Viktor Pinigen, surveyor and liquidator, Belarus

„The silence. It was like a vacuum."

Viktor Pinigen is a surveyor. A the end of May 1986, he was deployed as a liquidator in the 30 - kilometre eclusion zone.

"Medal for the deserving work of the liquidators"

"It had to be at the end of May, around one month after the reactor disaster in Chernobyl, but I can no longer remember precisely. I was called up as an army reservist and had to set out immediately. Why and where exactly I would only learn later. Together with five other men, I travelled in an empty train in the direction of Gomel. We thought we might be going to war. There we were met by the chairman of the Executive Committee. All the doors in the administrative building were wide open, hardly anyone was there. We were told that we had arrived in Naroulia, a town near the Ukrainian border. We received quarters at an inn and were the only guests. But we still didn't know what was going on. The inn was only around 100 metres away from the Pripjat River with a very beautiful, sandy shore. So we bathed. We were finally picked up and driven to a deserted village located in the midst of the 30-kilometre exclusion zone around the destroyed reactor in Chernobyl. Our task was to conduct surveying activities in several villages. Large, heavily contaminated areas were to be paved over – but we only learned that much later.
I still know by heart the names of the villages where we worked for the week: Bely Bereg, Danilejewka, Lichownja, Grushevka. And I will never forget the silence. It was dead quiet. No singing birds, no buzzing bees or flies, only the occasional stray cats and dogs, all of whom were later shot dead. The villages were deserted, doors and windows boarded up, the wells filled in. And the silence. Like a vacuum. One afternoon they had forgotten about us. We simply weren't picked up. So we walked 15 kilometres back to our inn through a beautiful, uninhabited landscape. At the boundary of the exclusion zone, I saw firefighters and soldiers in protective suits and protective masks, and a policeman was washing every car that drove out of the zone. We worked in our civilian clothes, which no one seemed to care about. And we didn't have a dosimeter, even though everyone who worked in the exclusion zone was actually supposed to carry one. I still don't know to this day how much radiation I was exposed to. Six years later – and after quite some insistence – I was acknowledged as a liquidator and received a nice medal. It shows a drop of blood and the alpha, beta and gamma rays. But unlike other countries of the former Soviet Union, I have never received any compensation or a pension. In Belarus we were celebrated as heroes, but that was all. Today we're no longer even that. Instead we're now regarded as victims. However, a right to compensation therefore still doesn't exist. But I'm also not a victim. To the contrary: I'm proud to have played my part in tackling this disaster. And I'm still alive. Three of my former comrades have died.

read more:

The suffering of the liquidators



Werden Sie Unterstützer*in

Guter, kritischer Journalismus kostet. Und guter Journalismus bedingt redaktionelle Unabhängigkeit. Werden Sie Unterstützer*in. Ein Jahresbeitrag kostet
25 Franken bzw. 22.50 Euro. Wir freuen uns natürlich auch über kleinere oder grössere Beträge. Wir senden Ihnen auf Wunsch gerne eine Rechnung und eine Spendenbestätigung.
Ihr E-Mail an:

Verein für nachhaltigen Journalismus

Neugasse 30

9000 St. Gallen


Thurgauer Kantonalbank, 8570 Weinfelden


Bildschirmfoto 2021 08 04 um 13.23.49



Mensch + Energie

Vor dem Hintergrund der aktuellen „Energiewende“-Debatten möchten wir einen kritischen Diskussionsbeitrag leisten für all jene, die mehr wissen wollen zum Thema Energie. Und wir möchten einen Beitrag leisten, die tiefen ideologischen Gräben zu überwinden, die Befürworter und Gegner trennen. Denn die Wahrheit wird bei diesem Thema sehr schnell relativ bzw. relativiert, man bewegt sich auf einem Feld, in dem sich Experten, Meinungsmacherinnern, Ideologen, Betroffene, Opfer, Lobbyisten, Politikerinnen und Weltenretter tummeln. Sie alle sollen zu Wort kommen, sie sollen von ihrer Wahrheit erzählen, der Wahrheit des Strahlenopfers ebenso wie jener des Kraftwerkbetreibers, des Befürworters und der Gegnerin.

Aus wird


header neumenschundatom2 



Eine Initiative des 

Logo neu2

We use cookies

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.