Regular readers will know the significance of December 14th in the Chernobyl community.
This is the day that is dedicated to the liquidators who risked and gave their lives in order to clean up the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster.
About 226,000 liquidators were involved in recovery operations in the 30-kilometer zone between 1986 and 1987, the hardest two years since it was during this period that the highest doses of radiation were received by the participants in the cleaning of the area.
On November 30, 1986, the construction of the “sarcophagus” was completed, an insulating structure built immediately after the explosion of the fourth reactor. Its construction required 400,000 cubic meters of concrete and 7,000 tons of metal structures. It was built in the shortest possible time, 206 days, and its construction involved 90,000 liquidators. Positioned as a protective envelope above the destroyed reactor, it was to serve to protect the population from radiation.
After two weeks, in a communist newspaper called “Pravda”, an article was published concerning the completion of the work on the sarcophagus. The day of the release of this article in the press was December 14, 1986 and it is precisely for this reason that this date was chosen for the establishment of the day in honor of the participants in the settlement of the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Immediately after the press article came out, many of the liquidation participants gathered to celebrate their victory over the radioactive nightmare, and for many years to come, December 14th became their holiday in their ranks.
Some time ago, it was understood that the amazing, but unauthorised memorial to these people in Chernobyl was in a dire state of repair. However, as the monument was not official – it was not any organisations responsibility.
This internationally renowned monument was constructed 10 years after the Chernobyl tragedy, in 1996 and dedicated not only to the firefighters and others that lost their lives at the time of the incident but also to the 600,000 workers involved in containing and clearing up the aftermath, otherwise known as the ‘liquidation’ of the Chernobyl disaster.
The idea of creating the monument originated in May 1995, when the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy was approaching and a plan to commemorate the work of the liquidators was discussed and, after 4 months of gathering information and processing many sketches, a working design was approved and the location of the monument was chosen to be in the immediate vicinity of the fire brigade station; to the left of the gate and checkpoint, to be precise.
On April 15, 1996, the sculptural composition, ‘To Those Who Saved the World’, was installed on the site and officially unveiled on April 26, 1996; the 10th anniversary of the disaster.
For over two decades, every year on the anniversary of the tragedy, hundreds of people have lined up near the monument, a siren has been sounded and people have laid flowers at its base. This has become a special, sacred place for those whose relatives died during the liquidation.
These days, you can find many photos near the monument, and it has even become an international symbol of the city of Chernobyl, where visitors stop to honour the dead and take photos in memory of the great tragedy of our time.
To raise money, we have organised a special 6-day trip to Chernobyl, you can either pay for a place on this trip, or you can make a donation for entry into a free prize draw to win a place. Entry into the prize draw starts at €10 and further information is available here. We are drawing the winner on December 31st and there is an option to donate until this time.
Today, 14th December 2020, there was a memorial service held here that had more meanings than normal – for this was the official re-dedication of the memorial after the reconstruction was completed.
From a personal point of view, I would like to thank every single person who has donated to this project – it is proof that even during Covid-19 we can come together and achieve amazing things, the first proof of this was during the fires this year when we raised thousands of pounds in just a few days. I am amazingly proud of the international Chernobyl community we have, I am extremely proud of everyone who is working in part of our small team at Contamination Zone, especially Alexandra and Mariya who are always changing their plans and doing things for me at a moments notice. Also thanks must go to Alex Sirota for being our go-to-guy with this project, and for organising tonight’s event, Kate Ling and Francesca Dani for photos text used in this and other articles, and to all of the Wobbly Atom regulars for helping me keep my sanity over the last few months 🙂
Since you’re here…
Contamination Zone is a group of people who are united by our love for the Chernobyl Zone. We are a non-profit organisation and every year we raise thousands of euros for good causes in the Chernobyl Zone, such as firefighting equipment, monument restoration, animal welfare and more.
If you are planning or thinking about a trip to the zone, please check out our trips to Ukraine in 2023 and if you still have unanswered questions, feel free to get in touch!