Polisky district

People will always remember one district in the region of Kyiv, for the towns of Chornobyl and Prypiat’ were situated within it. The district is called Polissia. The town of Polis’ke used to be its center before it «died» following the Chornobyl accident. By the decree of the Supreme Council of Ukraine №204 from 10 July 1996 Krasiatychi was selected to be the new district center. Thirty-one populated areas in the suffering district have been settled out; 28,000 inhabitants have left their homes for places that were safer in terms of radiation contamination.

Humanity has an attitude of interest and respect towards everything that has to do with its historical past. Tourists from all over the world dream to have a look at the Egyptian pyramids, touch the stones of the Parthenon, see that Rubicon which Jules Caesar once crossed… The material eye-witnesses, remaining in the surroundings, help imagine the past and turn back the time for a moment — the roof of a building, a hill, and a centuries – old tree. The experience gained through such observations to some extent links the past and the present, and forecasts the future. The craving to make out historical mysteries might put on the move a considerable number of people on the Earth; it turns them into tourists, who find it important to set their feet where Cheops once walked or to visit the place where Chornobyl exploded with radiation…

Until only a few years ago it was impossible to visit the Chornobyl area, see abandoned villages, have a look at the sarcophagus over the collapsed fourth reactor, talk to those who have not left this land in need. The area is secured and fenced all around, however, there is a governmental organization (Exclusion Zone Administrative Office) that authorizes access to the zone otherwise barred to the public. If authorized, one can get to the destination in quite a simple and comfortable way, provided that they have means of transportation, since there is no bus or train service available to the prohibited areas. It takes half an hour drive to cover 50 km from Ivankiv to Polis’ke on an almost deserted highway. It is time to get ready to see the «zone» as soon as one has passed the deserted village of Bober, which used to be home to a creamery, famous for its high quality products.

An office of police officers on duty, a barrier, identification check — and a fantastic view lies ahead. But a short historical overview should come first.

For the first time Polissia district is mentioned in the chronicle of 1274. When the district was established in 1923, the township of Khabne was chosen to be its center. The historical records («Acts of History of the Western Russia», volume 1) tell about it for the first time in 1415. Under the Lithuanian rule it was part of the Ovruch district. In 1793 the town of Khabne was incorporated into the district of Radomishl’ of the Kyiv province. It belonged to Prince Radziwill in the early nineteenth century and to Gorwat landowners since 1850 on. In 1900 Khabne had 423 houses, 1,715 inhabitants, two winemaking factories, three brickyards, eight smithies and a steam mill… Under the tzars, the Jews were banned from living beyond the so-called «Pale of Settlement». Situated within the Pale and close to its boundaries, Khabne was home to many Jewish families whose everyday life brought unique coloring to this Polissia town. In 1934 Khabne was renamed Kahanovychi Pershi, and in 1957 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic issued a decree giving a new name of Polissia to the Kahanovychi district and turning the township of Kahanovychi Pershi into the township of Polis’ke.

The town existed and now it is disappears, almost gone… The streets are still here, but they have no names any more… Bus stops indicate the spots where men and women used to wait for regular buses to take them where they needed to go. A three-story building that housed the local office of the national telephone service provider Ukrtelecom has not been destroyed, yet there is no hope to hear a telephone call, coming from here… The World of a Child department storefeaturing a popular cartoon character Hena the Crocodile on a front column, where little ones used to meet before they went in choose their toys…

Blue fir-trees by a big building suggest that it used to house either the district Communist Party committee or other government offices. One is struck to find the monument to the soldierslost during the Second World War in a good order: freshly painted letters on the black tombstones is a sure sign that they have been looked after. Tombs on the other town cemeteries are not forgotten either. There are traces of recent visits to the Jewish cemetery, flowers on some gravestones. One also sees outrageous signs of the attention paid by the living to the dead — open pits close to ancient burial places!

Nobody harvests in the vegetable gardens and orchards of apple-, cherry- and snowball-trees. Not only the radiation is to blame, the matter is that no one goes fruit picking to memorial places…

A quite large asphalt lane reminds that this used to be a road to another town. A trench has been dug close by to take metal pipes of the former communications out. The demand for metal is high in the «zone» and those, who manage to sneak through holes in the fence, sell it as scrape metal afterwards. This is the reason why there are gaping holes in the ground instead of metal hatches, and one needs to be careful not to fall in. While the police patrol the streets from time to time, nobody ventures out at night and metal — seekers take advantage of it.

A deserted town is as frightful as a headless person. It is difficult but necessary to see. After such a «guided tour» the impressions are similar to those of a person who was let out of hospital — one appreciates life more, one is more attentive to the people beside. This place is worth visiting by tourists because a realization of the fact that in a few years time even these traces of human life will disappear forever, makes it necessary to take the opportunity.