This Man Lives in the Radioactive Dust of Chernobyl

The Chernobyl disaster claimed many lives. However, this does not prevent Ivan Shamyanok from living in radioactive dust.


Ninety-year-old Ivan Shamyanok says that the secret of a long life is not to leave your birthplace, even when it is a Belarusian village poisoned by the radioactive fallout from a nuclear disaster.

1. The nuclear power plant


On 26 April 1986, a failed test at a Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the then Soviet Republic of Ukraine sent clouds of nuclear material across parts of Europe and forced more than 100,000 people to leave a permanently contaminated “exclusion zone” that extends across the Ukraine-Belarus border.

2. Ivan Shamyanok lives in Tulgovich

Réseau Sortir du nucléaire

The village of Shamyanok, Tulgovich, lies at the edge of the area, which, with its 2,600 square kilometers, is approximately the size of Luxembourg. But he and his wife refused the offer to move and never felt the harmful effects of radiation.

3. The man is in full health

The Daily Mail

“So far, so good. The doctors came yesterday, put me on the bed and examined and measured me. They said, “Everything is fine for you, Grandpa,” said Shamyanok.

4. However, her sister died

“My sister lived here with her husband. They decided to leave and, soon enough, they were buried… They died of anxiety. I’m not anxious. I sing a little, I walk in the yard, I take things as they come and I live,” he says.

5. It has already been more than 3 decades since this disaster occurred

REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

The 30th anniversary of the disaster shed new light on the long-term human impact of the worst nuclear crisis in history.

6. Many people have died as a result of this tragedy

REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

The official short-term official death toll was 31, but many more people died from radiation-related diseases, such as cancer. The total number of deaths and long-term health effects are still the subjects of intense debate.

7. Life has followed its normal course for Shamyanok

Shamyanok says that life has not changed much after the collapse of Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster. He and his family continued to eat vegetables and fruit grown in their own backyards and to raise cows, pigs, and chickens for meat, milk and eggs.

8. The man lives alone

Now that his wife is dead and his children are gone, he and his nephew, who lives on the other side of the village, are the only ones left. “Will people reverse their decision? No, they’re not coming back. Those who wanted to come back are already dead.”

9. Shamyanok has a very quiet and routine life

Shamyanok leads a quiet life. He wakes up at 6 a.m. when the national anthem is played on the radio, lights his cast-iron stove to heat his breakfast and feeds his pigs and dog. A mobile shop in the back of a car visits the village twice a week and on Saturdays, Shamyanok’s granddaughter comes to cook for the week and clean her house. He says he has no health problems, but sometimes takes medication and drinks a small glass of vodka before his meals.