Red Corner: Biking through Chernobyl Redux

Yesterday’s post about Elena’s motorcycle tour through the ghost towns of Chernobyl has, once again, revived the controversy on whether her photo log was faked or not. I’ve received a couple of emails mentioning this, and recall that it was a big issue when the site was making news a year or so ago.

Frankly I don’t care.

I would normally be rather angry to fall for a bogus website, but I think the naysayers here are missing the point. If Elena did indeed fake her motorcycle tour through Chernobyl, she was nonetheless able to raise a tremendous amount of awareness about the dangers of nuclear energy, the agony of those who suffered and died because of the tragedy, and the plight of those still suffering as a result. Even if it all was a big pack of lies, Elena’s website has carried a very powerful message to countless people who probably haven’t thought about Chernobyl since 1984.

For those of you still on the fence regarding the legitimacy of Elena’s claims, take a moment to check out a couple of recent books whose authenticity no one has questioned. The most powerful, Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl is a collection of 190 color photographs taken by Robert Polidori that are far more sobering than what appears on Elena’s website (although most are similar in vein). Described as a “coffee table book,” it’s hardly the cheerful conversation piece I’d want sitting in my living room, despite its high artistic quality.

A more recent book that is getting a lot of good press is Wormwood Forest by Mary Mycio. Mycio focuses much more on the effects of the disaster on the natural surroundings of Chernobyl. She discusses the ghost towns, the squatters, environmental damage, and how she came to the sobering statistic of the number of humans affected by the disaster: 5.85 million. Although I haven’t had the chance to read the book yet, it seems to be the most up-to-date, all-inclusive profile of the disaster and its impact on the world today.

I’ll certainly read it thoroughly, however, before hitching a ride on Elena’s Kawasaki–whether she has one or not.