23 July 1994
Normal = Narration
Bold = Scene
Italics = Translation (subtitle or voice-over)
A Tatar melody playing in the background:
Exerior: Man in fur hat
Exterior: Woman in winter clothing
Interior: Old man getting a massage from a nurse
Exterior summer: Man sitting in front of a fence
Exterior: Young woman wearing a kerchief, standing in a field
Interior: Old woman with a scarf around her neck
Exterior: Old woman wearing a kerchief at the window of the film crew's van
Tatar melody ends.
The Most Contaminated Spot on the Planet
Shots from the train: winter scenes of villages, industrial scenes
It takes 36 hours by train to get from Moscow to the city of Chelyabinsk. Until recently, no foreigners were allowed to go to this province in the Ural Mountains, and even Soviet citizens were required to get passes.
Ext: city and train station
Exterior: Chelyabinsk train station, city buildings
Exterior: Winter street scenes in the city
Exterior: Chelyabinsk winter festival; festive tuba music plays, people skiing, on rides, stading in crowds.
Exterior: Singers at the festival playing balalaikas, accordians, other ethnic instruments
Extior: Statue of Kurchatov
Exterior: Scenes from the van of the winter countryside
Interior: Woman inside the van wearing a fur hat
Exterior: Crude sign painted in red
Exterior: Louiza walking on the frozen river
Louiza: We're on the ice. We're standing on the river. Let's give it a try. Let's see what happens.
Louiza told me earlier to expect a much lower reading because of the ice.
Louiza: 192 microroentgens per hour.
That's ten times the background radiation in the area.
Exterior: Man in the distance walking along the frozen river
Exterior: Woman with two daughters walking through the winter village. One child is riding a sled.
Exterior: Farida and her husband
Exterior: Farida's children playing on the frozen river
Farida: It's the way people live, they know it's harmful, especially now. Children don't understand, of course. But adults certainly understand. But they do what easier and quicker. Why go three kilometers out of your way every day there and back, when you have housework to do, children, a husband waiting for dinner.
Exterior: Farida and other women standing on the river bank
Interior: Farida's kitchen, Farida and two daughters cooking
Farida: So far it's only 15, we'll have to wait a little longer. So many years of lies have me skeptical.We used to believe everthing, like idiots. Now we don't believe anything. Like idiots.
Exterior: Winter villages from the van
Exterior: Van pulls up to a run-down, one-story building. A woman in a white doctor's coat leads the way into the building.
Interior: Hospital corridor
Doctor: Our children suffer from stomach and intestinal illnesses, then they get nosebleeds, that's another problem school-age children have, and there's one more sign, many of them have food allergies and they don't tolerate medicines well. Later they get gastritis, bronchitis...
Interior: Man in fur hat and coat standing by a woman in a hospital bed
Ramil: The doctors won't tell her. She's been in the hospital 3 months already. She can't walk anymore, she has bed sores and she can't sit comfortably. We don't have even the simplest bandages.
Ramil's sister: The factory is over there, you probably saw it? That's where I worked.
Ramil: She worked there when the explosion occurred. And when they were dumping the waste. Now she's been in pain for a year and three months in the hospital.
Exterior: On the way to the school
Farida to the camera: Nobody knows anything about us. Chernobyl happened, but that's Europe. The pollution reached Europe, and the whole world was upset. But us, out here in the backwoods of Russia? Nobody knows about it, nobody in the world cares about the bed we've made for ourselves here. And that the children's health gets worse from year to year is no secret. It's no secret at all.
2nd Teacher: Before they had rosy cheeks, but now look at them! and that's our future generation.
Ramil: The river will thaw soon. The kids don't have anywhere to swim in the summer. They built a swimming pool [turns to woman] How many years ago was it? But the children go swimming anyway. Just ask them. To this day they swim in that river. They don't have any place else.
Farida: I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've lost all my teeth, too. The children's memory is just terrible. There are very few left in the class with a normal memory.
Farida to the children:
Interior: Ramil ringing the school bell, children leaving classrooms
Exterior: Horse-drawn sleigh with trotting by.
Exterior: Cut to Svetlana Akhmadeeva
I came for dad, he's alone now. I was afraid I would lose my father, too. So I came here, but I really didn't want to. I really don't want to live in Muslyumovo, I hate Muslyumovo. There are probably a lot of people in my shoes.
"Can't you take your father and leave?" I ask her
People who don't know life here always ask that, Why don't you just leave? But where could we go these days? Even if we go somewhere, we can't buy an apt, we don't have the money
Interior: Svetlana's parents' apartment
Svetlana showing picture of mother
I remember there was a militiaman who would walk along the bank of the river. He would chase us away from the river, but for us it was a game, we would run away from him, we would hide until he had walked away and then we would dive back in. Now, of course, I'm horrified. If someone had at least explained it to us then, we wouldn't have swum in the river. When I was little we would take the geese there, we would swim all the time. It's such a temptation, it's so hot in the summer, you just want to take a swim in the river.
