Thirty-three years later after the most terrible man-made disaster on the planet, the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant again became one of the world’s top news. This time – due to miniseries “Chernobyl” filmed by HBO and rated as the most successful show ever.
HBO’s “Chernobyl” caused quite a sensation and has already been watched by millions of people around the world. After the release of the series, the topic of the Chernobyl disaster again attracted journalists, who also have a unique opportunity to interview the participants of that catastrophe and find out their assessment of the depicted facts.
It was especially interesting how the series will be accepted by people in Ukraine and Belarus since the Chernobyl disaster most affected these countries.
“Chernobyl”, based on true events, is not just a historical blockbuster about the past that cannot be changed, and about the country that doesn’t exist anymore. This is an attempt to analyze the readiness of the society and each person to take responsibility for their actions and mistakes. It’s about the past, which affects our present and future.
What happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986, at 1:23 a.m., when it became the most dangerous place on the planet? Was it possible to avoid the accident, and how to prevent such disasters in the future?
The creators of “Chernobyl” are trying to give all the answers, reconstructing the chain of events which resulted in tragic consequences. Minute-by-minute, we witness the devastating explosion and its terrible impact.
While making the series, the screenwriter of “Chornobyl” Craig Mazin and the director Johan Renck used the evidence-based materials, newly declassified documents, the memories of eyewitnesses and participants of the tragedy. According to the experts and witnesses of the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the events in the series are depicted very reliably and realistic. Great attention is paid to details. The reconstruction of the Soviet everyday life, interiors, clothes of the 1986 year is very authentic.
The city of Pripyat, where the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located, also looks very similar. Pripyat was a hometown for people, who worked at the plant and hardest hit by the explosion. Nowadays it’s a ghost town, totally abandoned for more than thirty years. So, the series was mainly filmed in Kiev, Vilnius and the small Lithuanian city of Visaginas, near which the similar to the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located.
What is the most interesting and fascinating about “Chernobyl” is that almost all the characters are real. The plot is based on the stories of people, who participated in those events and were involved in the elimination of consequences at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
The first episode starts two years after the explosion, with the suicide of the main character, professor Valery Legasov. It immediately creates a dramatic effect and turn us back to the tragic events of the Chornobyl disaster.
What is the cost of lies? This question, asked by Valery Legasov before his death, hunts us throughout all the five episodes. We think about it, watching the children and adults, walking under the flying radioactive ash. This question arises again when we see firefighters, working without protective clothing, just minutes after the explosion. What happens, when the country’s leaders put their personal and party interests over the interests of citizens, their health and safety? And are we ready to accept the truth that we don’t like? We must, ourselves, to answer these questions.
We also get acquainted with Vasily Ignatenko and his wife. Vasily was among the first firefighters who were putting the fire out at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant just after the explosion. At the end of the last episode, the viewers will learn more about the future of Lyudmila Ignatenko, who was pregnant at the time of the catastrophe and was at the hospital with her husband all the time, endangering her life and the life of their unborn child. Now Lyudmila lives in Kiev and gives interviews to journalists interested in her story after the “Chernobyl” series.
Explosion at the Chernobyl NPP was a man-made disaster, which has never happened before. And, apparently, it was unexpected. Therefore, most people are confused and do not know how to behave, how to deal with the fire, and how to prevent a subsequent disaster. The eyewitnesses say that, overall, there was not a full understanding of the situation, but the work was well-organized and not so chaotic.
We notice that most people don’t aware of the risks they face. Nuclear power plant operators didn’t have a dosimeter to measure an actual radiation level. But all the workers of the nuclear power plant who were on the shift that night received the dose of radiation, incompatible with life. We are witnessing the terrible consequences of acute radiation sickness that destroys their bodies. And it’s even more horrible since it happened in real life and with real people.
But even when all the danger of the catastrophe became apparent, the highest authorities chose to keep in secret this information to avoid provoking the panic and to prevent any data from being leaked abroad.
