“They would rather risk exposure to radiation than the soul-crushing prospect of being separated from their homes.”

Holly Morris, The Telegraph

Thinking  about home today…this home and land where we’ve been since 1988, our roots running deep and wide, encompassing a familiarity and comfort that would be impossible to repeat if we decided (or were forced) to leave.

Would we rebuild after our home burned to the ground or was taken out by flood…or in an absolutely remarkable story of the “Busbuskas of Chernobyl,”  if our home and neighbor’s home and 18 miles of country became toxic and “uninhabitable.”

The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, the deadliest nuclear accident in history, spewed 400 times more radiation than the Hiroshima bomb.

Hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl residents were re-settled in city apartments and the contaminated land should have remained lifeless for centuries.

Not so.

It may seem strange that Chernobyl could become a refuge for all kinds of animals—from moose, deer, beaver, and owls to more exotic species like brown bear, lynx, and wolves—but that is exactly has happened. Without people hunting them or ruining their habitat, the thinking goes, wildlife is thriving despite high radiation levels.

Why have former residents have returned to the “Chernobyl Exclusion Zone” as well, defying their government and the risk of being exposed to still high levels of radiation? One universal refrain is ‘Those who left are worse off now. They are all dying of sadness.’ What sounds like faith may actually be fact. According to reports by the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund, many of those who were relocated after the accident now suffer from anxiety, depression and disrupted social networks, the traumas of displaced people everywhere.

And the most mystical part of all…the ones who have returned are miraculously staying healthy and alive!  Is the deeply spiritual tug of being happy at home effectively warding off disease and death? No health studies have been done, but anecdotal evidence suggests that most of the babushkas die of strokes rather than any obvious radiation-related illnesses, and they have dealt better with the psychological trauma. Toxic levels of strontium and cesium in the soil are real, but is the invisible pull of the ancestral home and the health benefits of determining one’s own destiny.

Seventy-one year old Galina smiles, ‘I only think of the good things in life,’ rolling on to the balls of her feet. ‘Come back tomorrow,’ she says, holding up a chunk of thick pig fat. ‘We’re going to party.’ ~