Postcard From Pripyat

Scenes from Chernobyl's ghost town.

This photo, by Timm Suess, captures Lenin Square in Pripyat, the town closest to Chernobyl. Once, the mayor imagined planting a rose here for every citizen. Now, the town center is little more than an overgrown ghost town. Though the site of a devastating nuclear accident is empty, tourists have started visiting in small numbers. The Ukrainian government opened the site to visitors in 2011, a bid to draw more tourists to Ukraine ahead of the 2012 European football championship.

Officials say radiation levels in parts of the dead zone are "returning to normal levels," but visitors must sign a waiver, and are instructed not to touch and irradiated vegetation or metal structures. According to a report from the Daily Telegraph:

Visitors get to walk through the debris-strewn corridors of its Palace of Culture, admire its crumbling Olympic-sized swimming pool, and wander through the eerily empty classrooms of one of its biggest schools. Hundreds of discarded gas masks litter the floor of the school canteen, Soviet propaganda continues to hang on classroom walls, and children's dolls are scattered about, left where their young owners dropped them in a hurry a quarter of a century ago.

Mr Andreyev, who lived with his family in Pripyat, said it broke his heart to return there a few years ago.

"When I went to have a look at my old flat in the 1990s my heart almost stopped," he remembered. "When I looked at everything that was once so familiar to me I realised how much we had lost."

Next week, Postcard will run photos of ghost cities. Submit your best shots to atlanticcities.postcard@gmail.com.

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.