Finding meaning


Vladimir Sashenok an engineer at the station seen here posing with his son in Pripyat, Ukraine became the second victim of Chernobyl and died five hours after the accident

Vladimir Sashenok posing with his son in Pripyat, Ukraine

This isn’t meant to be a screed against nuclear power, nor the very infrequent accidents that may occur from it. Big oil has accomplished far more in the way of destruction to the environment compared to the nuclear industry. Both pose far reaching consequences to the populations that are in proximity to either extraction or processing of each of these materials. And for all that we may rail against what each may do to the environment, we still turn lights on at night, and we enjoy all manner of perks that come with being able to drive cars and fly in airplanes. The hypocrisy of both the left and the right in these matters only drives the rhetoric into a pitched droning mash of voices.

No, the only thing that is of interest, are the forgotten casualties. A father with his son on a warm spring day. Vladimir Sashenok had just turned 35 on April 21, in 1986. A young man when you consider it, life just getting started with a career in overseeing some of the operations at Chernobyl. When the accident occurred he was busy checking pressure gauges on reactor #4, speaking on the phone relaying information back to the control room. A powerful explosion exposed him to large quantities of radiation, causing massive burns to his body and rendering him unconscious. By 6 in the morning, he was dead, the second victim of the soon to be growing list of 4,000 plus people that have died so far.

Vladimir’s body was buried in a lead coffin, sealing in the radiation, protecting the outside world from what he had been exposed to. The first victim of the disaster, Valery Khodemchuk, was never recovered. Valery’s body is believed to be entombed within the debris of the reactor itself, covered in a deep layer of cement and radioactive material.

For most people, especially those that weren’t born, or were just children when all of this went down in 1986, it probably was never paid attention to or taught about in school. In history classes a small amount of time is devoted to the occurrences and fall out from the disaster, at least this is true in the US, maybe not Europe and Asia. It is perhaps just one of those arcane facts, something to be cognizant of, but not to worry too much over. Except now, with all that is happening in Japan at this moment.

It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a victimless disaster. By its very nature, whether man made or natural, there are any magnitude of orders of victims that will be accounted for by either name or a number. Perhaps, just maybe, giving recognition, remembering, passing along histories, we can begin to humanize, to quantify that which has been lost, in a paradise never to be regained.




About Sarah Seager

I am an artist that works and lives in the wilds of Los Angeles.
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