CNN Photos

‘The city Chernobyl built’

In 1986, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s nuclear reactor number four exploded. The disaster directly killed 30 people, but an estimated 9 million people were affected by the radioactive materials released into the atmosphere, according to the United Nations.

In its place sprang the small town of Slavutych, located around 30 miles from Pripyat, the home of the once-prosperous nuclear plant. Residents of the new town commute to the abandoned site to continue taking apart the retired power plant.

Photographer Maisie Crow first visited the Ukrainian settlement in January 2011 and returned several times later that year with the Virginia Quarterly Review. What she found was a town nostalgic for Pripyat, yet afraid of following the fate of the abandoned city.

“I thought there would be a much bigger fear of radiation, but the bigger fear is the loss of jobs and the uncertainty of the future,” Crow said.

A strategic planning department member, Dmiitri Stelmakh, estimated 60 years to decommission the plant, the New York-based photographer said.

“I think there is a certain sense of frustration in regards to the uncertainty of its future,” Crow said. “Residents would really like to see more jobs apart from jobs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.” As progress continues on the demolition of the site, jobs become harder to find.

The city has three trains bound for Chernobyl a day. And while life has continued for the power plant workers, routine checkups are used to monitor their health. For some, it is too late and their poor health dictates much of their lives.

Viktor Koshevoi worked at the nuclear plant for years as the electrical engineer. Now his declining health makes it difficult for him to even stand up.

“That was my job, right up to the end,” Koshevoi told Crow. “Now I am spent material; no one needs me anymore.”

Many are afraid the same will be true of Slavutych.

“Slavutych is the city Chernobyl built,” Crow said. “I would like to see more industry move there so there is more job potential for the residents of Slavutych.”

- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN