Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ, United Kingdom
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On April 26 1986, Reactor Number 4 at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine exploded, scattering 400 times more radiation into the atmosphere than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In the wake of the disaster, the Soviet authorities evacuated a zone of nearly 40 miles across, turning the neighbouring Pripyat – where 50,000 nuclear workers had lived – into a ghost town. The region was declared uninhabitable for – at best – several centuries, and fatal illnesses from the tragedy estimated in tens of thousands.
On 23 April 2016 at London’s Frontline Club we will be commemorating the tragedy with a range of events. There will be film-screenings, readings by renowned film actress Anamaria Marinca from Nobel Prize-Winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, and an evening-panel of experts on Chornobyl and Ukraine – those who grew up with the tragedy or covered it in the ensuing years. Throughout, we will be raising the central question: was the explosion at Reactor Number 4 an unmitigated tragedy or has Chornobyl – so long a byword for catastrophe and human error – turned out finally to be a story of hope?
FILM SCREENING: Chernobyl: Surviving Disaster (Nick Murphy, BBC, 2006).
The hard-hitting 2006 BBC docu-drama about the Chornobyl Disaster and the subsequent Kremlin cover-up of its real causes, told through the experience of Valerey Legasov, the chief investigator who – out of guilt over the enforced omissions of his final report – took his own life on the second anniversary of the explosion. Directed by Nick Murphy (The Awakening, 2011) and with a superb central performance by Ade Edmondson (The Young Ones, War & Peace).
FILM SCREENING: Babushkas of Chernobyl (Morris & Bogart, 2015)
Holly Morris and Ann Bogart’s life-affirming documentary about a community of elderly women who have chosen to defy the authorities and to persevere in inhabiting – with optimism and solidarity – the Exclusion Zone around Reactor Number 4. ‘…a remarkable tale about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk’ – Winner at Woodstock and Los Angeles Film Festivals.
Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, read by actress Anamaria Marinca, with music by Alina Bzhezhinska
The Chornobyl Disaster produced a crop of books, but towering above all of them is Nobel-Prize-winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, a collection of verbatim texts taken from interviews with survivors and due for republication as Chernobyl Prayer on April 21 2016. Here we present the extract ‘A Solitary Human Voice’ read by award-winning Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca (best known for new wave Romanian classic 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days). Musical interludes by Ukrainian Harpist Alina Bzhezhinska.
PANEL DISCUSSION: ‘CHORNOBYL 30 YEARS ON’
Anna Reid: Former Economist Foreign Correspondent, Author of Borderland: a journey through the history of Ukraine (Updated edition 2015).
Alla Kravchuk: Former resident of Pripyat (Chornobyl town), maker of two-part BBC documentary Burying Chernobyl (2016)
Balthasar Lindauer: deputy director of the EBRD’s nuclear safety program, with special focus on construction of new Chornobyl Sarcophagus.
Professor Geraldine Thomas: senior academic at the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgery & Cancer, Imperial College London – specialist in effects of nuclear radiation.