неділя, 29 квітня 2012 р.

Lyubov Sirota "Pripyat syndrome"

Literally on the eve Day of memory of Chernobyl tragedy 26 April 2012 in first has appeared the opportunity of the edition of my old fiction – film-story "Pripyat syndrome". The book was issued at support of International public organization "PTRIPAYT.com" and a site of city of Pripyat  Pripyat.com, which I thank very much for the book and for all selfless work on preservation of memory of Chernobyl catastrophe and our Pripyat!.. 

First the first edition of the book was published in Russian, thenin Ukrainian. And in 2013 in English on Amazon.  

And now we have good news about the English version of my book “The Pripyat Syndrome”. The second a bit expanded edition of the book “The Pripyat Syndrome” in English now is at the Amazon. In two formats:

E-book here: https://www.amazon.com/PRIPYAT-SYNDROME-FILM-STORY-ebook/dp/B08WX8D7BY/     

and Paper book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WYDMZNR/     


English translation by  Natalia Rymina; edited by Birgitta Ingemanson and Paul Brians. 


The short summary:  

In this book telling about the tragic destiny of the young woman – inhabitant of Pripyat, desperately struggling for a life of the son, many of the twists and turns of the first days and the first years of Chernobyl tragedy are displayed vividly and precisely.


So, now again anybody who want to can to have it and to read.


!!! A small fragment from the book "Pripyat syndrome" in English translation by Natalia Ryumina !!! 

A Film Story
Copyright © 2021 by Lyubov Sirota

Comments, wishes, orders: chornobyl.info@gmail.com.
Second edition
ISBN: 9798710522875
Translation by Natalia Ryumina
Editing by Birgitta Ingemanson
Editing by Paul Brians
Illustration by Anton Yukhimenko
Agent: Aleksandr Sirota



The author express their deep gratitude to Natalia Ryumina and Professors Emeritus Washington State University Birgitta Ingemanson and Paul Brians for their selfless work preparing this edition.


It all started as in a movie. The idea to write a long prose work about the Chernobyl disaster occurred to me already in 1990, right after our almost daily two-year struggle to create our film The Threshold (directed by Rollan Sergienko), which managed to penetrate the “iron curtain” of denial and silence around the consequences of this disaster. The film itself was shot in an unbelievably short period of time—just six months. The production was launched in 1988 thanks to the head of the Alexander Dovzhenko Film Studio, the famous director Nikolay Mashchenko. 

This was when all that I had seen, heard, and lived through—the whole four years of my post-Chernobyl experience which for a long time had not entered into my poetry—started to make its way onto the pages of my future novel, The Pripyat Syndrome. 

Somehow perceiving what was going on, Nikolay Pavlovich suggested at about the same time that I write a film script about the Chernobyl tragedy, and he even gave it a name: How Can I Save You, Son? But since the film studio was experiencing a deep financial crisis in those difficult years of perestroika, work on this movie, which was supposed to be in two parts, then was reduced to a single episode, and finally was frozen. 

Nevertheless, that particular project influenced the writing and the style of the novel, like а film story, which I am now offering for your attention, my dear Reader! 

Lyubov Sirota  



This novel is dedicated to my fellow countrymen, the people of Pripyat, and to everyone who has been affected by Chernobyl’s sinister shadow. Although based on real events, it cannot be classified as a documentary, for its characters are all composites. 


A tiny far-away star is pulsating in the dense purple sky. As it grows, it first transforms itself into a bright whirling star, then into a huge multi-colored sphere which rapidly approaches, trailing behind a long, luminous train… Then suddenly—a blinding flash... The whole sky is illuminated by a red and yellow glow, which shivers feverishly and, it turns out, has escaped from the core of the exploded reactor No. 4. The enormous ventilation pipe of the 3rd and 4th blocks of the V. I. Lenin Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station is red-hot. 

Irina suddenly wakes up.  The intolerable pain that has become habitual over the last couple of years seems to be tearing her head apart and filling every cell of her being with boiling lead. Such bad timing! Just as she is about to go and pick up her son—and there are still so many things to do before that! With her disobedient hand she reaches out for the medicine on the bedside table. She takes a painkiller, chews it and tries to reach the glass of water, but instead she knocks the glass onto the floor. The water spills over the carpet and onto the letters lying there. 