Interior: Svetlana and her father in their kitchen
Sotsializm: What's the count on the pelmeni so far? Thirteen, that's all right.
Exterior: Svetlana on her way to the cemetery
Interior: Sanatorium, Lizm watching TV, then in cafeteria
Interior: Lizm and a woman giving him "bioenergy treatment"
Interior: Lizm sitting on a bed
Interior: Office of Romanov, start at picutre of Lenin, go to Romanov talking on the phone
Romanov: Which doctors? The M. doctors? They're all ignoramuses. They're all ignorant about nuclearbiology and radiology. They don't know anything. They're swayed by their emotions.
Interviewer: But they say that there is a lot of cancer?
Romanov: I'm telling you: let's divide the situation into two groups: the situation today after 40 years, and the situation of those first years. Those cancers that you see today are the result of irradiation during the first years of the plant. Cancer has a latency period of 20 years. So if the situation today is bad, and if it causes cancer, then we won't see those cancers for another 20 years. That'll be when? Say, around, oh, about 2015.
Exterior: Bus coming to a stop, children and parents getting off
Interior: Sanatorium, children receiving inhalation treatments
Exterior from van: Passing a military truck with a radiation sign on it
Exterior: Two-story building
Interior: Sofiya making tea
Ext of Sofiya walking
Interior: Sofiya in the orphanage
Interior: Kyshtym-57, Louiza's office
Louiza: I see you have the second and third generations here. All of them, all of them. You have to check all of them. There are children and parents who live there. Those are the ones we're going to help.
Exterior: Villages from van
Exterior: A one-horse sled goes by with three passengers
Exterior: A woman drawing water from a frozen well, then hauling it back to a hut
Interior of Gubaidulin home; Gubaidulin and environmentalist check the radiation levels in the water
Exterior: Two old women on village street
2nd old woman: We swam in that river, we drank that water!
Exterior: In front of Gubaidulin's hut
Gubaidulin: And my son gets these nose bleeds. And look at her back. Her spine is crooked, and she gets these bleeding sores all around.
Old man: We've been living up until now. Those Chernobyl people got help, but here we are. We're born without arms and legs, and no matter how bad things are, we manage to walk. And there's nowhere to go.
Exterior: Villagers waving "good-bye"
Interior: FIB Institute, records office
Dr. Kosenko: The name is Gubaidulin, right? This is Maysky Gubaidulin's card. He was born in 1937. And in 1959 he was checked here and admitted for a week. He lived in Bolshoe Toskino, his body contains a lot of strontium 90, more than 1000 curies of it. They didn't know anything, and we had no right to tell them that they were irradiated. All this information was top secret. And it was a secret because of the factory where they produced weapons grade plutonium. And no one was supposed to know its location. If someone found out that in some area there were people who had been irradiated, then it would have been possible to find the factory. That's why these people weren't given any information about radiation. The doctor had the information to treat the patient properly. He had that information.
Interior: Office of Louiza Kurzova
Interior: Children's hospital
Interior: Doctor walking down corridor
Interior: Children being treated, checked by the doctor
Dr. Basharova: Twenty-two percent of the children survive for over 5 years, which is the criterion for a cure. So we simply observe them, and they're healthy without any treatment. 22 percent of the patients. But the rest die. They die. Sooner or later they die. That's the way it is. But since last year we've been trying to use the German course of treatment. It gives them a better chance, about 50%. But in Germany the treatment is much more intense. But we can't do that here. We haven't gotten to that point yet.
Exterior: Child being carried into a hospital
Interior: Doctor in white coat talking on the phone
Interior: Doctor's office with child and mother
Maxim was born without a left arm and his right leg is shorter than his left. Doctor Pollak has seen many such cases in his long career.
Doctor (to child): Don't be afraid, there's nothing to be afraid of here. 43 centimeters. Bend your leg, dear, bend your leg.
Mother: In the city where I live, there are a lot of children born without hands, legs, and feet.
Doctor Pollak: Today we know that it builds up in the genes. Not only the first generation, but the second, the third. It's interesting that we didn't talk about it, to tell you the truth. For one thing, we didn't know as much. But besides that, it wasn't really allowed to tell most people these kinds of things. In a word, we would look for any explanation, just as long as it wasn't connected with radioactivity.
Interior: Walking down the corridor
Interior: Man walking down a corridor
Interior: Idris sitting on bed in sanatorium
Interviewer: They didn't tell you what had happened?
