The monologue of a former Chernobyl fireman

Discussion in 'Past Life Memories' started by Aaron the Demon, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. Aaron the Demon

    Aaron the Demon New Member

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    I don't really know how to start this, so I'll just start here: when I was in 7th grade, I read my first book about the accident.

    It's called Voices From Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich, and it contains the personal accounts of hundreds of survivors from the disaster. As someone with high-functioning autism, I'm a sponge of facts, and so absorbed these stories into my brain to feed my growing obsession with the world's worse nuclear disaster. If you ever read it yourself (which I highly recommend), the first monologue is by the widow of a fireman from Pripyat named Vasily Ignatenko.

    I used to be him.

    It began with just snips in my mind, a sudden feeling of deja vu and thinking that if I look up while I'm walking down the street I'll see the gray apartment blocks. It was just little flashes in my head, so quick that I almost didn't notice them. The first time, I thought it was odd. But it kept happening, for years, making me feel like a crazy person. I didn't know how I could be having visions and flashbacks of a place I'd never been to. I'm a student of Russian, and someday I plan to visit the exclusion zone (and probably many times after the first), but I haven't left my home country yet. When I was 16, though, I started to dream in Russian, and I asked my teacher about it. She said it was very unusual to dream in another language until after you've left the country that speaks it.

    My mother has a friend at work, Yana, who is from Ukraine. I own one of the stereotypical winter hats with the flaps, and she saw a picture of me wearing it. Yana told my mother that with the hat I looked Russian, and that I must have been one in a past life.

    The final piece fell into place about a year ago, when I made friends with someone online. (They're from Italy, and even though we've never met in person we talk all the time with emails.) They told me about their past lives, and it jogged my brain - I've had autistic obsessions before, but this one had always felt different to me. I'd thought from the beginning that I was connected to the victims, like I was one of them, though I was born long after the catastrophe.

    Two important facts to note: I was born on exactly the 10th anniversary of the explosion, right down to the hour. And ever since I was a small child, I wanted to become a fireman.

    But this seemed like it wasn't a gradual realization on my part, but more like getting suddenly punched in the face. I've read the memoirs that Svetlana Alexievich collected back then so many times that I can practically recite them word-for-word, and in that moment I understood why I always felt the need to go back to them: I was there. I was one of the first ones who arrived on that scene, and I stayed on the roof until the fire had been contained to the exposed reactor core. After that, we were sent back into town with radiation sickness, and finally flown to Moscow. The last few days of that life, I spent in Hospital 6.

    It's a horrific conclusion, especially because (for me at least) it makes perfect sense. Even long before this, when I first learned about it, I've been immensely terrified of radiation. I've had many dreams of being a fireman, and many dreams of Pripyat (which again, I didn't understand for the longest time why I had these dreams), but they were never bad dreams so much as they were strange ones. Putting on my bunker gear and spraying water from the truck into a river. Sitting in a chair in one of the schools, just staring at the dust all around me. Driving through the buildings and running drills with the others at my fire station. But I've also had dreams of radiation poisoning, of myself dying from massive exposure that made the radiation meter go off the chart. And those are always nightmares.

    I think the worst part, though, is that I've read about how I died in that book. About how my skin would bleed if the sheets were wrinkled. About how my wife (who was pregnant) spent almost every minute with me, but then left for just three hours to comfort a friend whose husband had also just died. And fifteen minutes before she came back for me, my last words were to call out her name...

    The baby, Natashenka, absorbed an incredible dose of radiation because of me. She didn't live for very long, and was buried with me, by my feet.

    I never look at the photos and documentaries of Chernobyl the same way as I did before I knew this had been my past life. The pictures of the reactor: I was there, and it killed me. Of Pripyat's hospital: They sent me there first, before Moscow, and my fire uniform is still in the basement. Of the school: My daughter should be learning there right now, growing up. Of the amusement park: I would have taken her there, to play and have fun. An entire life for me ended even though it had only just started, and when I look at the films, for me it's just there. Some part of me is still there, like my ghost. The phantom of my past is waiting, where my now-self will meet it someday.

    How do I feel about this?

    Well... how should I feel about this? I don't know if everyone else knows this many details about their former lives, but for me, it's the most unsettling thing I've ever discovered.

    But I also know, I'll still go there eventually. I'm drawn to it, where it makes me feel sick and at the same time fascinated. Because who else has this story? Maybe some people, the other firemen like me who died, are out there somewhere. But I've never met them. As far as I know, they may not exist at all.

    The woman I married in that life is still alive, and has remarried. I've debated whether or not to reach out to her, but I've decided not to. It wouldn't be fair. The whole experience for her was nothing if not disgusting and horrific, and even if she did believe me, I can't drag her back to that world. No matter how much pain and sadness I have at this knowledge and these memories, I know that for her it will always be worse.

    And again - how do I feel about this? I was a Chernobyl fireman, and I was 25 years old when I died.

    I don't know how to feel.
     
  2. fireflydancing

    fireflydancing Registered

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    Very interesting to read, Aaron.
    I wonder, your former daughter might be reborn again, just like you. It would be great to meet her/him again.
     
