30. Pripyat Kindergarten

Pripyats population was very young, with the average age being just 26. With so many young families it was necessary to build no fewer than 15 Kindergartens.

Here is Kindergarten Cheb Urasaka being built in 1970 (Pic from pripyat.com)

I knew this one was going to be pretty tough on the emotions and I’d been building it up in my head for months.

Since I’ve been staying in the zone I’ve been with 15 other travellers, all guys. So there was a fair amount of rowdiness, and bravado going on. Not here.

…This was different.

You all know what it’s like exploring in a group; when you see each other you’re normally like “You’ve gotta see in here” or “did you find the piano?”

Not here. We were silent.

When we occasionally passed in corridors we were silent. Some guys acknowledged my presence with a subtle nod, most guys couldn’t even lift their eyes to make eye contact.

I knew there’d be dolls around the place, I’d seen photos before. But when you actually see them, you see how many of them there are, their faces seared:

You start to think back to your own experiences and memories. I know how hard it is for a child to leave a loved toy behind, sometimes it’s their best friend, their world. I cant imagine how those toddlers felt to be evacuated without being able to go back for their friend.

Toys were still delicately stacked, their colourful fragility contrasting against 25 years of grime.

Toddlers locker room:

It started to almost feel like a normal explore, the obligatory chairs etc.

Then you realise the scale of everything your seeing, and realise it’s for people under five.

Even the gas masks I found were in toddler size.

I came to one room, with cots piled high. I forced myself to take a photograph and just leave.

I came across a dormitory, juding by the size of the beds it was for 4-5 year olds.

There were 25 beds in this one, each individually numbered.

There was a list on the wall with each of the childrens names, and which bed they were in.

This really wrenched me inside. The beds were no longer anonymous, they were real. As individual and personal as your own bed that you will fall asleep in tonight.

I began to think about how old the former occupants of these beds would be now. They’d be about my age.

Then I realised that actually, very few, if any are even alive right now.

I found another doll which was different to any I’d seen here before. It was at least three times the size, the size of an actual toddler. Face down in the dust at my feet. I grabbed its arm to roll it over, and it was heavy, a dead weight. It seemed limp and lifeless, heavy, not hollow like a doll normally is.

The mechanism which closes the dolls eyes when it’s laid horizontally must have been slightly dusty as when I rolled the doll over it looked me square in the eyes for two seconds, before closing them by herself. To this day it’s still the single image I remember from my time in Chernobyl before I sleep.

I pass another dorm, with bunk beds.

Tiny shoes:

I make my way to the staff / admin areas
School Nurse room:

Childrens clothing:

Leading to the laundrette:

Staff ID card:

I make my way out of the staff area, and realise I haven’t seen or heard anyone else in at 20 minutes. I’m not sure how many children attended this Kindergarten, but it was a similar size to my secondary school, which had 900 students.

I pass one last dormitory on my way out. I look through the door but decide I’ve seen enough.

The atmosphere on the bus after we visited here was completely different to any other time. No one shared photos or anecdotes, we all just sat, 16 guys, heads hung in complete silence.


“This really does bring home what happened that day and images like these will stay in your mind forever.As ever..very well shot indeed.”
Klempner69 - 20th June 2011

“Superb as always Urban loving the photos..I am sure the feelings were similar to those I had on my WWI battlefields trip. Just complete loss as to how it must have been for those there at the time. Can you PM me the info on your trip I really fancy a visit and would prefer to go via a company that delivers”
Priority7 - 20th June 2011

“These are possibly the most haunting pics I have seen from the Chernobyl area”
Paul Powers - 20th June 2011

“Those brought a tear to my eye.

Thank you for going places a lot wouldn't and for sharing the images. It really does bring it home. I was a young child when this disaster happened and I had a pair of shoes very similar to the ones you photographed... too close to home? Maybe? But that means it won't be forgotten”
Curious Dragon - 20th June 2011

“Very Moving”
Jayman - 20th June 2011

“It definately makes you think, doesn't it? I've got two kids myself and this stuff really makes you think about what if it was your kids caught up in a disaster on this scale, only to die a horrible death from radiation poisoning later. If ever there's a reason to bin nuclear power plants, these pics must be it.”
Karltrowitz - 20th June 2011

“Amazing, very poignant pictures, with an excellent write up.

