The Moscow doctors of hospital No. 6, to whom 22-year-old Lyudmila, Vasily Ignatenko’s wife, did not tell about her situation after learning of her pregnancy, said that she, in fact, was sitting “near the open reactor”.
One of the saddest stories about the Chernobyl tragedy of 1986 about the young Pripyat family of firefighters Vasily and Lyudmila Ignatenko became the prototype for many novels and films.
An ordinary couple from Soviet Pripyat, whose life turned into a nightmare immediately after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, taught how to love both the family and the Motherland ..
“The last seventeen days that my husband lived after the accident, I was beside him, unaware that an X-ray irradiation of 1600 would hit me and our unborn child …”
The whole life of Lyudmila is closed on those terrible days after the Chernobyl accident. Today, She is the widow of Vasily Ignatenko, who was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and the Order of Ukraine “For Courage.” He died 33 years ago. But she still thinks that now he will enter the room: so beautiful and loved.
Lyudmila was born in Ivano-Frankivsk region on the banks of the Dniester. She came to Pripyat by chance: she was sent there as an excellent student immediately after graduating from the Burshta Culinary School. She was only seventeen years old when she got a job as a pastry chef at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
The first meeting with Vasily she will remember all her life. Immediately after serving in the army, he learned about Pripyat and decided to go there to work – to the city fire department. Basil was from Belarus, from the village of Spirizhie, Gomel region.
“We met with our friends in the dormitory,” says Lyudmila Ignatenko. – He flew into the kitchen, as if on wings. Vasya was by nature very smart, naughty, handsome. And immediately began to talk about something. I was still joking then: “What kind of Tryndychiha !?” He turned round sharply, looked at me with a smile and said: “You see so that Tryndychyha doesn’t become your husband!” That fine evening he took me home. This was my first love, which will never be forgotten.
For three years, Lyudmila and Vasily met, and then got married and began to live in a new house for firefighters. They were very proud of their spacious apartment: the Pripyat fire station and the nuclear power plant were visible from its window.
The wedding was played twice: first in Belarus, at Vasya’s parents, then at Luda at home. The wedding was magnificent, beautiful, there were many guests. The only thing that embarrassed the bride then was that the veil had to be worn twice. “This is a bad omen, but my parents persuaded me.” Then, in the radiology department, they remembered this wedding together. “I am thankful for the fact that I have such happy memories. Vasya is no longer there, but the memory is alive. ”
Today Luda recalls that this sign of impending disaster was not the only one then. Just two weeks before the accident, Lyudmila sowed a wedding ring, which she never and never took off. Immediately after that, another event happened. Sometimes an old woman came to work from a neighboring village, to whom they donated leftover pet food. And suddenly she offered Luda to tell fortunes. The old woman, taking a hand, suddenly changed in the face: “Your husband works with big red cars. But you, daughter, you will not live long with him. His fate is short, very short … Yes, and you have an unpleasant fate. ” Luda pulled back her hand. The old woman did not guess anything and nothing else. Luda had anxiety in her heart, and that evening she told her husband. They shared with each other any trifles.
- Vasya cared about me as about a small child. He never let me out of the house without adjusting the scarf, hat, even worried about my runny nose. Always took care of my clothes, wanted me to be the most beautiful. It smelled so reliable that I felt like behind a stone wall. And it seemed to me that while he was with me nothing bad could happen. When I told him about the old fortune-teller, he only shamed me: “I even thought about grandmas! Nonsense is all that. ”
And on March 13, he had a birthday. And Vasya hurried all the guests with a toast: “Say something at last: they say, lived to 25 years and that’s enough!” They all straightened him up then: you can’t say such things.
Then I was already pregnant. We were really looking forward to this child (before that I had a failed pregnancy), hoping that everything would be fine.
Those who rose above all …
April 26th Luda remembered to the smallest details. The next day, at four o’clock in the morning, they were going to go to their parents in Spirije. Therefore, Basil took a day off from four o’clock. Luda came home from work, went to his part (she always went to her husband). That evening she stayed up late: she was sewing a robe. At about 12 o’clock in the night, she heard Vasini steps up the stairs. He ran into the apartment for an alarm clock: “I will set for four hours, so as not to oversleep, I will suddenly fall asleep.” Kissed her. This was the last time my husband was at home.
