Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future by Svetlana Alexievich

By Svetlana Alexievich

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Example text

Somehow they could sense the danger. And I was told the cats had stopped eating the dead mice, leaving them strewn over the fields and yards. Death lurked everywhere, but this was a different sort of death. Donning new masks, wearing a strange guise. Man had been caught off guard, he was not ready. Ill-prepared as a species, our entire natural apparatus, attuned to seeing, hearing and touching, had malfunctioned. Our eyes, ears and fingers were no longer any help, they could serve no purpose, because radiation is invisible, with no smell or sound.

But then, there were no people left in this closed city: access to the zone of strict radiation control was restricted. Was that why they chose it as the site for the hearing: fewer people meaning less publicity? There were no camera crews or Western correspondents present. Of course, everyone would have liked to see in the dock the dozens of guilty officials, including those in Moscow. Modern science itself should have been called to account. Instead, they settled for scapegoats. The verdict was delivered: Viktor Bryukhanov, Nikolai Fomin and Anatoly Dyatlov got ten years each.

There was a colonel, with a walkie-talkie. ’ For two or three hours, we were driving around Moscow, round the ring road. Then we came back into town. Over the walkie-talkie, we could hear: ‘Access to the cemetery is denied. The cemetery is besieged by foreign journalists. ’ Our parents kept quiet. My mum was in a black headscarf. I felt like I was about to faint. I had hysterics. ‘Why do you have to hide my husband? What is he – a murderer? A criminal? A convict? ’ She stroked my head, held my hand.

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