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April 26, 2020
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As we all struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we recall the Chornobyl nuclear disaster that shocked the world 34 years ago.

Sunday, April 26, 2020
Documentary Film – Chronicle of Severe Days
Commemorating the 1986 Chornobyl (Chernobyl) Nuclear Disaster

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On April 26, 1986, an explosion in Reactor Number 4 of the Chornobyl (Chernobyl) Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment, leading to the evacuation of the local population from what became known as the Exclusion Zone. The Reactor Number 4 meltdown is considered to be the worst nuclear disaster of record. Thirty-four years later, this abandoned territory, still too dangerous to support human life has, surprisingly, become a burgeoning refuge for wildlife. However, wildfires in the region that started just a few weeks ago in early April have put Chornobyl in the news once again. Fears of circulating radiation abound and now there are concerns about the recovery of the wildlife.

To remember this day in Ukraine's history The Ukrainian Museum has been screening the documentary short Chronicle of Severe Days (1986) annually since 2010, when filmmaker Damian Kolodiy shared it as part of the KinofestNYC film festival. Our thanks to Elena Filatova for making this footage public. Please take a few minutes to watch the heartwrenching footage shot by Volodymyr (Vladimir) Shevchenko just days after the Chornobyl disaster, his last film.

Shevchenko witnessed the evacuation of Pripyat, the brave attempts of the "liquidators," the cleanup crews sent in to try and limit the effects of the fallout. Shevchenko suffered from the severe radiation and died just days after his trip.

Chronicle of Severe Days (1986)
Film by Volodymyr (Vladimir) Shevchenko
Narrated by Elena Filatova (
6.5 min.

What you will see:

  • Pictures of workers digging under the reactor wearing no protective equipment. They attempted to stabilize the melting base of the destroyed reactor.
  • Pictures of the workers on the roof of the reactor putting radioactive debris back into the radioactive container. Shevchenko made these pictures on the roof himself, and it is likely that he was exposed to excessive radiation at this point.
  • Shevchenko filmed a falling MI-24 helicopter. The helicopter flew directly over the destroyed reactor container, and the pilot likely suffered excessive radiation that debilitated him in the air.


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The Ukrainian Museum's film series and traditional arts programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

The Museum's educational and traditional arts programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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