Because Chernobyl is Safer Than a War Zone

A sign warns against going in the woods within the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Radiation is most concentrated in the soil and in the vegetation, making these areas particularly dangerous. Getty Images.

After four years in a war zone in eastern Ukraine where getting caught in mortar fire happened regularly, Maryna Kovalenko had had enough. As Zhanna Bezpiatchuk reports at BBC, Kovalenko moved her two daughters to relative safety: an abandoned farm just outside Chernobyl’s 30km exclusion zone.

The pro? A quiet existence free from crossfire. The con? Potentially deadly radiation in the soil, water, and trees.

“After what you witness in war, radiation is nothing. It was a miracle we survived.”

It’s not just the absence of war, but a special kind of peace.

Both Maryna and Vadim’s families talk about their love of taking long quiet walks in the forest.

Life may be basic, but neither family wants to move to a bigger town, even if it would mean more friends or opportunities. Their need for stillness after fleeing from the chaos of war is sobering.

“I don’t care about the radiation,” says Maryna. “I only care that there are no shells flying over my children. It’s quiet here. We sleep well and we don’t need to hide.”

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