Category: Alexievich, Svetlana

“Death can be so beautiful”

Svetlana Alexievich’s VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL, pp. 151-152

At first the question was, Who’s to blame? But then, when we learned more, we started thinking, What should we do? How do we save ourselves? After realizing that this would not be for one year or two, but for many generations, we began to look back, turning the pages.

It happened late Friday night. That morning no one suspected anything. I sent my son to school, my husband went to the barber’s. I’m preparing lunch when my husband comes back. “There’s some sort of fire at the nuclear plant,” he says. “They’re saying we are not to turn off the radio.” I forgot to say that we lived in Pripyat, near the reactor. I can still see the bright-crimson glow, it was like the reactor was glowing. This wasn’t any ordinary fire, it was some kind of emanation. It was pretty. I’d never seen anything like it in the movies. That evening everyone spilled out onto their balconies, and those who didn’t have them went to friends’ houses. We were on the ninth floor, we had a great view. People brought their kids out, picked them up, said, “Look! Remember!” And these were people who worked at the reactor — engineers, workers, physics instructors. They stood in the black dust, talking, breathing, wondering at it. People came from all around on their cars and their bikes to have a look. We didn’t know that death could be so beautiful. Thought I wouldn’t say it had no smell — it wasn’t a spring or autumn smell, but something else, and it wasn’t the smell of earth. My throat tickled, and my eyes watered.

Merry Christmas~