The accident happened at 1. 26 the night. Luda heard a noise, jumped out onto the balcony and saw fire trucks lined up near the unit. Beside them, she noticed a fiddling figure of her husband. Then she shouted: “Vasya, where are you going?” He replied: “We are on fire. Lie down, rest, I will come soon. ” Almost immediately, she saw the flames at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Time passed: two hours, three, and the husband did not return. Of course, Luda never went to bed. She stood on the balcony and watched the fire trucks approaching the station. She heard a noise in the stairwell: firefighters coming out of their house, who were woken in the middle of the night.
- At seven in the morning I heard someone coming up the stairs. It was Tolya Ivanchenko, who was supposed to intercede on the watch after Vasya, at four in the morning. I ran out to ask where Vasya is. Tolya said: “He is in the hospital.” Tolya did not know any details of what had happened: he was no longer allowed to rise. And Vasya climbed to the very top, to the level of 70. Later, Tolya Naydyuk, who was supposed to stay below and be responsible for the water supply, said that Vasya pulled Kibenko first, then they dragged Tishuru together. And when the firemen began to lose consciousness, they were all taken to the hospital.
Luda, together with Tanya, the wife of Viktor Kibenko, the commander of the guard of the Pripyat fire station, rushed to the hospital. No one was allowed into the hospital, the cars flickered back and forth. Only an accident allowed Luda to see her husband. In the hallway, she came across a familiar nurse. “Why are you here?” She asked. “I have Vasya here, husband, he’s a fireman.” Such horror was reflected in the eyes of a friend that Luda was frightened. “They can not be,” cut off the nurse. – “How not? Why? Well, I can’t see my husband. ” And Luda literally clung to her, begging to hold. The nurse took her to the ward.
- All his face, his hands were swollen, swollen, unnatural. I rushed to him. – “What happened?” – “We inhaled with burning bitumen, poisoned with gases.” “What can I bring you, Vassenka,” I asked, the doctors were already hurrying me. One doctor passing by frowned: “They need more milk, a three-liter jar for everyone, they have gas poisoning. “In the ward there were all those six who climbed to the very top: Vasya, Viktor Kibenok, Volodya Pravik, Kolya Vashchuk, Volodya Tishura, Kolya Titenok.
When she came out, downstairs, next to Tanya, was Victor Kibenk’s father. They got into the UAZ and went to the village, bought several three-liter jars from their grandmothers. When they returned to the hospital, they were no longer allowed to visit their relatives.
A picnic that lasts forever
- Vasya through the window said to me: “Try to get out of here as soon as possible.” I still did not understand: “How is it, Vasya, to leave you? You know, they said that you can neither call, nor send a telegram, the mail was closed. ” By that time, the city was already closed. And he asked me to leave. And he said that they were being taken to Moscow: “I have nothing serious, do not worry.” The rest of the girls also stood under the hospital, we all worried about our husbands. Cars began to drive around the city, which washed the roads with white foam. On April 27, after lunch, the doctors came to us and said that their husbands will indeed be sent to Moscow and they need clothes. The fact is that they left the station without clothes, in sheets. We immediately rushed home for clothes, linen, shoes. There was no question of any kind of irradiation then – we were assured that it was gas poisoning. When we returned, our husbands were not in the hospital.
I did not know what to do. After all, the city was closed, the trains at the station no longer stopped. That day the evacuation began.
Luda suffered from obscurity. And fate gave her a chance: on that very day, a single electric train stopped in Chernigov stopped in Pripyat. It was almost impossible to squeeze into it, but Luda was helped by friends – Anatoly Naydyuk and Mikhail Mihovsky.
- At the station, near the train, people panicked, and in the city at that time everything was quiet – children were walking, weddings were celebrated. Embarrassing, however, the batterers in the city and these strange watering machines. And there were columns of buses. People were told that they would only be evacuated for a few days, that everyone would live in tents in the forest. And people went out, as if on a picnic, they even took guitars with them, leaving the cats at home.
In a word, there was no panic. Therefore, it seemed to me that only I had a grief, that it was only the firefighters who were poisoned, and the rest of the people are fine. We have not yet suspected the severity of the accident.