Why is it though, that a lot of the places in Pripyat get so trashed? It's not like vandals can just come and go what with the exclusion zone…”
Flyboy - 20th June 2011

“Surely any looted items are likely to cause ill health though Common sense should even hit the hardest of looters but then again greed is a very addictive thing and can make a man ruthless beyond belief.

I am still horrified by how disinterested the rest of the worlds governments are with this area. We all know a lot of money needs investing to renew the sarcophagus around the reactor but no countries are stepping forward. Surely it is in all our interests to keep the radiation contained?? But no... it's not on our soil so why should we care? Funny... we cared a lot at the time.”
Curious Dragon - 20th June 2011

“That was exactly what I was thinking - it is absolutely ridiculous. Apparently the amount of radiation that would be released if the sarcophagus collapses would be comparable to the disaster itself!”
Flyboy - 21st June 2011

“It certainly does bring it home to you when you see the dolls, cots and shoes. Those poor little souls. It does make me so mad with the vandalism and looters..........it's almost like desecrating a grave yard!!!!
Thanks for sharing the pics tho, they are awesome..”
Janey68 - 21st June 2011

“Fantastic report & very well shot UrbanX.

It does really make you think. I can't imagine what it must of felt like to walk around the kindergarten.
Well done.”
Em_UX - 21st June 2011

“great work fella, having 2 little ones myself brings it home to ya and if it happend over here and u where on your own its not so bad but this happening to familys, dad at work, mum at home and kids at school and the not knowing if they where all ok before u coul get to them
what number kindergarden was it buddy ?”
Tommo - 21st June 2011

“I wonder if people will be doing tours to fukushima in 20 years time? Get saving UrbanX!”
Krela - 21st June 2011

“slightly off topic in terms of the thread but in the news recently all the old workers and the generation that helped build fukushima are creating a group to go in and help fix it up and clean it out, they feel they owe it to the country as it was there generation that built it and they should be the ones to fix it, and they dont want to risk young lives , so fair play to them

as for visiting it, yeah i can see tours of the place in 20 years time just about the time i have my mid life crisis and fly over for a week lol”
Tommo - 21st June 2011

“Incredible photographs and a moving personal account. Thanks for sharing”
Lizm73 - 21st June 2011

“It is terrible, so many generations will be paying the price. Recovery will be slow and to be honest some families will never recover.
As far as the nuclear side of things... the information released is very carefully worded and I do suspect it is worse than they let on. There are cattle which aren't fit for anything, crops which cannot be consumed and the water supply is still in question.

Japan is now having a turn around and are changing their direction for energy production, coming away from nuclear. You know it must be very bad for that decision to be made.
I have followed the crisis in Fukushima closely and it has been heartbreaking to see and I was dreading a second Chernobyl. I dearly wish I could go out there and help somehow. Whatever grievences we have in our lives, they simply do not compare. The Japanese are a proud and resourceful nation but it is hard to be resourceful when you have been stripped bare.”
Curious Dragon 21st June 2011

“It is so close to my heart so I make it my business to learn as much as I can.

I hadn't realised Scottish cattle were still effected... its quite scary (to say the least).

I long to go out there but funds do not allow right now so I shall have to bide my time and hope the opportunity doesn't pass me by. This means I appreciate your efforts all the more and I love digesting all your posts (I sound like I'm sucking up don't I lol)

Deep down in my heart I know that if I had the money I would up and go to Japan to chip in and lend my rather feeble muscles. Watching the new disaster unfold left me with more than a single tear in my eye and praying history was not going to repeat. I stayed up overnight watching the reports, feeling like it was my duty to bare witness.

Nuclear energy does have it's place in the world but I can't help but wish the potential for catastrophic disaster could be eliminated”
Curious Dragon - 22nd June 2011

“Superb report UrbanX, great pics and a detailed write up. Really looks like you had the trip of a lifetime2
KingAl - 22nd June 2011

“Most moving place we visited, top photos dude, was good to meet you”
Section ate - 22nd June 2011
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