  3. Aaron the Demon

    Aaron the Demon New Member

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    Hm, that thought actually never occurred to me, but that's a good point. I wonder if I did find her, how I would recognize her.
     
  4. AlexD

    AlexD aka Shadow

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    Hi Aaron, now that you mentioned it you reminded me that I've had a few dreams in which I spoke fluent Romanian, then I'd wake up and remember very little about that language.

    I feel the same as you. At times I wonder if it's because our lives ended so brutally and prematurely, or if it's just because we loved our homeland so much that it remained in our souls. I really hope you manage to return in the end. It does feel like it's an inevitable journey back home, I am drawn to my old hometown with the same intensity and persistence.

    How should you feel? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. Proud, maybe. Wounded, most likely. Hopeful. Regardless of our choices, which brought you to the ultimate sacrifice and me to a headshot, we certainly wanted to survive our twenties. But the most amazing thing is that we are talking about this now, and we are alive again. If we have overcome death, I want to believe that we can overcome our inner turmoil too. We are not the only ones to have experienced a traumatic death, so we're not alone in our path of growth and recovery.
     
  5. Aaron the Demon

    Aaron the Demon New Member

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    Thanks, Shadow. That actually does make me feel a bit better about it. There are so many who've died from Chernobyl while trying to contain the disaster and whose names don't appear in the commonly-shown lists of people referenced (myself included), but at the plant there is a memorial for us, showing firemen and liquidators. The inscription is very simple: "To those who saved the world." So maybe I should be a little proud, after all.
     
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  6. AlexD

    AlexD aka Shadow

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    Think about it: it's thanks to you that we are talking about it now and we are not hydrocephalous three-legged freaks mutated by radiation. That should be enough to make you feel proud ;).
     
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  7. vasya k

    vasya k New Member

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    I came across this forum while searching for others with past lives in the exclusion zone. I know for sure that I was a child and I died in a school in a town neighbouring Pripyat about a month after the explosion. I've had vivid memories and dreams of it all my life even before I knew about the Chernobyl incident. When I learned of it and the abandoned cities I almost fainted because it was the place in all my memories that I thought was just a fabrication of my young mind. I would dream of things and write down the name of them in the dream, only to later look these things up and discover that they were real. I am a native Russian speaker and as the Chernobyl incident occurred within the USSR, many people spoke Russian instead of Ukrainian, so my dreams have always been comprehensible to me, although they are usually just short memories of words and locations. I know that I was orphaned at birth and grew up in a children's home with about 7 other children. I remember that myself and others were told to go to into the school building and await further instructions on the morning of April 27th, I'm not sure why they sent us to the school instead of making us leave. I remember some teachers there would try to teach lessons to distract us, and we were all so confused and thought it was possibly a drill. The military came back later and gave directions to everyone, but had none for me and my friends because we had no parents to report to. They just left after that. Some teachers stayed behind with us and food was delivered every week or two. I don't know why so vividly but, very vividly, I remember every day we had to go outside and remove flowers and dirt and replace them with new dirt but it made no sense to us if everything was "dirty", so after awhile we ended up just cycling through the same dirt every few days. I remember that's the word we used a lot. "Dirty". For the things covered in radiation. We slept on desks and chairs, it was sad but oddly enough it was cozy, it felt like a secret camp. How I came to dying is a blur to me, but I remember that we looked out the window one day and some big men were running towards the building (we were on the third or second floor), and the teacher told us to hide so we did. The men found us and I suppose they just shot everyone dead but ran out of bullets, so they forced my head into a bucket of water and drowned me as well as the teacher. They seemed to have no mercy and they did'nt seem to be robbing the school either, I actually remember they looked like officials what with their demeanour and all. I lived a happy life of 12 years, I was a boy with messy brown hair and my name was Igor, I liked claymation and jazz music a lot, but that's the basics of my knowledge. I don't want to claim to be anyone specific because that would make me feel badly, but it's nice to know that others exist with these similar feelings
     
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  8. Aaron the Demon

    Aaron the Demon New Member

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    I've read a lot of accounts about the cleanup efforts after the accident, and your description of digging around the school to remove the contaminated earth is right in line with some of the survivors' stories I've come across. They used the word "dirty" for radiological contamination because it's a word everyone knows and even after people found out what happened at Chernobyl there was a lot of covering up to make it look like it wasn't as bad as it was, so anything to do with the radiation was considered a military secret. The guys who killed you sound like looters who entered the exclusion zone illegally. Radioactive TVs, radios and the like were showing up in Kiev's pawn shops and the police around the border had clearance to shoot trespassers on sight; it's too bad they didn't catch the ones who got you. But... drowning is much better than how it could've happened. I saw the first couple sentences of what you wrote and thought "oh, god, a child that died from acute radiation poisoning," and this is horrible but I'm glad you drowned instead. It's a much quicker and less painful way to go. Thank you for writing, by the way. It is really nice to know there are others who were there too, like I was.
     

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