Luda on the slats reached the parents of Basil. Hardly holding back tears, she explained to them that their son was in Moscow. “This is very serious,” the father guessed. Lyudmila was determined to go to Moscow. When she started vomiting, her mother-in-law guessed: “Where are you going, you’re in the position!” But Lyuda insisted on her. Parents raised money – everything that was in the house, and the next morning Lyudmila, along with her father-in-law Ivan Tarasovich Ignatenko, flew to Moscow.
If it were not for another accident, she would not have found her husband so quickly. In the Pripyat fire station, Luda met one general. “Where are they being taken?” She begged. “I don’t know yet, but here’s my phone for you, this is the only line that will work in the city. Call me, I will try to find out. ” Luda phoned him only on the morning of April 28, already from the airport. He kept his promise and told her that six firefighters had been brought to the radiology department of the sixth clinical hospital.
Lies and Hope
In the Moscow hospital, Lyuda was detained by the head physician herself, Professor Guskova. She was very surprised that the wife of a fireman from Pripyat was able to get there so quickly. But she categorically refused to let her into the ward. “Why can’t I see my husband?” Luda wondered. “Have you been married for a long time, do you have children?” – Guskova answered with a question. And at that moment it seemed to Luda that it must necessarily say: “Yes, there is.” She still does not understand why she did it. “There are two,” only said a young woman. Then the doctor shook her head and sighed. This lie allowed Lyudmila to be with her husband around the clock, until the very end. Tanya Kibenok will arrive a bit later, and she will be given only an hour a day to see her husband. But this will not save her unborn child: immediately after the funeral of Kibenko, she will lose an unborn baby.
During their conversation a woman approached the head physician – Vasily, the attending physician. “Explain to the wife of the firefighter Ignatenko what happened to him,” she turned to her colleague Guskov. She sighed: “His blood is completely affected, the central nervous system …” “So what’s terrible here,” Luda was surprised, “will be nervous, it’s nothing …” The women in white coats looked at each other. They understood that this terrible word combination absolutely nothing speaks to this very young naive girl and she does not know anything about radiation sickness. And they did not explain to her that her Basil had radiation sickness of the 1st degree, incompatible with life.
When Luda went to the ward to the guys, they played cards. As if nothing had happened. Laughing merrily.
- The doctors scared me so much that I didn’t expect to see our guys as they were before – cheerful, cheerful. Seeing me, Vasya joked: “Oh, boys, she found me here too! Well, my wife! ”He was always such a joker. Guskova warned me that you can not touch her husband, no kissing. But who listened to her!
The guys asked Luda about how things are at home. She told them that the evacuation had begun. And Victor Kibenok then said: “This is the end. We will no longer see our city. ” Luda, who did not yet understand the scale of the accident, began to argue with him: “Yes, it’s only for three days – they will wash, clean, and we will return. “
Every day it got worse. Two days later, everyone (at first there were 28 people, then they brought several more) were transferred to separate chambers, explaining that this was necessary for hygiene purposes. At the same time, the mother of Vladimir Pravik arrived, a bit later, Tatiana Kibenok, relatives of other firefighters.
- For a while I lived with the hope that Vasya would be fine. But a bone marrow transplant was scheduled for May 2. They called all relatives – a mother, two sisters, a brother, in order to determine who, by medical parameters, is more suitable as a donor.
Analyzes have shown that the best donor is the 12-year-old sister Vali Natasha. But Ignatenko flatly refused: “Do not persuade, I will not allow the child to ruin his life!” The doctors explained to Vasily that in an ecologically clean environment the bone marrow is quickly restored. Finally, the elder sister Lyuda, who was an emergency doctor, managed to get Vasina’s consent for her bone marrow transplantation. The operation was done by an outstanding American bone marrow transplant specialist Gail. As a result, Vasily did not take bone marrow, and his sister did not recover. Today, Vasili’s sister is disabled, her metabolism is completely disturbed, she is given a blood transfusion every week. Almost immediately, my sister returned to work in the zone, in her native Bragin. He does not want to leave, he says: “I will die in my homeland.”
