This post originally appeared on Cindy’s blog in 2010.

Since 2005, I’ve worked with a dedicated ensemble and collaborators around the world to raise awareness of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster (often spelled Chernobyl). I was invited to be the Key Note Speaker for the Remember Chernobyl Conference in 2008 and Anniversary Readings were held all across Los Angeles in 2009. As part of the 2010 worldwide commemoration (see 20th anniversary publication here), published versions of the two plays are in the works. Here is one sample of the six-character version of Voices From Chornobyl.

[Excerpt]

A SOLITARY HUMAN VOICE

Original painting for 2006 workshop, Artist: Tisha Terrasini-Baker

There are secrets.  People say prayers in private.  Whispering.

VASILY

I reached an assistant.  “I’m calling from Moscow.  I have urgent information.  About an accident!”  As soon as I started talking about the accident, they disconnected me.

A SOLITARY HUMAN VOICE

No, use my name.  Say it to God.

SERGEI

Where are we going?  I only got this paper—

GRIGORY

We are going to Chornobyl.

SERGEI

To the fire?

GRIGORY

It was put out.

VASILY (on the phone)

I got hold of someone else.  According to my calculations, the radioactive cloud is moving towards us.  We must immediately give prophylactic iodine treatment to the population and move out every-

(Dial tone)

KATYA  (Sing-songy)

At the foot of the hill puffs a tractor

At the top of the hill a reactor

If we had’nt heard it from the Swedes

We’d still be eating all those seeds.

GRIGORY

My reports say the situation is now stabilized.

A SOLITARY HUMAN VOICE

I put my arms around him and kissed him.  He moved away.  “Don’t sit next to me.”  “It’s all nonsense,” I said, waving it off.  “Did you see where the explosion was?  You were the first ones there.”   “ I think it was sabotage.  Someone did it on purpose.  All the guys think that.”  That’s what people said then.  And that’s what they believed.  The next day when I arrived— I couldn’t go near him—they were forbidden to have human contact.

I met a lot of good people there, and I don’t remember all of them.  The whole world had narrowed to a single point for me.  It shortened.  Him.  Only him.

He’s changing.  The burns are surfacing.  In his mouth, his tongue, his cheeks.  They started as small ulcers.  Now they’re spreading.

The prognosis for acute radiation sickness is fourteen days.

A SOLITARY HUMAN VOICE & VASILY

It takes fourteen days for a man to die.

GRIGORY

The nearby towns will be evacuated.  We’ll clean the zone out around the reactor, and in a few days time the people will be home again.

ANNA (kneeling)

Mother, we are leaving.

ANNA & KATYA

They’re evacuating us.

KATYA

We are going to be evacuated.

ANNA

They say they’ll just wash everything, and then we’ll be back in a few days.  I borrowed some of your earth to guide me back home.

Forgive me for leaving you.

GRIGORY

The hospitals will remain open so the necessary medical aid can be given to those affected.

Original painting for 2006 workshop, Artist: Shawn MacAulay

A SOLITARY HUMAN VOICE

Fourteen days – it’s all mine.  Every bit.  I can’t say it.  You can’t write about it!  There was an apple on his nightstand.  A big one.  He smiled and said, “They gave me a treat.  You take it.”  The Nurse signals me through the plastic curtain that I cannot eat the apple.  If it’s been near him for a while, just being near it, much less eating it, is dangerous.  “Come on, eat it,” he asks.  “You love apples.”  I pick it up.  The nurse looks at me in horror.  But me?  I was ready to do whatever was necessary to keep him from thinking about death.  Or that his illness was horrible, that I was afraid of him.

Night.  Quiet.

KATYA

What do I remember?  In the first few days after the accident, all the books on radiation, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even on x-rays vanished from the libraries.

VASILY

We need potassium iodine.  Ordinary iodine.  Two or three drops in a glass of water for children and three or four drops for adults.

GRIGORY

My Superiors received a phone call. From Moscow.  Something about not starting a panic in Belarussia.  The West is making too much of it already.

KATYA

There was a rumor that removing the books was an order from the authorities to keep people from being terrified.  So that we could not/imagine for ourselves what it meant.

GRIGORY

/you can imagine for yourselves the consequences.

ANNA

Birds kept smashing into the windshields of cars and buses as if they were blind.  They were crazed.  Flying into the windshielsds…or under the wheels.  It was a kind of suicide.

VASILY

There are warehouses full of iodine in the city.

Original painting for 2006 workshop, Artist: Aaron Lyons

GRIGORY

The word “panic” – do you know where it comes from?

VASILY

From the Greek –Pan—he was a mischief-maker.

VASILY & KATYA

The god of woods and fields who created mysterious sounds.

GRIGORY

He tried to teach the people how to communicate, but these sounds were too advanced for the people surrounding the woods and the fields.  They didn’t understand them, and so the sounds caused hysterical fear in villages.  They say entire herds followed their owners over cliffs.  Panic is born of fear and fear is irrational, infectious and prevents people from reacting in a disciplined way.

Our orders are to maintain discipline.

VASILY

I understand, Comrade.

GRIGORY

You can imagine for yourself the consequences of a terrible panic in a town of several million inhabitants.

VASILY

Yes, Comrade.

A SOLITARY HUMAN VOICE

I can’t tell myself, like some others, that I don’t remember a thing.

But I keep having this strange idea.

It torments me.  It may not be mine: I have seen what others have not yet seen.  Something terrible was revealed to us before it was to others.

GRIGORY

As we got closer, some of the men started asking questions. The driver looked back and said, “Don’t worry, Comrades, the situation is under control.

Nothing to worry about.  People are living and working here.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

Why Chornobyl? Watch our short video here.

Study guides, full scripts and press packets available upon request. More of our history can be found at our websiteVoices From Chornobyl.

Excerpt taken from

VOICES FROM CHORNOBYL:

The crown of creation

6 characters

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins

Assisted by Aaron Lyons

Inspired by the book Voices From Chornobyl

By Svetlana Alexievich