Exterior: Scenes from van
Interior: Passengers in van, man and woman
Man: They used to fish in the river. They probably still do. It's a really big fish, what's it called? A trench? A trench.
Exterior: Old man in fur hat, carrying a cane
Ryadnyov: The kids swim and whatnot in the river. The geese, the cows, the sheep, they're all down there.
Interviewer: Aren't you afraid?
Ryadnyov: What's there to be afraid of? The worst has happened already. The fish are still alive after all. And there are a lot of them, and they're big like this. Trench fish, that's right. Trench.
Interviewer: Do you still fish now?
Ryadnyov: Yes, yes, I still fish. I fry them. Fried, all the atoms fly out of them.
Interior: School room
The school's principal and geography teacher, Dmitri Svinin, leads the discussion.
Young man: Every third person dies of cancer. My grandfather died of cancer. Nobody dies of old age anymore.
Svinin: You mean when they're seventy?
Young man: No, not seventy. Young people are dying. Young people are dying of cancer, too.
Woman: I know a 17 year old girl who died of cancer. How does someone that age get cancer? Why are these young people dying? There was a young man who grazed his cattle with ours, and he died already. They already buried him.
Svinin: We have to do an analysis
Woman: The river was contaminated. and no one even explained anything to us not even why we can't go near it, and when we asked that man, he says, that's the way it is, that's the way it is. And there were times when a militiaman would stand next to the river, and we'd be swimming, and doing laundry.
Svinin: They didn't know...
Woman: They knew! Dmitry Semyonovich, this is serious! Why are you turning everything into a joke? I meant what I said. We still have relatives living there, and are they still dumping that filth into the river? How can you be so sure of what you say? Who runs Mayak, your brother?
Svinin: The woman doesn't have enough knowledge of science to yell that. I'm a geographer, and I don't know about the underground water.
2nd Woman: It was an experiment on people We were just guinea pigs. Now I suppose we're hostages.
3rd Woman: In our school there is a separate class that has been going on for years, the fifth grade that has been using a different separate program for years. We all know very well that all of those children are retarded. No one talked about that before, either. Now we do. How is it that suddenly we have an whole grade of retarded children? It's our radiation. We, especially you, the younger generation, should be upset, and I am very happy that our comrade from America who is a going to do a film about us, will show everyone, and I hope the whole world finds out what sort of situation we have today in this country.
Interior: Hospital corridor
Dr. Slusaryova: When I started working here, that was in 1983 I came here, when our patients or out-patients would die, we were told unofficially, nothing was on paper, we were told that if people have cancer, we shouldn't write that down as a diagnosis. Write something else, anything else, either a stroke, or a severe heart attack of some sort. Even chronic heart disease, basically any of those accompanying diseases, but they would only let us put down cancer as a contributing factor. But to just put down cancer as a cause of death was not allowed. We have that Institute of Biophysics in Chelyabinsk that studies these problems. But they don't inform us. I went there about 4 years ago as a doctor to meet my colleagues since they had done research on my generation, people born in around 1953, 1954. Well, they wouldn't even tell me about the radioactivity, how much I've got of that strontium-90 in my system. I asked and they said it was a state secret. Everything here is a state secret.
Interior: File room of FIB with Dr. Kosenko
Dr. Kosenko shows a file from a large rack
Interior: Testing a woman for radiation
Exterior: Summer scenes from the train
Exterior: Ramil hoeing in a potato field
Ramil: You left when? In March?
Interviewer: Yes, In March, at the end of March. Ramil: The end of March, around the 20th, right? After that we took her home. She died at home. 56 years old.
Exterior: Ramil leading us down the village street
Exterior: Ramil points to houses
Exterior: Approach a house with an old woman and three children standing outside
Ramil: Your daughter was 36 last year, right?
Ramil's Aunt: Right. These are the girls she left, three little girls.
Exterior: Bridge as seen from van
Exterior: River bank
Exterior: River, barbed wire, Robert with a geiger counter
Farida: 100, 150, 200. This is insane.
This is 25 times normal background radiation.
Exterior: Boys fishing, Robert with the geiger counter
1st boy: Is there a lot in the fish?
Interviewer: Yes, a very large amount.
1st boy: We shouldn't eat that fish?
Interviewer: No, you shouldn't.
1st boy: What'll happen if you eat it?
Interviewer: You'll get sick.
1st boy: We're sick anyway. That's what they mean when they say, you can't infect an infection.
Interviewer: What did they tell you in school about coming here?
1st boy: That the river is contaminated?
Interviewer: With what?
1st boy: Aaaahhhh, chemicals? There's an electric station...
Robert: Whoa! It's hovering around 1. That's the highest reading so far.
