Our day trip included visiting the villages of Zalissya and Kopachi. Zalissya is the first stop after the checkpoint into the Exclusion Zone while Kopachi is farther north; visitors can see the Chornobyl plant from Kopachi’s road near the Red Forest.
Where are we?
Both villages were two of 186 communities (including over 100,000 people) evacuated after the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. Kopachi, highly contaminated even to this day, remains abandoned, while other villages have seen a number of their former inhabitants return. These “self-settlers” chose to live within the Exclusion Zone, despite the health risks. One woman, Rozaliya Ivanivna, returned to Zalissya and became the village’s only inhabitant until she passed away a few years ago.
Many chose to return because these are their homes, where they grew up, and where their families are buried. “I won’t go anywhere, even at gunpoint.” says one of the self-settlers in the documentary, Babushkas of Chernobyl. The women in the film, and many of the 1,200 people who chose to return to their homes (illegally) inside of the Exclusion Zone, survived Holodomor, the Soviet-induced famine that killed seven million Ukrainians, not to mention WWII, and the invasion of the Nazis. For many, the connection to home is greater than their fears of radiation poisoning.
For me, walking these villages was one of the most impactful aspects of the trip. So often the Chornobyl disaster is portrayed, or even just feels, like it was a long time ago. Seeing the homes of people forced to leave and the possessions they left behind is a reminder that this happened just thirty years ago.
Watching: The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan)
To Watch: Trailer Park Boys & Legends of the Hidden Temple
Trailer Park Boys
For those not familiar with the beauty of this show, Trailer Park Boys is a mockumentary centered around three friends (Ricky, Bubbles, and Julian) living in the Sunnyville Trailer Park in Nova Scotia, Canada. The show follows the trashiest, most wonderful adventures of the boys making money and escaping their alcoholic, ex-cop of a Trailer Park Supervisor, Mr. Lahey. First released in 2003 and now in the eighth season, it’s crazy that the actors have been playing these characters for so long.
The eighth season of Trailer Park Boys was released by Netflix two weeks ago. Admittedly, there is a hole in my heart without J-Roc on the show, but its TPB so I’ll take what I can get. If you haven’t seen the show please do yourself a favor and start.
Legends of the Hidden Temple
Oh, Legends of the Hidden Temple. Oh, Olmec. Oh, Kirk Fog. Oh, childhood things. Did you know that you can watch old episodes of the show on YouTube? 90s kids–your life is about to change.
The Nickelodeon show ran from 1993-1995 with teams competing for prizes based on physical challenges, answering questions, and, most importantly, escaping the guards and finding the hidden object in the temple run. Legends of the Hidden Temple featured a giant talking face named Olmec and Fog as the khaki-shorts-and-utility-belt-wearing-trying-to-keep-a-straight-face-host.
This show is just so 90’s I can’t handle it. The glasses, the socks, the haircuts, and the prizes (DON’T WORRY! THEY’RE STILL GETTING THE REMOTE CONTROL CAR AND THE FASHION BUG GIFT CARD!) are so amazing that you owe it to yourself to rewatch them. Watching these kids continuously mess up putting together the Shrine of the Silver Monkey (COME ON IT’S THREE PIECES!) is still just as frustrating today as it was in 1994.
Chris and I have been rewatching episodes and choosing to cheer for our teams as if we were watching college football. Highly recommend.
To Play: 99% Invisible
Last month two friends told me about the 99% Invisible podcast. Hosted by Roman Mars and a collaboration between the American Institute of Architects and radio station KALW, each episode overviews an aspect of design that is largely absent from view. I first listened to “The Falling of the Lenins“, which discussed how Ukrainians are literally dismantling history by tearing down Soviet-era statues of Vladimir Lenin in towns across the country. How do cultures evolve and see their society? What do statues and other forms of public displays actually mean? Of course I fangirl-ed the hell out of this episode. A bonus episode I recommend is “War and Pizza“, a collaboration with Gravy. The episode details the history of the American military in developing many of the processed foods we see in grocery stores today.
