By Rachel Stoll

If you read my bio post, you’ll remember that I came across this book
randomly. However, VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL was not the first time I had
heard of the disaster, in fact it had been brought up many times but
in a different context. Prior to the book, Chernobyl was just a topic
to talk about in terms of nuclear energy and government transparency.
In my political science world, the disaster is used as an argument
against things like nuclear energy in many policy discussions.  The
fact is that if it wasn’t for the government trying to cover-up and
deny what had happened, things may have turned out differently. All
that aside, Chernobyl is what it is now and nothing will change that.

This project is so important to me, because it wasn’t until I read
VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL that I realized the devastating impact the event
had on people. I had never made that connection before because I was
so wrapped up in the policy and environmental implications that came
out of the disaster. Shortsighted? Absolutely. Product of academia?
Very much so.

What I’ve realized is there’s basically two categories of awareness
when it comes to Chernobyl in my age group. The first is people who
may or may not have heard of the event and have a very vague to no
understanding of it, and the second is people who think about it in a
very sterile and academic way. There are people who are alive now who
do not recall the disaster, the aftermath.  I am one of those who was
born after Chernobyl, and I can honestly say
that many of my peers do not know what it is.

They don’t know what Chernobyl was and what it is today

That’s amazing to me. For all my drudgery in policy, I knew the event
happened. Is that good enough? Likely not. The stories that are told
through our project are moving, powerful, incredible. The survival and
persistence of those in The Zone is admirable and heartbreaking. While
there isn’t a nuclear power plant currently on fire in the area, the
ghosts of the disaster still persist in the forms of environmental
and human rights issues. Why is this project important? It is
important to me because of how it has impacted lives and generations.
For all I can say about the policy and environmental implications of
this disaster, those discussions tend to forget what is happening to
those that remain. There is no right answer to some of those debates,
and there is no quick fix to the disaster. However, with time and
awareness it is possible that the immense tragedy that occurred will
not be a just a passing sentence in a history book that gives no
suggestion that there are unresolved issues and unmet needs.