Pidhirtsi Castle: one of the most valuable palace-garden complexes in the Ukrainian’s eastern borderlands—and one of the most haunted!

We are in Pidhirtsi, Ukraine. For believers, the country itself is filled with legends and mysticism, and Pidhirsti castle (Ukrainian: Підгорецький замок; Polish: zamek w Podhorcach) is also known as one of the most haunted castles in Ukraine. Tales surround Maria Zhevusska, the wife of Vaclav Zhevussky, a mysterious lady in white whose spirit is said to still wander around the castle. According to the legend, Vaclav Zhevussky, a former owner of the castle, walled up alive his young wife in the castle’s basement. The reason for such a terrible…

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Costumes, dancing, and food: Malanka is Ukraine’s biggest party

In Ukraine, Malanka is much more than a party: it’s one of the oldest, happiest, most vibrant days of the year in local culture. It is a folk holiday celebrated on January 13th, which is New Year’s Eve in accordance with the Julian calendar, caps off the festivities of the Christmas holidays, and is often the last opportunity for partying before the solemn period of Lent which precedes Easter. By nightfall people, dressed in elaborate homemade costumes depicting bears, gypsies, goats, and nurses, will parade from house to house singing…

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Transnistria, the country that doesn’t exist.

More correctly known as the ‘Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic’ (or ‘PMR’), Transnistria is one of a number of frozen conflict zones that emerged following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. (Others are the unrecognised states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia along the Russian-Georgian border, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway territory of Azerbaijan.) At the border points with Moldova there are still today tanks in the middle of the road and soldiers in camouflage. With a few euros you can get permission to enter, only few euros to put a…

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The Miracle of the Church of the Prophet Elijah in Chernobyl

Over the entire years since the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, the levels of radiation in the area of the only church of the exclusion zone, the St. Elijah Church, was well below the other levels across the zone. “Even during the most difficult days of 1986, the area around the St. Elijah Church was clean from radiation, not to mention that the church itself was also clean” said the president of the Ukrainian Chernobyl Union Yury Andreyev in a Kiev-Moscow video conference. Andreyev said too that many liquidators of the…

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Monument for the firefighters of the Chernobyl disaster.

After a random walk and different articles about Chernobyl and the exclusion zone, I want speak to conclude (at this moment) my “Chernobyl Diaries”, about the efforts and the bravery of the firefighters (or liquidators as they were known here) in the fighting and management of the blaze that initially destroyed Reactor 4 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Shortly after the accident, firefighters arrived to try to extinguish the fires. First on the scene was a Chernobyl Power Station firefighter brigade under the command of Lieutenant Volodymyr Pravik, who…

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Chernobyl nuclear power plant: 32 years later

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster began in the early hours of Saturday 26 April 1986 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. An explosion released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe, until the Norway. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other is the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan, and I hope to write something about this…

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Postcards from Pripyat, the town nearest to the No.4 reactor of Chernobyl.

Pripyat is the town nearest to the No. 4 reactor, had 49,000 inhabitants, and was founded to house workers from Chernobyl. The name came from the river where sits the town, that was founded on 4th February 1970 on a terrain of endless woodland and marshes in Northern Ukraine. Construction of the power plant began in the same year – first as construction site, and then as one of the biggest nuclear electric power stations in Europe. Pripyat soon became a key town in Ukraine thanks to its location and…

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Pripyat: schools and kindergartens

In Pripyat there were 15 primary schools in Pripyat for 5,000 children, plus 5 secondary schools and one professional school. Toys and exercise books still remain everywhere across the floor as a stark memories of children that once here attended. One of the “beautiful” sights of a visit to Pripyat are the schools and kindergartens, with everywhere toys, exercise books, and all the usual things about education facilities. However, it wasn’t the view of the objects, that they are exactly what you’d expect to find, but the frames of thousands…

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A Visit to Pripyat Hospital

{Seven in the morning. At seven, they told me he was in the hospital. I rushed over, but there was a police cordon round the hospital, they weren’t letting anyone in. Only the ambulances were let through. The police were warning us not to go near the ambulances. The Geiger counters were going berserk! I wasn’t the only one. All the wives rushed over, everyone whose husband had been at the power plant that night. I ran to look for my friend. She was a doctor at the hospital. I…

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The radioactive amusement park abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster.

Festive decorations are still here in the ghost town of Pripyat, ready for the opening, the 1st May 1986 that never came. It was to be opened for the first time on 1 May 1986, in time for the May Day celebrations. Several sources report that the park was opened for a short time on 27 April before the announcement to evacuate the city was made, and one site shows photos of the amusement park in operation. Theories says that the park was hurriedly opened in the aftermath of the…

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Duga-3, the top-secret military base lost in Chernobyl’s irradiated forest

Soaring high over the pines and firs in a forest clearing is the Duga structure. It looks as if someone had taken a 20-mile stretch of electricity pylons and squashed them into a line the length of a football field. A swirling mass of wires, pylons and cylindrical cones form a geometric structure of steel roughly 500 meters high….

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