recalls, that they went there very often. Every weekend, sometimes once a month. Valya’s future daughter-in-law, Lena, who is now 25, remembers her summer “vacations” to the zone when she was a child: “We often went to see our grandparents and spent the summer swimming in rivers and picking berries and mushrooms in the forests.” The richness of the Chernobyl area is noted by all people who lived there. They used to go to the exclusion zone to pick up berries and mushrooms, hunting and fishing. When asked, if it was dangerous, they just shrug their shoulders and say it might well be cleaner there than in most modern cities. Although this is forbidden, they sometimes smuggle the fruit, fish and berries they get in the zone to sell them in Kiev unregulated markets. One of the villagers, Nadya, speaks nostalgically about old days in Ladyzhychi: “We didn’t buy anything—she says,— we had all we needed. We had fish, mushrooms, berries. We’d only buy sugar and we had everything else in plenty from the forest and from our field.” Traditionally, the week after Easter is the commemoration week in Ukraine, when many Orthodox Christians visit the graves of their ancestors. On these days the people of Novi Ladyzhychi go to the exclusion zone by transportation that is specially organized by local authorities. “There used to be eleven buses going into the zone—Valya says,-- This year it was only two buses.” A lot of old people have died by now, she says, and the young ones move out, to the towns and cities where they have better chances of finding a job. The Ukrainian law about the status and protection of those affected by Chernobyl explosion defines them as “The participants of the liquidation of the Chernobyl catastrophe effects and those
Top: Nastya, sitting on the bench in the garden. Right: Ivan standing in front of the mirror in his kitchen. Bottom: A villager leaving Novy Ladyzhychi.
who suffered because of Chernobyl catastrophe—citizens, including children that suffered from the influence of radiation exposure as a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe”. Valya belongs to both categories and the compensation she receives from the government amounts to 444 UAH (around 44 Euros) per month. Together with the retirement pension, she receives the total of 1200 UAH (120 Euros) from the government monthly. Valya says this is barely enough to get through, as only her asthma inhaler costs 51 Euros and needs to be purchased every month. Ivan, Valya’s neighbour, also receives a pension from the government, as he is disabled and can’t work. He says he helps his mother around the house and in the garden. Ivan likes to watch television —especially thrillers, soap operas and TV shows. At the moment Valya lives alone in her house in Novi Ladyzhychi. Her husband has died 9 years ago. She still doesn’t feel like home in the new village and constantly thinks of the Ladyzhychi, which is still the only real motherland for her. Now that she is retired, Valya spends her time embroidering. “My soul rests when I embroider,”—she says. 44