 10
Special Battalion 13
Elimination of consequences of the disaster at
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station 16
First impressions 16
"... In order that the others should get less" 33
Work days 38
We were not decorated with orders 64
The last days in the Battalion 66
After the disaster 72
From the recollections of Special Battalion soldiers 76
The first signal 76
According to the law of war 78
"Guys, who has any proposals?" 81
Lower temperature immediately! 82
Twenty-five Roentgen, was that the limit? 83
Low bow to you, disaster fighters 84
Flights above the target 85
Let us ask your dosimetrist, and go to check 88
Executed an order - sign your name 89
From Sun heat and radiation it was tickling In a throat and we felt dizzy 92
We decided to cope shedding hardly any blood 94
At the beginning of elimination, there was chaos and confusion 99
"I am still there, in nowadays Chernobyl zone. Author Sergey Babakov 100
You don't count on it! 119
Open letter of a Commander of a radiological protection Battalion 731,
reserve Colonel Bosy N. F. to battalion staff 124
Appeal to parents, wives and children of disaster fighters 146
Address to the heads of the states 148
Concluding part 150
Gudov Vladimir Anatolievich CV 158
СЕРІЯ "ДРЕВО РОДУ"
У цій книзі - спогади ліквідаторів наслідків аварії на ЧАЕС 1986 року. Найнебезпечнішу і важчу роботу довелося їм виконувати, щоб заглушити четвертий реактор, який вибухнув, щоб понизиш рівень радіації. Вони зробили великий подвиг - за сім місяців після вибуху прибрали тонни радіоактивного сміття і Грунту, дезактивували гектари площ всередині і навколо реакторів, таким чином понизивши радіоактивний фон у десятки, а то й в сотні разів. Завдяки виконаній роботі виселення людей обмежилося 30-кілометровою зоною. Мета книги - донести до читачів, як все відбувалося.
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