Near the “reactor”
“I saw how Vasya was changing: his hair fell out, his lungs were swollen, his chest rose higher and higher every day, his kidneys refused, his internal organs began to decompose. More and more new burns appeared, the skin on the arms and legs cracked. Then he was transferred to the pressure chamber – and me along with him. I did not move away from him for a minute: after all, the nurses no longer approached Vasya. He suffered so much, any movement hurt him. He needed to re-lay the sheet, because every fold became a cause of torment. When I turned Vasya over, his skin remained in my arms. He screamed in pain. It was impossible to put clothes on him: it was all swollen, the skin turned blue, the wounds cracked, blood was oozing. In recent days it was very difficult: he had vomiting, pieces of lungs, liver came out … Now I understand the nurses: they knew that nothing could be done to help him. Besides, I did not realize the danger that emanated from him, still continuing to hope. I did not know how I would live without Vasya, what would happen to me …
May 9 Luda could not stand it. She jumped out into the corridor so that Vasya would not see her tears. She covered her mouth with her hands so as not to scream at the top of her voice. Gale came up to her, embraced her fatherly, began to console her. “You should have helped him!” “I can’t, too much radiation, too much …” And suddenly he guessed, inexplicably he realized that she was expecting a child. Then a scandal arose in the hospital. Guskova screamed and cried alternately: “What have you done? How could you not think of a child? You sat near the reactor, in your Vasya 1600 x-ray! You killed both yourself and the child! ”“ But he is protected, he is inside of me! My baby will be fine, ”Luda cried. When she was checked for radioactivity, she already had 68 x-rays.
In those days Luda and Vasya talked a lot, remembered, dreamed.
“If a girl is born, we’ll call her Natasha,” Vasya told me. – A boy … boy name Vasya. “Then I didn’t even think what he wanted to say, and began to joke, they say, why would I need two Vasya and how would I distinguish them. And suddenly his face suddenly changed: it was so cheerful, and then it seemed as if all the dash had gone down, it became sad. I have never seen such a change in an instant. I think he knew that he was doomed, and he wanted to leave behind him a memory – the name of his son.
An orange that cannot be eaten
There were still many shrill, touching, scary moments. Before the morning round, Luda left the ward, hiding from the doctors. Some nurse brought an orange to Vasily – a big, beautiful one. “Take, eat, I left you, you love,” he nodded to his wife in the direction of the nightstand where the orange lay. Under the influence of drugs, he took a nap, and Lyudmila went to the store. When she returned, the orange was gone. “Who took it, go find it, I left it to you,” Vasya startled. And the nurse standing in the door just shook her head. She deliberately picked it up so that Luda, God forbid, did not eat it – a small orange ball, having lain next to Ignatenko for a couple of hours, was already full of deadly radiation.
- We remembered the wedding, our home. He tried to joke, he told funny stories – just to make me smile. We supported each other. It was true love, because I never experienced such a feeling. We understood each other from half a word, from half a glance. He was not eloquent, just in his eyes was all he wanted to tell me.
Sometimes my husband would get angry: “How will I live, no hair …” “This is nothing, Vasya, but what kind of savings, no shampoo is needed, I wiped it with a handkerchief and that’s it,” Luda joked. “Yes, and no bulbs are needed in the house,” Vasya immediately picked up with a laugh. I wonder how I had the strength to hold back in those moments. Now I don’t have them anymore, because these memories are always with me.
Vasily Ignatenko lived until May 13. Just that day, there was the funeral of Viktor Kibenko, and Lyuda and his wife went to the cemetery to support Tanya. She already knew that Vasya would soon leave, and called all her relatives to Moscow. In the funeral bus, all the women sat in black headscarves, and Luda refused to put it on.
- He died at 11. 15. Just at that time I suddenly felt so pained: a sudden pain pierced my heart. I grabbed a black handkerchief and put it on. Tanya leaned toward me and began to calm me down. Later, the nurses told me that Vasya called me. They did not know how to calm him down. “Lucy, Luce …”, – with these words he died.
Ignatenko, like everyone else, was buried in two coffins – wooden and zinc. At Mitinsky cemetery, 28 people were buried, buried nearby, the grave to the grave. A few years later, the gravestones were removed and poured with concrete, because the radioactive background was too great. They set up a symbolic monument: a man shields a city from a nuclear explosion. On the graves are stone bas-reliefs with carved faces.