Irina flinches with pain and bitterness. She squeezes her head between her hands, making her short hair look even more disheveled, and sits up slowly. She takes some valerian drops, picks up the soaked letters from the floor and puts them on the bedside table. She sits on her bed for a while, then struggles to stand up. She cautiously walks towards the bathroom, moaning in pain, still gripping her head with her hands. 

She can hear her son’s voice, as she reads his first letter from the sanatorium: 

“Hello, my dear Mommy, I’m writing this letter right after you left at 7:31 a.m. I still have a strong headache. I wish that these two months would fly by quickly, but there are still 58 days to go. I miss you so much...

Irina is inspecting her reflection in the mirror. Her face has become haggard with illness. 

As I told you, I won’t be able to stand this for more than a month. They say that the weather here will be even hotter soon... Looking forward to hearing from you, Mom! Your Dennis.”

The image in the mirror is blurred, fading away. A quiet moan and the sound of something falling. 

It is a hot July morning on the outskirts of the capital. The number of people at the bus stop is too large even for a workday morning. The bus is probably delayed. On the opposite side of the road there appears a well-built but unhealthily bent female figure with a handbag over her shoulder. This is Irina. She slowly crosses the road and approaches the bus stop. Only now does she notice the unusual gathering. 

She tries to stop a passing car in order to get a lift. Eventually, one of the cars does stop and a respectable-looking driver drawls: 

“Where’re you going?”

“To the Ministry of Health, please.”

“Sixty rubles.”

“What! A regular cab costs just ten!” 

“Are you getting in or not?” asks the respectable citizen. 

Irina despairingly slams the door and the car drives off without her, shrouding her in fumes. Depressed, she returns to the bus shelter and leans against its rough cold wall. She gets a pill out of her bag. 

A woman passing by announces loudly: 

“There’s no use waiting! All the buses are late, the drivers are on strike.” 

Her words cause some commotion at the bus stop. Someone is upset. Someone else, on the contrary, seems glad. 

The crowd gradually vanishes. Irina is desperate to get to the city center today, so she decides to stay and wait for a bus anyway. She walks up to an empty bench and sits down to lean her aching back against its back, which—as luck would have it—is not entirely torn off. Although she worries about the indefinite delay, deep in her soul she is glad for every sign of change happening in this amazingly enormous country, referred to among its people by the short and simple name sovok.  A strange but very familiar feeling of sweet anxiety reminds her of … 


        … early morning, April 26, 1986. Wearing a light dressing gown, Irina is typing an article, using her old portable Moscow brand typewriter. She has spent all night on this article, which is quite normal for her. She types the final period and takes out the sheet completely covered with text. Collecting all the sheets, she puts them in a pile and moves the typewriter to the opposite side of her desk, covering it with the latest issue of Ogonyok magazine. 

        On the desk, apart from the typewriter and the manuscript, there’s also an empty coffee pot and a cup with some leftover coffee. At the very edge of the desk, right beside the bookshelf, there’s another pile of papers. 

She has to share this desk with her son—he tends to use it during the day and in the evening, while she gets it all to herself at night.

Irina loves the silence of her long nights when she can work or just sit by the window thinking about life and eternity, disturbed by no one, at one with the stars and with the moon, which constantly, mysteriously changes its appearance. 

Irina turns off the table-lamp since it is now quite light. The slightly parted curtains covering the sash window glow a brilliant orange. One side is wide open and the soft spring breeze is blowing the light tulle curtain. Irina moves it aside and inhales the pleasant, fresh new morning air while stretching her body. She is happy with the work that she’s finished—and with the pure blue sky, the breeze that tenderly touches her long fair hair, and the waking pine forest that stretches far off toward the Office of the Building Administration, and beyond, to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station. This forest is also a precious part of her night vigils. Today it’s shrouded in a ghostly grayish fog. Lovely! 

She wakes up her son and helps him pack his school bag as he washes and has breakfast, the dishes clattering in their little kitchen. 

Little by little the sun’s glare fills the room of their tiny, small-family studio apartment. The ray of sunlight plays on the crystal of the clock on the bookshelf,  glancing over the backs of various books, lightly touching the coffee-colored wallpaper, the decorative chandelier and the soft blanket that covers the sofa on the other side of the room. It also illuminates the complex pattern of her cheap Moldavian carpet which, although it is small, manages to cover the whole floor—that’s how tiny the room is. Nevertheless, another sofa has been squeezed in by the wall opposite the window. On this sofa lies a guitar without a case. A bit further away a white double door leads to the spacious pantry which is also used as a wardrobe. In this small Pripyat apartment, Irina and Dennis have lived comfortably for several years. Although in a couple of months they are about to move to a new, bigger flat—something that they very much look forward to—they still feel a bit sad to leave this one, for they are so used to it. Maybe for this reason—because they know that they will have to leave it soon—right now, it seems sweet, precious.

