Can a place, which changed the path of humanity by its catastrophe, connect people? Chernobyl and the zone, which was formed around the Chernobyl powerplant, in 1986, are prime examples of how places change, if people don’t live there for decades. Nature reclaims the pride of communism and thousands of foreign tourists flow into the zone. It is rare, however, that they meet people, who have experienced the evacuation or returned to the zone to live there. “Sometimes, people come and see me, but no on invited me to the festival. I like the idea of brotherhood of nations because when we are together, we can be strong,” says Ivan Ivanovich, one of the 150 aboriginals of the Chernobyl zone, who returned to his birth village of Parishev after the evacuation. A village, which used to have about 1500 citizens is home to three now, including Ivanovich. For the first time, this year, activists from the Association of Chernobyl Tour Operators (chtoa.org), city of Slavutych and the Kiev-based Chernobyl National Museum decided to host a festival aimed at the interaction of the locals and the visitors. Tania Bezpalko, a guide and the Chernobyl.TV presenter, who host the festival, reveals: “Chernobyling means an in-zone activity, since they will make history, as the ghost city of Pripyat, but also the Duga radar or the city of Chernobyl will host education geocaching games, stalkers guiding through the mysterious places but new artworks will be created too.” The main musical, lecture and accommodational part of the festival will be held between 30.8 and 1.9 in the city of Slavutych, which was built for the evacuees after the accident and remains lively and full of kids, to this day. City’s mayor, Yuriy Fomichev, believes that the festival will become a new tradition, which would highlight the city abroad: “I also believe, that it will shift the city from its sad past, at the times of the foundation, to a brighter future, as a city of new ideas,” he adds.

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The organisers have prepared a rich program, revolting around the past and the future of Chernobyl. Lecturers will include a former vice-mayor of Pripyat, Alexander Easulov, leading biologist of the Ecocenter of Chernobyl, Igor Chyzhevskiy and one of the engineers, working on the secret military Duga radar, Leonid Petrov. Additionally, each theme will have its own expositions and workshops – Czech Geochacher will prepare mysteries solvable by playing a game in the zone and in Slavutych, as well as climbing of the deserted hotel. UrbEx and Stalkers from all of Ukraine will also talk about the emptied buildings, the underground and day-long and nightly marches through the ghost city of Pripyat, who will also show films about their “art”. Famous photographers Tom Elkins (the UK), Thierry Vanhuysse (Belgium) and Ulysses di Meglio (France) will lead the photo workshops. Artistic workshops, as well as Pripyat sketches will be conducted by Nicola Golighty (the UK), as well as globally recognized street artist from Poland, Ne Spoon. The visitors may expect a diverse program from the global names in Slavutych, as well as the zone itself.

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The evening program concentrates on friendship. Locals and the foreigners will be able to enjoy the music of Slovak band The Signature, Ukrainians – The Hard Kiss, Onuka and Sky, as well as Czechs Mňága and Žďorp. DJs from Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia will entertain until the morning.

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All, who already visited Chernobyl, as well as those who needed an additional reason – such as the festival – should therefore reserve the dates of 30.8 to 1.9 (Wednesday-Friday). In Slavutych and the Zone itself, the richest program ever will be created by the locals for the tourists. A shuttle bus will travel from Kiev at least twice a day (the timings are available at chernobyling.com), the food and the accommodation can be reserved along with the ticket – tents or apartments in Slavutych are available. Last, but not least, additional program – paintball, historic car rides, climbing an empty building, but even spending the day in Chernobyl itself (so if your girlfriend doesn’t want to go, she can stay in Slavutych, where she may enjoy plenty of activities) are some of the worthwhile activities you should register timely, in advance. The entire yield of the festival will be given as aid to Chernobyl’s locals.

Chernobyl will be revived this year thanks to a festival and its new history will begin. Will you be there?