Professor Valery Legasov, the Council of Ministers‘ deputy chairman Boris Shcherbina,and a nuclear physicist from Belarus Ulyana Khomyuk are trying to reveal the truth and warn people about the danger of radiation. But this time they face another problem – corrupt Soviet government which tries to conceal the disaster at all costs. In this story, Ulyana Khomyuk is only one fictional character, based on several personalities of scientists who worked with Valery Legasov and helped him with his investigation.
An exciting plot of the series, unparalleled suspense and tenses keep us engaged and interested throughout all the five episodes of “Chornobyl”.
But it shouldn’t be forgotten, that “Chernobyl” is an artistic series based on real events and documentary sources. To create a dramatic effect and tension, some facts, characters, and sequence of events have been changed. For example, the scene with people on the bridge during the night of the explosion, as well as a scene with a dead bird was completely fictional.
The eyewitnesses and the participants of the accident in particular do not agree with the film characters of Anatoly Dyatlov and Viktor Bryukhanov, the managers of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, who were found guilty of the explosion. In the series, they are shown in a negative light, as irresponsible and rude people, who care only about their personal interests. But their former colleagues totally disagree with such characteristics. They say about Dyatlov and Bryukhanov as about responsible and experienced managers, who couldn’t prevent the explosion in given circumstances. It was also difficult to make a proper assessment of what really happened with the fourth reactor. The series gives a definite answer to what caused the accident and who was responsible for it. But in fact, it wasn’t so clear. And in real life, there has never been such a scene at the court, which we see at the end of the last episode of “Chernobyl”.
According to experts, the threat and the consequences of a thermal explosion have been also greatly exaggerated. But one of the most dramatic scenes with divers really happened in May 1986. The difference is that they were not volunteers but responsible for the safety, which is anyway doesn’t diminish they heroism and courage. The divers were supposed to descent under the reactor and to drain water from the reservoirs. They have been predicted a quick and painful death from radiation sickness. But fortunately, none of them received critical doses of radiation, and two of divers still alive till nowadays.
One of the most vivid, memorable and controversial scenes was the episode with the Tula miners, who were digging a tunnel under the reactor totally naked. Surely, in real life the miners haven’t been naked, as well as there were not so many crates of vodka, and drunk people on the territory of the Chernobyl NPP.
Experts also claim that the helicopter crash, which is depicted in the series as the result of radiation, happened several months later due to the fact that the helicopter caught on the cable of a crane.
In Ukraine, the series “Chernobyl” was highly appreciated by the audience and experts. But the ordinary Ukrainians do not take “Chernobyl” as a historical show. Because for many of them the events depicted in the series are still fresh and painful memories from their life. Probably, every adult resident of Kiev can share his personal experience and memories about the Chernobyl disaster and the following events. They still remember the panic that spread throughout the city and the whole country several days after the explosion; they remember overcrowded airports and railway stations; they remember parents, who tried to take their children away from the danger.
How many people have been victims of the catastrophe and how much damage has been caused to the natural environment? These questions are unlikely to be answered in the coming years since the effects of radiation can be manifested in many forms and for a long time.
High levels of radiation were recorded in several European countries. About 200,000 square kilometers of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were polluted. The city of Pripyat was completely evacuated, and thousands of people were left without shelters. A 30-kilometer Exclusion zone was created, and it is still unsuitable for human life.
Nowadays the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and the ghost town of Pripyat are almost uninhabited. Despite the fact that it is forbidden to settle in the Exclusion zone, about 200 people are still live there. A few years after the accident and after people left the region, the nature of the Exclusion zone began to recover; a lot of rare and endangered animal species return here. So, on the territory of the Exclusion zone was created a nature reserve. In recent years, the Exclusion zone and ghost town of Pripyat become popular tourist destinations. So that everyone can come here to find the answers and to see the most dangerous place on the planet.