I was born about four months later so I have no personal stories to share. Nor was anyone from my immediate family sent to clean up the mess. So I’m coming to you with a general post soviet background.

Our distant cousins in Ukraine did relocate to my hometown after it happened, all three generations. cousin A was born the same year. They returned to Kyiv in the 90s. Now most of them are in Ireland.

My ex is a couple of months younger than me. I think she was a premature baby so her mother might not have even known she was pregnant at the time of the disaster. Her father was almost sent to the zone but at last minute he was taken off the bus by his boss. (my dad probably had an important enough job at the town water authority to not have been remotely at risk of being sent anywhere, idk.)

Advertisement

The first thing I remembered today was how everybody goes on about the mushrooms nobody was supposed to pick that fall. But the forests were full of them. We are a forest people, mushrooms are important.

I leave you with this Estonian punk song that just has to be about the disaster (I mean, I’m not sure, but it just can’t really be about anything else) from a 1989 album full of anti soviet screaming. (the melodies are actually quite nice, I have sung some of the songs from that album arranged for choirs)

The Summer of the White Butterfly

this was from the album, the sound is good, but I feel it lacks visuals so I just randomly found footage of them performing it live in 87. thanks, internet!

Rough translation:

Since childhood I knew
you’re not supposed to see the white butterfly in springtime.
Then summer will be sad, hand in hand with grief.
Oh, I didn’t want to believe that.

But swarms of white butterflies were everywhere beginning of this summer.
I didn’t believe them but my heart knew different.
My heart knew grief and death were coming.

Summer bloomed in the heat.
People rejoiced at the sunshine.
We didn’t listen to the radios with their talk of tension.
We didn’t pay attention to the rumbling of planes.

We hadn’t seen death. We hadn’t seen ruins. Life had loved us.
Now, in high summer, we saw all the things we hadn’t seen before.

It’s the summer of the white butterfly. It’s the scorch of a thousand suns.
There will be no souvenirs of this summer.
All joy and sadness will melt away.

Summer arrived dripping with blood.
Death rained down from the heavens, death oozed up from the seas.
Earth was lifeless; you could only see vultures and white butterflies.

Summer was burning with anger.
The atmosphere was full of colourful suns.
Radios fell silent, nobody was listening.
You didn’t have to listen, you could see for yourself.

We saw death, we saw ruins. Life still loved us.
Now, at the end of summer, life still loved us.

The summer of the white butterfly is over.
The winter of a thousand years is here.
As we survived summer, we will survive winter.
Winter full of colourful butterflies.

The summer of the white butterfly is over.
It’s the beginning of a new world.
As we survived summer, we will survive winter.
Awaiting spring.