Interviewer: The radiation is high here. You shouldn't be here. Don't stand there!
The level of radiation we just measured is 50 times higher than the normal background radiation.
Exterior: Horses grazing on the bank of the river
Exterior: Summer countryside from van
Exterior: Lena Morozova in a field
Lena: Of course we're going to die. What's there to be optimistic about? It's better to believe. I've got no home, no medicine, how are things going to get better? Maybe if they gave me an apartment, that would be some kind of stimulant. The way things are I don't believe in anything anymore. Nobody's going to cure me. Who needs me? Who needs me? My God. The individual doesn't mean anything to us. It's the people, the people got used to it. But all alone, what can I do? I have to bring up my children, take care of them so that at least they won't be sick.
Exterior: Idris Sunrasin on the banks of a lake
Idris (to sons on the lake): Be careful there! Don't rip the net! Haul it in carefully!
After Idris's sons catch five fish on the lake, he invites me back to his home in Argayash.
Interior: Sunrasin apartment; small boy brings in a pail of water; Idris's wife cleans fish
There's no running water today in the Sunrasin apartment.
Interior: Idris sits with his young daughter, who is playing a Tatar melody on an accordian
Idris's daughter: We're already contaminated, and we get along that way. But some people can't live with the contamination, and they die from it. Probably all of the Urals are contaminated. And we live in that contamination, we swim in the contaminated lake. But we'll be fine, we'll probably live to be fifty or so. But people who move here, they can't live here too long, because they come from Moscow, or abroad, and the air there is clean, well, cleaner, and that's why they can't manage for too long here. And that's why people die so quickly.
Interior: Sunrasin kitchen, everyone comes for dinner
Interior: Dr. Romanov's office
Interviewer: How many people died?
Romanov: Not one. Not one. Not a single person died.
Interviewer: What about afterwards?
Romanov: No one died afterwards either. We have no evidence of any sort that anyone died either as a direct result of the explosion, or as a result of an illness caused by it. There is no evidence. No one died.
Interior: Sofiya Khrolenko in a van
Sofiya: The building was here, L-shaped. And right here, this is the first floor, and there were steps going up. Game rooms, and this was the cafeteria. Over there was the well. That's where we could get our clean water. It's such a beautiful place. You know, even after all this time it breaks my heart that we had to leave here. This bush was absolutely tiny, and now look how big it's gotten. It grew.
Sofiya grabs and branch and buries her face in it, crying
Sofiya crying, holding branch in her hands
Exterior: Anisa and Robert walking through a grassy field. Robert has a geiger counter
Robert: .15, .2, went off the scale, it's very high. This is the highest we've seen we're not even close to the river. This is the highest we've seen, so far. It's almost twice what we've seen in Muslyumovo.
Anisa: It's high, right?
Interviewer: It is 100 time normal background radiation. What do you do here?
Anisa:We cut hay, this is where we cut hay, right here, this is what we feed our cattle. That's our field. The animals eat the grass, the children drink the milk. I'm just amazed. I didn't think it could be so high.
Interviewer: How many years have you been doing it?
Anisa: How many years? Well, for as long as I can remember. And I'm 38. I was born in 1953, they resettled us in '56, but we kept these fields by the river. We all cut hay here. Half the village cuts hay along the river. We all cut hay.
Interviewer: And no one ever said anything?
Anisa: Who's going to say anything? They only started talking about it 2 years ago. We don't have geiger counters, we don't have anything. I don't even know how much there is in my own field. How would I know? Where am I going to go? Who else is going to give me land? And where else am I going to get hay? So that's how it is.
Robert: The needle's even buried there, almost.
Anisa: So that's it. What are we supposed to do now? We've got to leave here.
Exterior: Robert and driver by the van
Exterior: Fields, grass
On Screen Information
The end of the Cold War did not mean the end of the Mayak Nuclear Weapons Complex and its impact on the surrounding area.
On July 17, 1993, 20 liters of radioactive plutonium leaked from a ventilation shaft.
Greenpeace announced on October 27, 1993, that a Finnish nuclear company has been sending its own high level radioactive wastes to Mayak since 1981.
Perestroika revealed that the country has been turned into a nuclear waste dump. Mayak, with its nearly 500 million curies of radioactivity, is only one of many similar complexes dotting the map of today's Russia.
Production Assistance...........................................Roberg Rieger
Photographed and Edited by......................................Slawomir Grunberg
Post Production Assistance......................................Lesli La Rocco
Translators.....................................................Lesli La Rocco, Slava Paperno
Narrated by.....................................................Slawomir Grunberg
Russian Voices..................................................Lesli La Rocco
Post Production Facilities Provided by..........................Log In Productions