We rushed out of the door at about 8 am to meet with Volk who would serve as our interpreter for the museum ceremony. Dan was a little nervous because he doesn’t like talking in public so we stopped for a coffee in a little shop beside the museum. After some time Volk joined us and we proceeded to the museum.
The entrance was pretty powerfully lined with the welcome signs of the towns that didn’t exist or had been buried after the area was evacuated. We looked around for a while and met with Tanya, Luba and our hosts from Borodyanka. Also there was the Swiss diplomat that came to congratulate us. Dan started out the ceremony and had prepared a presentation of some slides from our trip. Emma and I continued the speech by explaining the slides.
After, we had a tour of the museum which had turned out to be very powerful for me and Emma. The tour guide was forceful and her carefully chosen words seemed to cut through me like a knife. I had to leave the group a couple of times to collect my tears. They wanted to convey a certain side of the story and it seemed to be passed correctly.
We toured with a group of people who got my attention quickly. There way a lady who was wearing a yellow shirt that would giggle and get really excited when the tour guide showed any type of destruction whatsoever. I was a little confused by her excitement and wrote it off as some mild case of blood lust. The two men were almost falling asleep and showed no interest to what the tour guide said, yawning at every turn. I understand that there are many human mechanisms of defence against dealing with trauma but this seemed like these people were put in front of me, on purpose, to piss me off. The tour continued and I forgot all about them as I looked at old photos of the towns that we had biked through.
Emma and I had a long road and many experiences along the way and it seemed at this point that the trip had really become a part of us. We were not only looking at old pictures from local communities that were touched by the accident but also a family album of all of the people’s families that we had met along the way. There were pictures of how life was before the accident which resembles the old photos I had seen in our host’s houses, there were pictures of Borodyanka, Boyarka and Ivankiv at the time of the panic. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would see what I did, if we hadn’t have taken this mountain bike trip.
The tour guide showed a film which showed the liquidators working on the roof of the reactor shovelling radioactive debris into the neighbouring reactor. I had first seen this footage at home in front of the tv on a late night documentary but it seemed for the first time in this museum I had notice that these workers had faces. They were just unsuspecting young men who wanted an easy way out of their military service. They were laughing and joking and seemed too young to be risking their lives. Before this trip I had received an email from a liquidator that had worked this service and it touched me but I must admit that I never really understood it until now. He wrote that in a world where heros were made into icons and that people looked for this in books, tv and plays, the true day to day heros were being forgotten. I felt a little ashamed for not knowing.
I was a greatly moved by the museum and I quickly escaped for a little air after the tour. Norma had arranged to buy us dinner through dan so we went for a quiet lunch outside on the balcony. It took a little bit of time to recover from the museum but eventually we took off to do some sightseeing.
We went up to the tourist parts of Kiev where we met Oxana and Eugene from Borodyanka who came into town for the day. We then went to a park to just hang out and relax. Oxana and Eugene had only a couple of hours and left early for home but we proceeded to a restaurant where we had a nice meal.