"Communities, Disaster & Change" is a traveling exhibition coordinated by the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive, in Valdez, Alaska. It provides a twist on the fiftieth anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake commemoration through its connection with other communities and other disasters. The exhibit will travel around the state as well as to Oregon, and Hawaii. The full travel schedule and complete online gallery of the exhibit can be seen here.

This blog serves as a place to host a global conversation about the indomitable nature of the human spirit and communities' reactions to change, how they survive disaster and how they rebuild for the future. We hope this can be a tool for people like you, all across the world, to reach out and share your stories on survival and the will to carry on.

If you have seen the exhibit whether online or in person we want to know your reaction to the work of these twenty-eight Alaskan artists. Please join us in an ongoing conversation, and chime in with your thoughts, views and your personal stories of your community, disaster, and change.

16 June 2015

Community Disaster In Chernobyl

Graffiti near what was once Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

Another haunting story of a community’s struggle as a result of disaster began April 26, 1986 when nuclear reactor No. 4 exploded in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The following day, in Pripyat, a small town built for Chernobyl nuclear reactor workers and their families, people were forced to abandon the life they once knew for fear of radiation poisoning. The nuclear explosion created a radioactive cloud that blanketed Pripyat and nearby towns.

The Chernobyl nuclear reactor fire burned for thirty days. Some would describe it as a glowing orb, almost beautiful. At first, there was no mention of the explosion from the Soviet government. It wasn’t until the following day that 1,100 buses were ordered to evacuate Pripyat. 100,000 workers and their families left their personal belongings, no matter how valuable, for fear of contamination.

One can hardly imagine what was going on in the minds of these victims after the explosion. Many feared disease and painful death through radiation poisoning. Those that worked to clean up the reactors died agonizing deaths. It was reported in some cases organs disintegrated, limbs developed sores and body parts just became separated from the victim’s bodies.

Copyright Jan Smith
from Visual News, Online

After the evacuation, houses and belongings were left untouched for  nearly twenty years. The modern day visitor can capture a glimpse of how life was before the nuclear meltdown. Unknown Ukrainian artists have painted dark silhouettes of children on these abandoned buildings. The black figures haunt the old buildings of Chernobyl. Jan Smith captures these ghostly memories through her photographic images. Check them out here: http://www.smithjan.com/portfolio.html
A reader might wonder how these victims fair today after enduring such a sudden catastrophe. Those that are alive today retell their stories. “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of the Nuclear Disaster” by Svetlana Alexievich is a book capturing their experiences.
Lost Dwelling Near Chernobyl
As I was researching the events surrounding Chernobyl I came across an article discussing the effects of radiation on the surrounding forests. Insects, microbes and fungi are among some of the vital ingredients in forest decomposition. Twenty years later, environmentalists have found trees in forests around Chernobyl have not properly decayed. 
It wasn’t just the people so drastically effected by the nuclear explosion. It was the natural environment and the soviet economy that suffered, as well. The effects have lasted twenty years and will continue. Retelling stories and connecting with other survivors has helped victims of Chernobyl cope. What can we do for the natural environment that was also a victim to radiation poisoning?  Do we let it be? Do we try to restore it?


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