Ninety-Year-Old Man Lives Life in Chernobyl's Nuclear Wasteland
Ivan Shamyanok, remains in his birth place of Tulgovich, thirty years after the Chernobyl Disaster.
Ivan Shamyanok, 90, sits in front of his house in the village of Tulgovichi, near the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, Belarus on April 2, 2016.
Shamyanok says the secret to a long life is not leaving your birthplace even when it is a Belarusian village poisoned with radioactive fallout from a nuclear disaster.
On April 26, 1986, a botched test at a nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, sent clouds of smoldering nuclear material across swathes of Europe and forced more than 100,000 people to leave a permanently contaminated "exclusion zone."
Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of the worst nuclear meltdown in history.
Shamyanok takes water from a well at his house in the village of Tulgovich, on the edge of the "exclusion zone."
The zone is 1,615 miles or roughly the size of Luxembourg. He and his wife turned down the offer to relocate and never felt any ill effects from the radiation.
All but two of the homes in Tulgovichi have been abandoned and now that his wife has died and children moved away, he and his nephew, who lives on the other side of the village, are the only people left.
"Will people move back? No, they won't come back," he said. "The ones who wanted to have died already."
Shamyanok visits his brother's grave at a cemetery in Tulgovichi.
The 30th anniversary of the disaster has shone a new light on the long-term human impact of the worst nuclear meltdown in history.
The official short-term death toll from the accident was 31 but many more people died of radiation-related illnesses such as cancer. The total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.
Shamyanok shaves in his house in Tulgovichi.
"My sister lived here with her husband. They decided to leave and soon enough they were in the ground ...
They died from anxiety. I'm not anxious. I sing a little, take a turn in the yard, take things slowly like this and I live," he said.
Shamyanok, sweeps inside a pigsty near his house.
Shamyanok says his life didn't change much after the meltdown at Chernobyl. He and his family continued to eat vegetables and fruit grown in their own backyard and kept cows, pigs and chickens for the meat, milk and eggs.
Shamyanok lives a quiet life. He gets up at 6 a.m. when the national anthem is played on the radio, lights his cast iron stove to heat his breakfast and feeds his pigs and his dog.
Shamyanok, rests at his house in Tulgovichi.
An icon hangs in a corner of Shamyanok's home.
Shamyanok says he doesn't have any problems with his health, but takes medication sometimes and drinks a small glass of vodka before meals "to help the appetite."
A mobile shop operating out of the back of a car visits the village twice a week and on Saturdays Shamyanok's granddaughter comes to cook food for the week and clean his house.