Maybe that’s why a strange melancholy is layered over her joy on this wonderful spring day. 

Fully dressed, Dennis pops into the room to get his school bag. Irina is surprised by such punctuality: “Where are you going so early? Classes don’t start for another hour!  Doesn’t seem like you at all...”

“Oh, come on, Mom,” importantly replies Dennis, “we’re supposed to be on school duty today. And Seryozha’s already waiting for me outside, as we agreed, see? We’ll take a little walk before classes…breathe some fresh air!” 

“Fresh air, that’s good,” agrees Irina sleepily. “OK, off you go then. Oh,” she suddenly remembers, “Denya, you know what, last night something was hooting and crashing at the power station again—even our windows were rattling, didn’t you hear it?” 

“Whatever!” Dennis is going already, “I’m off…”

         A couple of hours later Irina also leaves the apartment and, following her usual route through the courtyards, she walks toward the Palace of Culture,  where her literature and theater studio is meeting today.

She is clearly enjoying the day and for some reason everything moves her: the birds singing, the branches of maples and lindens swaying, all in green; even the chestnut trees that аre already spreading their leaves wide and looking like candlesticks as they embrace the tiny candle-like blossoms.

Everything around her today is so familiar, so joyous and somehow so unique! Irina is pleasantly surprised by the sight of the streams of foaming water on the streets and sidewalks—the street cleaning machines are everywhere. That’s why the air is so unusually fresh today! They probably clean the streets this thoroughly every Saturday—it’s just that she’s never noticed it before. These foaming streams add a certain festive grandeur to the day.

Meanwhile Irina is pleased to note how conveniently she’s dressed for such a day—jeans, a light shirt and light, colorful jacket, and most important—sneakers. This allows her to avoid the puddles easily, or just to jump over them! The fresh breeze is touching her face and hair so sweetly. Nice! 

An old woman, a villager from Polesye,  appears from around the corner building and, while still at quite a distance, asks Irina: 

“Where’s the bus station, young lady?”

“Continue down this street, then cross the road and it’s to your right, next to that forest, just over there, see?” Irina is explaining everything carefully to the old woman, who by now has come closer. 

“Do not go to the bus station!” interrupts a man in a loud voice. Irina turns around. She sees an odd and messy-looking man in a dirty uniform, standing about twenty paces away, clearly very concerned about something. “Today there’s no bus service anyway!” he yells.

The granny starts approaching him in order to find out why there’s no bus service today, and as for Irina, she shrugs her shoulders, “so there’s no service, so what?” and continues on her way. 

An unusual number of people are strolling happily along Lenin Avenue and on the square in front of the Palace of Culture. Even more than that—there are lots of grey militsiya uniforms, which also seems very surprising to Irina. The festive crowds, the kiosks with ice cream and other sweets on the sidewalks—all this doesn’t look like an ordinary Saturday—the approaching May holidays are in the air.

In contrast, the Palace is almost empty. Irina says hello to the concierge whom everybody calls “Grandma Pasha” although she isn’t even that old.  She loves to chat with Irina and today too she’s about to say something. But Irina gestures that she’s late, and quickly runs upstairs, crossing the gracefully decorated dance hall. There are only two people in the studio. One is Tatyana, an engineer at the power station, who recently gave birth to her third child. On parental leave now, she spends all her time writing poems and drawing. She has come here earlier than usual today to start making the wall newspaper.  The other person in the room is Sophia—a professional journalist who works for the local newspaper and part-time for the radio. She is standing by the window, smoking. Tatyana sits at the desk in front of a huge and completely blank sheet of paper. 

“What’s the news?” they ask simultaneously in a friendly duet. 

“What are you talking about?” Irina is surprised. “Where’s everybody else? I thought I was running late!” 

“Oh,” Sophia exhales despondently, coming up to Irina and kissing her on the cheek. She wipes off the mark of her lipstick. “This kid is still in total ignorance. What do you think of that, Tatyana?” 

Sophia returns to the unfinished cigarette she had left on top of the ashtray by the window. She inhales the smoke, curiously studying Irina. 

