Dead Zone: Dolls Left in Prypiat Near Chornobyl
Over 32 years have passed since the accident at Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Photographer Olga Dovgopol was five when her family packed up and left their home in Prypiat for good. Her project Dolls was shot in the exclusion zone — in the preschool where Olga and her brother went.
On April 26, 1986, the accident on Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the largest accident in the history of nuclear energy, took place. The reactor of the power plant was completely destroyed, and radioactive substances got into the environment. The day after the accident, the evacuation of its satellite city, Prypiat, and about forty neighboring villages started.
Kyiv-based photographer, market researcher, event manager. Studied at publishing department of Kyiv Polytechnic University, also took a course of commercial photography at FOTOMASTER school and a course of art photography at Art Photography School.
— When the Chornobyl accident happened, my family lived in Prypiat. One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is April 27, the evacuation day. An endless column of buses, and the voice that keeps saying: “The evacuation is just for three days. Please, take your documents and the things you need for three days.”
I remember feeling ambiguous — being happy about an unusual adventure and at the same time sad, because my parents didn’t allow me to take my dolls. “No, you can’t! We will be back after three days. They’ll wait for you, they won’t go anywhere!”
My parents took me and my brother to Donetsk to our grandma’s, and went back to Prypiat to become first responders. We reunited only in 1987 when our family moved to Kyiv. My mom has a sad laugh when she recalls those times: “We were homeless, we stayed with some family members, then with some other family members, and then with some friends.” The first things they bought after they received an apartment were furniture for the children’s room and books. For half a year, my parents ate on the floor, using a TV cardboard box for a table.
After the accident, I would often dream about Prypiat, I wanted to go back there at least once. My family was against it — in the first days after the accident all locals received a large dose of radiation, and they didn’t want me to get any extra. However, three years ago I did finally go to the zone. And then returned 12 more times.
During these trips, I took over 2,000 pictures. In fact, they turned into three photo projects, but Chornobyl Dolls. Childhood Left Behind is special for me, because it is very personal. I was five, the dolls were my friends, my children, I was even in love with Anton the doll. I fed them, sang lullabies to them, bathed them tenderly, and scolded them when they did not behave.
All the photographs of the dolls in the project were taken in the preschool where I and my brother went. The photos are not staged, I captured them as they were: some lying among garbage, and some beautifully seated. It won’t be too long till nothing is left of them, just like of the city itself.