View from the Hotel Polissya


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Walk the streets of any city, and after a few hours you begin to think you have a feel for that place. But out of curiosity, you seek out a higher view. You find a nice hill to climb, or find a statue or a building with dominating view, and you get a totally different feel of the place. On the ground, you are like ants, and you get an ant’s eye view. On higher ground, you soar like a bird, and then, only then, can you really begin to see and understand what a place is about.

Pripyat is like that.

On the ground, you experience the encroachment of nature, the streets and parks and playgrounds mutating into paths through a wooded forest. In such an environment, there couldn’t possible a threat of radiation. But on high, you get a distinctly different view. You see a city and what certainly was a wonderful place to live and to raise a family. And you see a place, that at the height of its grandeur, was abandoned to forces beyond its control. You see what was, and envision what could have been. And you get a firm reminder that no matter how much man likes to think he can control nature and the planet, that it is all transitory. One mistake, one careless moment, and what took decades to build is abandoned to the capricious will of Mother Nature, and left to return to her domain.

Looking at Pripyat from on high, one sees destruction and man’s work falling apart. But what actually happened here? Some might think the Chernobyl accident caused the blown out windows and the crumbling facades. But you’d be wrong. And twenty-six years of neglect and weathering only explains a part of the story. The story of Pripyat’s destruction is much more basic than that. Most of it was manmade. Here’s what happened.

A long time after the initial evacuation, former residents were allowed back to gather furniture and belongings of their former life. As long as it was not overly radioactive and as long as they could transport it themselv