To Do: Local Markets
Spring is finally here (-ishhhhh considering we had a random snowstorm this week) and there are a ton of cute markets selling different cheeses, produce, and homemade goods.
Got to spend the morning wandering around with this cute pup ❤
To Eat: Homemade Pizza Boats
One of the greatest successes of my life is getting Chris to call french bread pizzas their true name–pizza boats. My family always called them that and growing up they were one of our favorite dinners. In Charleston, Chris and I would buy baguettes from our neighborhood bakery (EVO Pizza) and make our own. Here in Pápa, I was at the grocery store and randomly saw the baker wrap up a few olive baguettes still warm from the oven.
Chris is a great cook, especially when it comes to grilling. After grilling our baguette, we loaded them up with toppings: szalami (pepperoni) for Chris and gomba (mushrooms) for me. They were so good and so filling I nearly fell asleep half way through eating mine.
To Self Care: Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary
Former intern and overall wonderful person Alexandra Keane just opened her own herbal remedies shop, Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary. As a student, she was always drawn to herbal medicinal practices and native knowledge; while working for the Sustainability Office, we helped re-establish the outdoor garden at the political science department where she was able to actually put these interests into practice. After graduation Alexandra worked with the College of Charleston’s Grounds Department where she developed the Restorative Agriculture Program.
Following her success at CofC, she opened her own online shop of homemade and locally sourced teas, salves, and other products meant to promote self care and the healing power of herbal plants. We ordered the fire cider(helps with digestion, relieves sinus congestion, and helps ward off the flu and colds) and lavender salve (calming skin moisturizer and lovely to use before bed) a few weeks ago; it was like receiving a little box of positivity in the mail. Chris and I take shots of the cider each morning and I use the salve before bed and to help heal the cracking on my hands (my now southerner blood is definitely not used to this thinner European air!)
One of the greatest aspects about Sacred Circle is that every product is made with care and incredibly locally sourced; ingredients are either grown in Alexandra’s own garden or from growers in Charleston. Check out this amazingly detailed blog about the life cycle of one her salves (an LCA nerd myself–basically my entire graduate research–it’s this attention to detail that really sets Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary apart from other herbal shops). As someone who struggles with taking time for herself, practicing self care, and generally skeptic of how businesses source their ingredients, I love being one of her customers (we just ordered more fire cider and other goodies yesterday).
So proud of this amazing woman and all she has accomplished! Check out her shop (she currently has Seasonal Wellness and Get Well kits available) and this badass interview with There Could Be Blackberries!
To Look Forward To: Babushkas of Chernobyl
I am so excited that the Babushkas of Chernobyl documentary was finally released on iTunes this week. Director Holly Morris recorded the lives of the elderly Babushkas who returned to villages within the toxic “Exclusion Zone” right outside of Chernobyl’s deadly nuclear site. While the villages near the center were originally evacuated–it is currently against the law to live or travel in the Exclusion Zone–roughly one hundred women returned to their homes and currently subsist off the toxic landscape.
Many of the women lived through Nazi occupation and the Soviet-implemented Holodomorbefore being forced to leave their homes following the meltdown of Reactor #4. For them, the independence and love for their homeland brought them back:
“At her cottage, Hanna Zavorotyna brews homemade moonshine and slices thick chunks of salo, raw pig fat – though it is strictly forbidden to eat local food. “Starvation is what scares me, not radiation,” she says. That stark choice reveals an incredible journey the women have traveled: from Stalin’s enforced famines in the 1930s, through Nazi occupation, to nuclear disaster. Like the wolves, moose, wild boar and other wildlife not seen for decades that have come back to the abandoned forests around Chernobyl, the women of the Exclusion Zone, too, have an extraordinary story of survival, and offer a dark yet strangely affirming portrait of life post-apocalypse.”
You can watch the trailer here. Even if you don’t watch the film, the trailer is worth a viewing just to hear one of the Babushkas talk about where the men have gone.
“Why you so worried about time anyway? The only time I’m concerned with is having a good one.” —JRoc