By Josh Saunders
An urban explorer has documented the forbidden to enter and rarely seen exclusion zone in Belarus post-nuclear fallout
Following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 more than a quarter of the country was contaminated with radioactive dust and ash – affecting seven million people.
Bob Thissen from Heerlen, The Netherlands, visited the Polesia State Radioecological Reserve two months ago to see the lasting damage to the land which suffered 70 percent of the nuclear fallout.
After 32-years of abandonment, the villages that were previously home to over 1,000 remain near intact only affected by the elements.
Soviet stars, propaganda posters, and school books lie near untouched, apart from a thin layer of dirt and dust, along with an eerie pile of abandoned pile of gas masks in one room.
In the absence of mankind, animals now dwell in the haunting spots that are overgrown with a trees covering the once open fields.
To reach the off-limits location, he need the help of fellow urban explorers (urbexers) Meridian28, one of whom, Sergey is a scientist studying the effects of radiation on animals.
Bob said: “I felt completely desolated. Beside our group, I didn’t see anyone. There is a huge amount of animals in the zone, due the absence of people.
“We mainly focussed on public buildings, like places of culture and schools. The villages are not as big as the popular Pripyat which had 50,000 inhabitants.
“These villages had about 1,000 inhabitants each and the public buildings were in a pretty remarkable state after 32 years of abandonment.
“There were also a lot of furnished houses. Once on a field, but now hidden between trees.
“It was better than I expected. There were still a lot of artefacts left in the zone. Even posters survived the elements of nature.
“Because we visited the zone with Belarus explorers, they could translate the Russian texts.
“We noticed that there was a huge amount of propaganda in the schools. Young kids were prepared to be soldiers as well.
“It was nice to explore the area. When you go to Pripyat or Chernobyl, you know what you will see, like the famous ferris wheel and the swimming pool.
“In this area not much is known, so it was nice to discover villages not knowing what you will encounter.”
The aftermath of the catastrophic nuclear accident at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant upon Belarus is estimated to cost more than 20% of the county’s annual budget.
According to charity Chernobyl Children International, more than two million people in Belarus are at high-risk, still living in heavily contaminated areas.
One fifth of the country’s agriculture was affected, with up to one million hectares – roughly the size of a million international rugby pitches – unfarmable for the next 100 years.
Other areas will remain radioactive for 24,000 years.
To visit the area Bob needed approval of three different government organisation and the aid of employees of the reserve.
He said: “We explored villages inside the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve in Belarus, an exclusion zone which is unknown to almost all people, even for urban explorers.
“It is where 70% of the nuclear fallout landed in Belarus. It’s forbidden to the public in contrast to the exclusion zone in Ukraine, where every corner has been photographed.
“I like to explore the unbeaten path, so I decided to go there.”
For more information visit: www.bobthissen.com