What I gathered from Chernobyl… literally
by Josh Ferrell, Associate Producer
Visiting Chernobyl was a very sad and scary experience. I think I can speak for the whole crew when I say that if we were just visiting Ukraine on vacation, we would not have gone there. For the sake of the show, we decided to check out the power plant and the town down the road, Prypiat. Our guide, Sergey, gave us a long list of do’s and don’ts while filming in the Prypiat area. Most of them were don’ts. Don’t touch anything. Don’t wander off any paved roads. Don’t let any leaves or branches touch you. Don’t walk on or kick any moss that’s on the ground. Don’t eat or drink outside our vehicles. Bottom line: watch what you’re doing.
Not ten minutes after Sergey repeated these instructions, he led us down a dirt path surrounded by bushes and trees with low hanging branches. We tried our best not to touch the branches, but we all ended up touching leaves and shrubs, and a few of us even got smacked with branches. Our guide told us to be sure to wash our clothes a few times before wearing them again. But for peace of mind, once we returned to our hotel, I, like everyone else on the crew, threw away the clothes I was wearing, as well as my shoes.
Recalling the tragedy that was Chernobyl is spooky enough, but actually visiting ground zero and the surrounding areas of the nuclear disaster will leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits. And apparently, a lot of people visit. When we were leaving Prypiat, we noticed more vans coming into the secured area. Those vans turned out to be tour vans, filled with tourists mostly from Russia and Eastern Europe taking pictures of everything around them. I knew they weren’t journalists because most were dressed in Euro-trash-themed clothing and nearly all had disposable and pocket-sized digital cameras. It seems that one way to make money to help build a new sarcophagus over the old sarcophagus that covers Reactor Number 4 is to charge money to explore the grounds of one of the biggest man-made disasters of all time.
After packing up our equipment, we drove beyond the 30-kilometer security perimeter, back to habitable grounds. We pulled over at the first convenience shop we saw to get water and snacks for everyone. It was a dim lit, mostly empty space, with a few bare shelves, but they did have water. However, instead of necessities that you would normally find in your neighborhood store, this place predominately had merchandise. Chernobyl merchandise. T-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars, the list goes on. All of which read “CHERNOBYL 4-26-86” with the universal sign for radioactivity replacing the “O” in Chernobyl. It almost felt like a scene out of Spaceballs. “Chernobyl the lunchbox, Chernobyl the breakfast cereal, Chernobyl the Flame Thrower- the kids love this one.” So I did what any late-twenties American would do. I bought as much stuff as I could carry.
one of the coffee mugs Josh brought back for the office…