Poliske, a town of 11,000 inhabitants evacuated 6 years after the disaster.
The end of the world. The lifeless streets. The radiometer crackling on the contaminated plates. Packs of stray dogs. Disturbing silhouettes in the bushes. The sound of Stalkers’ hammers tearing through the metal of abandoned houses.
And then, in the distance, I had seen Larissa, dragging her cart.
Larissa, thin, brunette, her face marked. She lived here with about ten people, most of them elderly.
Larissa used to live in the centre, in a building. She worked for the town hall. After the disaster, she had helped the inhabitants left the city and she chose to stay.
Why leave elsewhere? To go where? To Kiev? And join the ranks of the unemployed?
No. To stay. To find a wooden house. To go back to the time of the harvest. To get water from the fountain. Sell metal. And with the few grivnas, buy cigarettes at the street grocery shop.
The Chernobyl zone is a nightmare. It is also a refuge.
When I returned in April 2016, the city centre had changed little. The birch tree that used to grow through the manhole is bigger. The murals in the Palace of Culture have disappeared. The metal looters have deserted, replaced by young illegal hikers from Kiev.