Rena Effendi

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Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Nationality: Azerbaijan
Biography: Rena Effendi’s early work focused on oil industry’s effects on people’s lives.  As a result, she followed a 1,700 km oil pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, collecting stories along the way. This work was published in 2009... read on
Public Story
Chernobyl: Still Life in the Zone
Credits: rena effendi
Date of Work: 12/10/10 - 12/24/10
Updated: 05/04/18
The first signs of the Chernobyl nuclear accident of April 26, 1986 were detected in Sweden two days later, after a cloud of radioactive fallout from the explosion was spread over large parts of Western Europe. Following an international investigation, the Soviet Union was forced to officially recognize the accident of catastrophic proportions. Twenty-five years since the disaster, access to the area around Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor is still restricted with barbed wire and police checkpoints. About 230 people inhabit the area of about 1000 square miles, now named the Zone of Alienation. Inside the Zone, as well as in some sparsely populated villages adjacent to it, the inhabitants are mostly elderly women. They survived Holodomor (Stalin imposed famine of Ukraine), Nazi occupation and just days after the worst nuclear accident in the world’s history, they chose to return home.  The women live alone, on meager pensions, sustaining on their small orchards, harvesting radioactive food, burning contaminated logs and sneaking into the forests of the Zone to collect mushrooms and berries that are known to absorb radiation.  In spite of inherent dangers of the contaminated food chain, these extraordinary women have outlived their husbands and even their children. No matter how damaged the land is and how harsh the experience, they still call it and make it home. 
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