10.07.2020

Chronicle of the Dead City (Part - 1)

Memories of Alexander Esaulov
Part one

From the author
WHEN THE ACCIDENT HAPPENED at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, I worked as deputy chairman of the executive committee of the Pripyat city council of deputies, in modern terms, was the deputy mayor of the city. I am sure that many will shrug their shoulders in bewilderment: what has Pripyat to do with it? The accident was in Chernobyl! And those who know what and how happened in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant will just shrug their shoulders in bewilderment: what a stupid question? Pripyat, in fact, is the city where NPP workers and builders lived, who continued to build the 5th and 6th power units of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. Chernobyl was located fifteen kilometers from the station, and fifteen thousand people lived there. Pripyat was three kilometers away, and the city had fifty thousand people. But Pripyat did not seem to exist in the press. There was a modest village of power engineers. No name, no people. These notes were written in hot pursuit, in 1987-1989. All surnames, names and data are genuine.


I DON'T KNOW WHAT MEMORY GAME is caused by the fact that I remember this, in general, an ordinary conversation. Igor Nikiforovich Rakitin and I, who worked as the chief of staff of the city's civil defense in 1984, sat in his "dovecote" (as the executive committee called his room on the fifth floor). Looking at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was visible from the window, I asked:
- Igor Nikiforovich, what if one day she pisses off?
Rakitin, slowly dragging on a cigarette with the strongest Cuban tobacco, began to competently tell me why a nuclear explosion is impossible at a nuclear power plant. Then, after a little thought, he added:
- If we assume that an explosion is possible, then only a thermal one. For example, if the reactor suddenly stops cooling, and then water flows, it is cold and a lot, but everything is so reinsured that even theoretically it is very unlikely, but in practice ...
Then, after the accident, I asked him if he remembered this conversation, but Rakitin just shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment.


So, what was not allowed even theoretically, did happen.
How was that first night, the night that divided history into "before" and "after", the night that became the yardstick for many of humanity's mistakes? It was surprisingly everyday, this night. The call of the secretary of the city executive committee Maria Grigorievna Boyarchuk, who picked me up at half past four in the morning, did not cause any special emotions, except perhaps a feeling of annoyance for the interrupted sleep. Annoyance and surprise, as before that there had been accidents at the station, and quite serious ones, but the executive committee never raised them “in the gun” because of this. The station has its own civil defense units. The civil defense of the city in case of accidents at the station was not involved in actions. The accidents that had occurred before were eliminated quickly and without unnecessary noise, which gave the impression that in such cases there were no special difficulties and could not be. Fire? Well, there was a fire at the station, however, on a block under construction, so this was also not news.


Just in case, B.C. Ivaschenko (Rakitin was already working at the station at that time). Nobody knew what to do. The second secretary of the city party committee A.A. Veselovsky, who remained "on the farm" since A.S. Gamanyuk was in Kiev, in the hospital, he had already left for the station (V.P. Voloshko was also there).
To be honest, I don’t remember whether there was someone in the city committee besides the one on duty that night, but even if there was, there was hardly any clarity there. And what information could we have at that time? Workers of the station, highly qualified specialists, figured out more or less what's what, at about eight or nine in the morning.
It was useless to call the station, because either no one answered the phone, or they answered evasively and unintelligibly. All that remained was to wait for the chief to arrive from the station and bring at least some clarity. We went to our offices. An ambulance flew silently down Kurchatov Street, overlooking the windows of my office, carrying two swaying columns of light in front of it.

- Are there really victims? Did something serious happen after all?
I couldn't believe it. It turned out that it is very difficult to overcome the belief that we have no catastrophes, and if something and somewhere, then necessarily "there are no casualties or destruction" is very difficult.
The second ambulance flew just the same noiselessly, and then, as they say in Ukraine, I felt “motor-shocked”. No, not scary, it was still unknown what to be afraid of, but somehow chilly, uncomfortable, vague ...
- But what happened there, at this damned station ?!
The chief arrived, but there was no more clarity. Somehow, by the way, he mentioned that at the request of the KGB, a long-distance automatic telephone exchange was turned off. Subsequently, as I was told, this, as well as the fact that bus routes to Kiev of our ATP were canceled, were blamed on the executive committee and personally V.P. Voloshko. To be honest, not even taking into account the purely psychological moment (of course, the KGB demanded! Not by the city committee, not by the prosecutor's office, but by the KGB! If someone now blames me for the fact that we were afraid and even respected the KGB in vain, that we and in general the KGB is not a firm, then let them excuse me, but I will send them to hell. Those who were not afraid of the KGB were in prisons and psychiatric hospitals. simply assessing this fact from the point of view of an ordinary resident, an economic executive, there is nothing wrong with that, especially since those who needed such a connection on issues related to the accident were provided with it. And a few words about the cancellation of bus routes. Flights were canceled until further notice from the executive committee, until the situation was clarified. Did we act right or wrong then? Even now I do not have a ready answer to this question. Would people be taken away from the accident site? At least those who went to Kiev. Probably. But after all, as it turned out later, ATP-3101 was covered with a cloud of radioactive dust and there was a rather high level of contamination on its territory, which means that the buses “rang” too, and during the entire trip (almost three hours) passengers would be exposed to intense radiation, and, besides, they would have taken this "dirt" to Kiev. Upon arrival, the buses would be loaded and took the unsuspecting passengers to Pripyat, facing the same accident. What's better?


Here, one cannot ignore the question of why the inhabitants of Pripyat were not warned by the executive committee about the accident and why elementary precautions were not taken.
I did not see the instructions regulating the actions of the NPP management in case of an accident, but I was told by the responsible persons who saw it. It named the addressees to whom the NPP management had the right to provide data on the radiation situation. There is no city committee or executive committee among these addressees. The lowest level of leadership where such information could be submitted is the secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Moreover, when in the end the second secretary of the regional committee V.G. Malomuzh managed to get such information from the director of the Chernobyl NPP V.P. Bryukhanov, it turned out to be deliberately distorted, and this was marked by the court's verdict. Who distorted it - V.P. Bruchanov or his subordinates - I don't know.

 

The end of the first part.

 

© A. Esaulov

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