The Women of Chernobyl -- Photos

Twenty-five years after the world’s worst nuclear accident, More visits a hardy community of women who’ve made a home in Chernobyl’s desolate, radioactive surroundings. Why they chose to live here after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is an inspiring tale—about the pull of ancestral lands, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk. Read the full story here.

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A Country of Women #1

Galina Konyushok, 71

“People who left have a lot of problems. When you live outside your village, you leave your soul,” says galina. After the accident, she helped collect and transport contaminated wheat out of Chernobyl to feed the cleanup workers; now she has thyroid cancer. Her exquisite needlework, seen at right, employs traditional folk patterns and images of Jesus Christ. The biblical verse in the frame reads, “I give you a new command: love one another.”

Rena Effendi

A Country of Women #2

Hanna Zavorotnya, 78

“The main thing is that we have pig fat and vodka,” says Hanna, dismissing concerns about the difficulties of life in the radioactive zone. Most of the homes in her village were abandoned after the explosion, leaving space plentiful for those who returned. Now Hanna’s pigs have a barn, and her root vegetables have an entire cottage to themselves.

Rena Effendi

A Country of Women #3

Pripyat, the largest town in the exclusion zone. The now-ghostly and highly radioactive company town of Pripyat is three kilometers from reactor no. 4. Contaminated scrap metal, and toilet seats looted from the buildings here, find their way to china and eastern Europe. Since 1999 it has been possible to tour the area on structured visits, with a guide.


Rena Effendi

A Country of Women #4

Homegrown—and radioactive?

Once a week, the government provides a bus to drive exclusion zone residents to a town where they can shop for uncontaminated provisions. The babushkas eat homegrown food as well, but visitors to the zone are advised not to do so. (They are also warned not to breathe deeply while there.)

A Country of Women #5

Maria Vitosh, 86
“A pigeon flies close to his nest. I would never leave my home,” says maria, who receives a monthly pension of 800 hryvnia (about $100) from the government. Her son, now 60, who lives in a neighboring village, worked in Chernobyl for 12 years after the accident, planting new trees after the radioactive ones were removed.

A Country of Women #6

Maria Urupa, 77
“My dream? To live long and have good health,” says Maria. “so far i have it. I can walk. Last year i could walk better.” in 1986 a doctor told her she’d be dead in two to three years.

A Country of Women #7


Nadezhda Tislenko, 71

When this widow met up with more’s team—reporter, photographer, translator— she immediately called a neighbor, saying, “hurry, quick, come over. There’s interesting people here, and they’re not missionaries!”

A Country of Women #8

Once Hanna Zavorotnya, 76, got her hands on the April issue of MORE, featuring her and her Chernobyl comrades, she put down the pig knife and relaxed with the magazine. Nastrovia, Hanna!

First Published Thu, 2011-03-31 17:13

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