One of the projects we worked on last year was the restoration of the Firefighters memorial in Chernobyl.
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.
The monument is comprised of a tall, central section and two shorter sculptural compositions on either side. The central section consists of two 11 metre columns connected, at the top, by a crucifix as a symbol of faith and life and, at the base of the columns, by a replica of the destroyed Reactor No.4 and chimney as a symbol of the lives lost. Midway, between the crucifix and the destroyed power unit a hollow, steel globe is affixed to the column, to symbolise the fragility and the vulnerability of the planet to human activity. The columns are encircled by two rings, each of which represents one of the 10 km and 30 km exclusion zones. The ‘knot’ at the base of the two columns is symbolic of an allegory of unsolvable problems that the supposedly ‘peaceful atom’ had created.
The two sculptural compositions are located on platforms to the right and left sides of the central columns, each comprised of four smaller sculptures. On the right, there are four sculptures of first responding firefighters and, on the left are figures of a nuclear chemist with dosimeter, a victim, a doctor rushing to the rescue and an employee of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, who we now know to have closed the valve in the reactor.
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.
In Autumn 2019, firefighters of the 11th state Fire and Rescue unit of the city of Chernobyl started an appeal to all concerned to join the fundraiser for the restoration of the monument and, if you happened to visit today, you would see that the monument has been totally covered with plastic in an effort to protect it, and a banner has been installed, alongside the monument, asking people to join the fundraiser.
Contamination Zone created plans for an epic trip to the zone, with many different people offering their assistance to help this happen, and all proceeds going towards the restoration.
An interesting idea, was the thought that we could pick a winner of a free prize draw for a place. For every €10 donated, the person had their name entered into my hat. For just €10, they could win a trip to the zone that retails for €1,000.
It was a successful idea, and is definitely something we will use in future.
Below you can see a video of us drawing the lucky winner from my hat [English and Russian subtitles are available].
As 2021 progresses, we have plans and ideas for more fundraising projects in the zone. As a non-profit, all proceeds from all of our trips are spent on these projects – this is something that as a team we are very proud of, and it gives us amazing levels of motivation and enthusiasm to continue doing the work that we are doing.
If you would like to check out the trip, it is still possible to buy a ticket to join us. The date is not yet confirmed due to Covid, but details are available below:
For Those Who Saved the World – an appeal to save their memorial
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.