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Sex, Drugs and Radiation: Reckless Stalkers

Those who secretly enter the forbidden zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant began to be called the word "stalker". Sex, drugs and radiation. A generation that feels like it has nothing to lose.

“This must be a graveyard,” the teenager says. “He holds his portable Geiger counter over a pile of dirt covering radioactive machinery; the beeping signal goes off scale, the indicators are growing rapidly: 1.1.7, 1.1.8, 1.1.9., ”the journalist continues the story. “The radiation level is going through the roof,” the boy’s voice mixes fear with delight. “He backs off. The skeleton of the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant measures its steps,” writes Morris.

“In 1986, on April 26, the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, and the ensuing radioactive fire lasted ten days, releasing 400 times more radiation into space than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima,” the article says.

“While the first generation of Ukrainians born after the Chernobyl tragedy are coming of age, a small youth subculture is doing the unthinkable, violating government prohibitions and infiltrating the highly radioactive exclusion zone – the “dead zone” – for fun,” the author writes.. “This group is hunted down and pursued by the police, so they are not very willing to contact journalists. Its members enjoy the forbidden, find meaning in Soviet rubble, and open up new horizons of virtual borrowing.” “This is a post-apocalyptic novel,” the author cites a comment from one of the young people.

“Just three kilometers from the reactor is a city once built for nuclear power plant workers – Pripyat,” continues Holly Morris. “Today, the abandoned apartments in this radioactive ghost town are slowly being destroyed, a silent reminder of the 50,000 people who left the place.”

“For the “post-apocalyptic romantics” who got into the habit of sneaking into the zone, visiting Pripyat became a kind of “Holy Grail,” says the journalist. “They come here for reasons they can’t fully explain themselves.”

Those who surreptitiously enter the zone became known as "stalker". It first appeared in 1971 in the Strugatsky brothers' sci-fi novel Roadside Picnic, and also migrated to Andrey Tarkovsky's Stalker, based on the book eight years later. “The book and the film became cult classics in the years when the power of the Soviet empire began to fade,” the journalist explains.

“Teenagers approach the village of Rudnya-Veresnya after they have walked several kilometers through the forest,” the author continues. “This is a village inside the zone that was evacuated but not covered up, as happened with many others.” “This is a capsule with a message to posterity,” the author quotes one of the teenagers.“If you want to see what life was like in the USSR 30 years ago, you can go to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant zone.”

In 2007, the legend of the stalker was recast in a modern way: a team of young Ukrainian designers released a video game called S. T. A. L. K. E. R., which takes place in the exclusion zone in Chernobyl. “More than 5 million copies of the game have been sold,” the author of the article reports. - There was a group of her fans who did not want to be content with one computer script. Teams of players began to randomly experiment with penetration into the zone. Today, penetrating there has become a geek subculture, and for some, an obsession.

“The accident at a nuclear power plant, which is simply called “Tragedy” in the region, may seem like an obscure story to those who are in their 20s or 30s today, but for their parents and grandparents it remains an open wound”, the article says.

“The generation of stalkers grew up with a distrust of the government and authorities, which arose initially in the Soviet period and transferred by them to the post-Soviet era with its corruption and economic instability,” writes Holly Morris. — Another frequently cited cultural consequence of the Chernobyl accident was widespread fatalism; a common victim complex that creates a feeling of "lack of control over one's future", as the American professor of radiology Fred Mettler calls it in the report "The Legacy of Chernobyl". “A number of teenagers and young people who have received small or small doses of radioactive radiation feel that they have been irreparably damaged, so there is nothing wrong with illegal drug use and unprotected sex,” the professor notes.

“Sex, drugs and radiation: the stalker subculture can be interpreted as the teenage self-expression of a generation that feels they have nothing to lose,” the author reflects. “But for many stalkers, what they do is clearly something more. Online communities have sprung up to share information, tips and advice about roads where there are no police, passages that have become too dangerous, and stashed supplies.”

“Among the stalkers I meet, concern about the risks they face and attention to radiation safety rules are observed to varying degrees,” the author writes. "Some use a radiation counter, others don't trust it." Some take care to take water with them, while others drink from heavily polluted ponds and rivers within the zone.

“What do stalkers believe? the author asks. - Into an invisible enemy who can kill them in 50 or 70 years? No. To walk through their past on their own terms? Maybe. In order to release energy and realize the potential of youth, despite the risk? Seems to be yes. One thing is clear: for them, being a stalker means living here and now, overcoming the wild green spaces that are not subject to the law and the impassability of the zone, which, at least for a moment, makes them the masters of their own destiny.

Source: Independent