By ALINA RUDYA
“Prypyat Mon Amour” (2011-2012) is a project that documents photographer Alina Rudya’s journey back to her hometown of Prypyat, Ukraine, which she and her family evacuated in 1986 following the nuclear power plant catastrophe at Chernobyl.
At the time, Prypyat was a young and small town built three kilometes away from Chernobyl for the families of the nuclear power plant employees. I was only one year old the day we had to flee. My father, an engineer who was working in the plant the night of the accident, was 28, my mother 23.
When the accident happened, my father wasn’t allowed to quit his post. The next morning everyone was red in the face. Many threw up. When my family left town my parents though we’d be back in a few days.
In 2011, at the age of 26, I revisited my hometown for the first time — a town I never knew and never will.
The accident at the plant drastically and radically altered my parents’ lives and also my own.
In many respects, all of my desires and passions sprung from the ruins of Chernobyl. And many people who I miss are gone because of the disaster.
Prypyat Mon Amour documents my own (re)immersion into what is now a ghost town, the little town that marked my life’s genesis and also became my greatest influence through my absence from it.
This project is about grave loss, redemption and awakening of long forgotten memories.
Chernobyl was once synonym for horror. Today, looking at my images, it seems to be one big, untouched paradise of nature.
My photos portray a town of crumbling houses, empty flats, forgotten toys — and again and again a faceless, red-haired women in the midst of it. It’s myself, making the remains of my birth town look somehow fairytale-like innocent.
I don’t attempt to make things look worse in order to reinforce the scare of Chernobyl. I want to show the beauty of things people lost and how my hometown changed because of the catastrophe.
Nature takes it back. Trees break through floors and grow through windows. Scrub overgrows the roads, moss covers stairs and entrances. Everything looks beautiful and peaceful. I felt like in a lost paradise.
It was very sad when I entered the flat our family once lived in. I wanted to be alone for 15 minutes. The rooms are empty. What my parents couldn’t take along has been looted or destroyed. There is not much left. On the floor I saw a photo of me a baby.
My father died six years ago, maybe as a result of the accident. Chernobyl changed so many lives. 50,000 people lost their home. Today they live all around the world, in Israel, Australia, in the U.S. and Germany. My photos make me aware that I’m part of a greater history that needs to be preserved. Otherwise everything will be gone soon. Houses will collapse, it’s already dangerous to enter them. Some day everything will come down.
My photos show me in there. Without face. I’m a ghost in a ghost town. But I live on.