Revisiting Hell – Chernobyl on a motorcycle

Time has stood still for 18 years in the cities around Chernobyl. Newly constructed buildings, parking lots full of cars, and houses full of personal belongings all sit open and abandoned because of lethal levels of radiation.

Imagine riding alone through silent cities on a motorcycle and seeing sights like this abandoned oncological hospital. The hospital had continued to operate for 40 days after the disaster, then the head doctor died of cancer and people abandoned the hospital.


You owe it to yourself to read this poignant photo essay by Elena, a Russian woman who lived there as a child. She revisits the scene of the disaster on her Kawasaki ZZR 1100 and aptly compares it to the last days of Pompeii.

UPDATE: Her site has been changed and the old links are broken. See my post on Elena’s return to Chernobyl for an updated account and new photos.

Her account of Chernobyl today really moved me. It was like reading a post-apocalypse sci-fi story – except that these pictures are recent and look like they could have been taken here in Virginia. It really brought home to me how we live on the edge of such disasters ourselves and only the greatest of care will ensure that this doesn’t happen here.

Thanks to Blogopoly for the story idea. I read his post on search trends and followed the links to discover this story. His site, although quite new, is a good resource for bloggers seeking ways to develop additional traffic.

UPDATE:  Now you can tour Chernobyl and write your own story.

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0 Responses to Revisiting Hell – Chernobyl on a motorcycle

  1. Sallie says:

    “Chernobyl today” stopped me in my tracts… I remembered and I had forgotten.

    It is a story I hope IS passed a lot on the web; we should remember. I found it yesterday from a friend, posted it on my blog and now find the pictures on your delightful pages. Good work!

    I am glad I found you, I will be back. 🙂

  2. Avi Solomon says:

    What was chilling for me was the fact that visitors couldn’t stand the sheer silence in the Ghost town and got out as fast as possible.
    It’s strange that Andrey Tarkovsky’s 1979 film ‘Stalker’ is a prophetic rendering of a journey into such a ‘Zone’

  3. Carrie says:

    I viewed that several days ago too. Really amazing woman. Great link!

  4. veronika says:

    should be remembered, but hopefully not completely the way she tells it.

    as not only a person who was evacuated from chernobyl, but also a person who likes to read and research instead of pinning blame and making blanket statements, i would like to offer the following facts.

    alexander akimov didn’t push “the wrong button”. a novice engineer would know not to design a reactor that can be destroyed by push of a button. he flipped a switch. an EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN switch, which was supposed to SHUT THE REACTOR DOWN. and it was the right thing to do. he followed the protocol. she doesn’t mention that it was a gas explosion because xenon built up and the excess of neutrons was not absorbed (xenon poisoning). she also doesn’t mention that the man who tried to stop the chain reaction died 3 weeks after the accident. she presents herself as a careless, insensitive and ignorant narrator.

    she talks about serious issues and yet manages to smile and strike a pose for the camera, and then dares to call this site her “favorite part” of the ride! with this reaction, i doubt she ever lived there.

    by the way, radiation does not “evaporate”, and some of the numbers (death toll as well as levels of radiation) are misquoted.

  5. Veronika,

    Where is your account of this tragedy? Surely in 18 years, you must have written something that would enlighten us.

    It would be far more productive if you could direct us to your photos and your story, than to spend time attacking a story that doesn’t include the details you deem significant.

  6. Mark says:


    I’ve read numerous text on “why” the acciednt occured ~ you are correct that it was not a simple flip of a switch ~ accidents are never that simple, but involve a series of failures, from design (No containment) through human actions (the test they were performing was a start-up test that should have been performed at the start of the fuel cycle ~ not at the end when the conditions were most dangerous)… I do not think Elena’s goal was to explain core physics…or root cause accident analysis… there are ample texts available that discuss this

    The beauty of Elena’s work is to document the human or social side of the accident ~ what her work illustrates in the consequences of it all ~ I think she did that better than the BBC or CNN could have done with a team of professional journalists ~ My hat is off to Elena.


  7. Neil says:

    As this seems to turned into a debate of sorts, I would also like to add that Elans site is amazing, the fact that I and any one else hasnt found a site like it with that much detail must stand for something. I think shes done a wonderful job, and if she were posing for the camera I think she could have a done a lot better if she wanted to, dont you?

    I think Veronicas pitiful attack is quite jelous and uncalled for. I would like to see what she has offered to justify the comments.

    Perhaps the facts are slightly different from the truth, who knows, ‘m sure if she thought they werent true or know there were conflicting stories, perhaps she may not have settled on that version.


  8. Steve says:

    I’m just a bit angered by Veronika’s attack and hateful comments in regards to Elena, and I echo David’s and Mark’s comments. I was living in America when it all happened and remember all the news stories that flooded all 3 major news networks then. God only knows what “filtered” story we heard about it here halfway around the world during a time when information about the former Soviet Union was kept secret and a high level of distrust between America and the Soviets was present. Veronika, Elena was just trying to let us know what happened from HER point of view and if you have something to say about it, then I suggest you post a website like Elena did. If people really want to know every little detail about the Chernobyl accident, they will dig deeper by doing their own research. Elena did no harm, and her pictures were excellent. I applaud Elena for her effort to remind us of something that happened long ago, something that I honestly forgot about, and that is still having adverse effects on our world.

  9. Gill says:

    Having just come across Elena’s page and being very moved by it, I can only admire her bravery to travel into such an area…I don’t know if I could do it, not just the radiation but also the eery desertion, silence and memories in ghost town, I would be one of those people who would run away on the tour

  10. Satyaki Panda says:

    Elena is certainly worthy of admiration…she is indeed an adventourous lady.Going through the site gives a muted picture of the holocaust ( as i have seen in movies , i am a 1976 human), only in this case it seems the bigger victims is the ecosystem that is doomed for centuries to come.Keep up the good work elena and this site should reach as many users as possible.And yes please refrain from debates, every person has their right of view but lets look at it as an attempt to present a picture that probably may not have got us thinking and remembering the people of Chernobyl at the first place.

  11. NRT says:

    I’m afraid I posted a comment on this topic in another of your postings, but it’s probably more relevant here! Sorry about that.

    My point was that very regretably Elena’s story has been exposed as a fake – her trip was not as described, and some of the photos were staged.

  12. Yep. It would seem to be a hoax of sorts. The pictures merited more truthful comments. see my post “Faking it?” on May 25.2004 for more details.

  13. Michael Parker says:

    Hardly a hoax. The photographs are real, the facts are real, the places are real, the issues are real – she just made a facinating story to string them together.


    Government officials are trying to discredit her. Story is not a hoax. The official death toll is 30 people and Elena showed a human side of Chernobyl tragedy. No one need this true on her part of the world. Better take a look at her new story, very good read if you love history

    Michael Parker

  14. G says:

    Elena isn’t the only fraud:

    We in science who work at the site have known this from almost day one.
    TITLE: Faking it?
    BLOG NAME: Ripples
    DATE: 05/26/2004 02:29:09 AM
    Like Milli Vanilli, and so many others pretending to be what they weren’t, Elena, the Chernobyl motorcyclist, may have destroyed any credibility she earned through her arresting photojournal. Recent reports would indicate that she and her husband and a…
    TITLE: Chernobyl Biker has her own domain
    BLOG NAME: Ripples
    DATE: 04/15/2004 01:40:07 AM
    Elena has a new domain: It is faster, has new photographs like the one below, and some new text. It appears that she may be doing more updates in the future. This statue of Prometheus stealing fire from the