For the first time since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, residents of Pripyat in the Ukraine, returned to the city from which they were evacuated.
Located about 1.9 miles (3km) from the site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the city, now a ghost town, was home to over 47,000 residents.
The worst nuclear power disaster ever was caused when one of the plant’s four reactors exploded, resulting in the entire population of the city being evacuated. Information was reported to be scarce and no one seemed to be aware of the full extent of the danger, leaving many residents expecting to return to their homes. It was not to be, instead authorities established the exclusion zone, an area of more than 154sq miles (4,000sq km), around the nuclear power plant, including Pripyat. The city remains deserted due to radiation pollution still prevalent more than 33 years later.
Though the city remains empty, some former residents felt the need to bring some festive cheer to their former home and worked with the Association of Chernobyl Tour Operators as part of a campaign to bring Christmas to Pripyat, now a popular tourist destination.
And so, Pripyat’s central square came alive with a Christmas tree, decorated with toys, family photographs and clock decorations, Ukraine’s ZIK TV channel reported for the BBC.
The clock decorations symbolize ‘the flow of time and the fact that over time the town does not die but gets revived’.
According to Kateryna Aslamova, from the Chernobyl Tour company, this special occasion was the first time for some former residents has been in Pripyat since the evacuation. The aim of the campaign is said to be an attempt to draw public attention to the cultural heritage of the exclusion zone, of which Kateryna said, ‘’the town must live, and for this to happen it must be saved.’’
The Chernobyl Tour company explained in an Instagram post that it believes Pripyat should be made a ‘Monument of National Importance and a UNESCO World Heritage site’ to help protect the city.
“Life is returning to Pripyat,” said Yaroslav Yemelyanenko, founder of the Chernobyl Hub.
“It is unusual, irregular and touristic. Every day, the once deserted town is filled with tourists from all over the world. They come to learn our history, which changed the course of events in the whole world.”
May this Christmas tree of 2019 be a new beginning for Pripyat, the tradition of Christmas in the city every year, in memory of those who lived and died there.
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