Leaving the main road to Chernobyl we turned down to one of the many anonymous small roads that crisscross the countryside. After pushing through the overhanging branches for several kilometres, the people carrier came to a standstill. It wasn’t immediately apparent as to why but our guide gestured off to the left and we duly headed into the forest. The spongy woodland floor soon gave way to tarmac and almost immediately the first building, a small gatehouse, appeared between the trees.
Passing through what was left of the gated entrance a brightly coloured wooden hut came into view and then another and another.
The Izumrudnoe (Emerald) holiday camp is where the children of Pripyat would spend their summer holidays. The brightly coloured murals, depicting characters from nursery rhymes and children’s stories, have survived the ravages of time surprisingly well. The huts themselves however are starting to suffer after decades of neglect.
Surrounded by woodland, the camp has a very different atmosphere to Pripyat. It was always part of nature and therefore little effort was required to reclaim it with only an angular metal building, a hall, obviously out of place. I can’t help but wonder where the children who once sat next to each other on the benches in the open air cinema are today. I truly hope they are their thirties and forties and perhaps now have children of their own.
Sadly the camp was destroyed by fire in April 2020. Seasonal fires frequently break out around Chernobyl but it is estimated that this particular fire burnt across 200 Square kilometers making it the largest wildfire since the nuclear accident occurred. Hundreds of firefighters as well as planes and helicopters were called in to tackle the blaze.
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