“God’s birdie knows no worry and no labor,” says Tatyana,  but then adds seriously, “Nobody else is coming, I guess. Will you be all right with just the two of us? You can start, ‘boss.’” 

“What’s happened?” Irina asks quietly. 

“We hardly know anything,” answers Tatyana, “Something’s happened at the power station. Something really bad... There are even casualties.”

“Don’t panic!” interrupts Sophia, exhaling the smoke. “If it was really that bad, I’d definitely have known about it by now! Don’t worry, boss,” she addresses Irina, “let’s see what we’ve got here today and then we’ll go home. I’m still a bit concerned about the kids.”

“Yes, and you know what? In School No. 3 they’re not even allowed outside today,” agrees Tatyana. Her eldest daughter goes to that school, in the fifth grade. 

“So, that’s what it is,” Irina thinks, and an unusual feeling of sweet anxiety possesses her, mixing with the morning’s excitement, filling every cell of her body and even tickling her nose.  But she pulls herself together and continues, almost calmly:

“OK, let’s not make any guesses. Tatyana, you try to get through to the power station, and meanwhile I’ll check our schedule for the evening.”

“There’s no point in calling!” mutters Sophia, sitting on the window sill. She’s already spent half an hour on the phone trying to get through. The atomic station remains silent. 

Irina sits down by the table and opens her calendar. 

“Right. Well, what can we do? You Tanya are excused. Go home to your baby. He needs you more than we do right now. And Sophushka, we have two shows in the residence halls tonight. Let’s do this: go home now and come back at 6 o’clock. By that time I’ll have called—or just somehow got in touch with the residence halls. I doubt they’re up for a poetic evening in right now, at least in the power station residence hall, but in the Builders’ Residence Hall they’ll probably expect us. You can read the poems, I’ll sing the songs, and then we’ll answer their questions, just like always! OK?” 

“OK!” Sophia jumps down from the windowsill, her long dark wavy hair swaying. “See you tonight!” She kisses Irina on the cheek and tenderly tousles Tatyana’s short hair. 

         Irina is home. Anxious, she measures the room with her steps, from time to time popping into the kitchen to check on her lunch cooking. Suddenly recollecting something, she shuts the window. Her son is not home yet. The clock shows half past two in the afternoon. 

At last she hears the front door open and rushes into the small hallway. The sight is shocking—her boy is covered in clay and sand. When he takes off his shoes, piles of sand pour out on the floor. 

“My god! Where have you been?” Irina is terrified. 

“We had a subbotnik today.  We... swept the school yard.” Dennis is lying. The truth is, he and Seryozhka had gone to the river after school, but Irina will find this out later. She is exasperated. 

“In some schools the kids were not even allowed to go outside today and in yours it’s a subbotnik, and for primary school pupils? Unbelievable!” 

Dennis is changing his clothes. Knowingly, he says: 

“I know everything. Last night something exploded at the power station! We even had a teachers’ meeting at school. We were told to take some iodine pills and the grown-ups can have wine... Maybe us kids will even be e-va... taken out of town.”

“Evacuated?” suggests Irina. 

“Yes, that’s right! E-va-cu-ated,” he agrees, washing his face. 

“All right, my little expert! Wash yourself. Have some food. Do something nice. Read a book! I still have a couple of things to take care of tonight, so I’ll be back late. I’ll lock the door. Be good! And don’t open the window, understood?” 

“Understood,” sighs Dennis. 


© Lyubov Sirota "Pripyat syndrome" 


The book by Lyubov Sirota "Pripyat syndrome" in Ukrainian see here: https://www.yakaboo.ua/ua/prip-jats-kij-sindrom.html

Любов Сирота "Прип'ятський синдром" - українською.

Книжкова п'ятниця: чорна дата в історії України... Чорнобиль: Любов Сирота. Прип’ятський синдром 

Рецензія на книгу «Прип’ятський синдром» - Маргарита ОЛІЙНИК-ЛОКАЙ, бібліограф Миргородської міської публічної бібліотеки для дорослих ім. Д. Гурамішвілі. 


Pripyat sуndromeThe book by Lyubov Sirota "Pripyat syndrome" 

 in Russian see here:

Любовь Сирота "Припятский синдром"


And here:


The Video Review of the book by Lyubov Sirota "Pripyat syndrome" in Russian see here:  


The audio version of the book by Lyubov Sirota "Pripyat syndrome" in Russian see here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-WkdvbTuHbERUkyAyZUCY-iVIpGgjTdr

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