It was easier there. If you've seen the hit HBO show Chernobyl, you probably felt yourself getting a bit emotional as the story of firefighter Vasily Ignatenko, his wife Lyudmilla and their unborn baby played out. In the decades since, they've fought for recognition, medical care and just compensation for the immense damage wrought on their bodies and families by the radioactivity unleashed. March 1, 1990. They buried him barefoot." Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesDisabled children in the cafeteria at the Vesnova Home for Invalid Children, 2016. At Mitinsky cemetery in Moscow there are 30 graves of the first victims of the Chernobyl accident – these are the firemen who were the first to put out the fire and the workers of the nuclear power plant. A cloud of radioactive material settled over Ukraine and Belarus after a critical failure blew apart a Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station reactor in 1986. Chernobyl: The HBO series is based on real people and here's what happened to them after the nuclear disaster in 1986. Because of radioactive contamination 485 villages were abandoned. I was in Afghanistan, too. I want bear witness: my daughter died from Chernobyl. The reactor's output spiked to 33,000 megawatts—about equal to the annual energy consumption of New York State (typical shorthand is 1 megawatt per 1,000 homes)—causing a steam explosion that destroyed the reactor casing and blew the upper plating through the plant's ceiling. This second explosion had a similar blast yield to the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) "Mother of All Bombs" built by the U.S. military. The open-air graphite fires weren’t extinguished for nearly two weeks, causing plumes and plumes of deadly radiation to float over and settle on vast territories of Russian and Eastern European land. Here we are only scratching the surface of a long legacy of suffering. Vasily was 25-year-old firefighter who was one of the first on the scene at Chernobyl. He died due to radiation exposure less than three weeks later — but his historic contributions helped stop the crisis from becoming even worse. Here's an aerial shot taken after the explosion, while the facility was still … The first reactor was completed in 1977 and the whole town of Pripyat was developed around the site. The next step was inserting control rods made of boron carbide, which prevents fission reactions, into the reactor core to reduce the output. Ultimately, thousands died and children are born with radiation-related birth defects to this day. A monument in "memory of the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster" in front of Chernobyl's New Safe Confinement. Chernobyl disaster The roof surfaces on the reactor building (visible around the ventilation stack), where Ignatenko and his fellow firefighters were working. It was this attempt to extinguish the open-air graphite fires atop that gave Ignatenko his lethal dose of radiation. According to Newsweek, the wafting clouds of radioactive material over Ukraine, Belarus, and even as far as Sweden, killed 4,000 people. Among the brave souls on the scene was Vasily Ignatenko, a firefighter responding to a seemingly standard blaze at the Chernobyl plant. The basement of the hospital is infamous for containing the clothing worn by the first responder’s, the firemen who attended the scene immediately following the explosion. It began with a systems test in Reactor 4 in the early morning hours of April 26, designed to simulate the transfer of power from steam turbines to backup generators in the event of a power outage. “They had to cut up the formal wear, too, because they couldn’t get it on him, there wasn’t a whole body to put it on.”. 4 intended to gauge how functional the plant could be during unexpected power loss. Then, in 1986, disaster struck. 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