Prypiat was a Ukrainian city that was born in 1970 (its founding) and died in 1986 (after Chernobyl). Reason for Death: Acute Radiation Syndrome.
In 1995, the Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych visited the site.
Most unforgettable that day were . . . the catfish in the canal near the Nuclear Power Plant. They were the size of dolphins, or sharks, and this is nature’s categorically harsh answer to man . . .
Gazing at fish in water is one of my favorite and constant activities. I’ve had very few opportunities to do this in my life. One, for example, came in Nuremberg, another — in Regensburg. I think it was in Nuremberg that I came to the conclusion that Europe is a land in which fish live well. I would not have come to this conclusion if I hadn’t been in Nuremberg precisely at that time, in the summer of 1995. If I hadn’t stood on those bridges time and again and I hadn’t gazed down deep into the river to see how fish slowly move just above its bottom . . . I’m not sure if they really live all that well. But they definitely live long: no one catches them or kills them, in fear of the undeniable danger of radiation. How long is Silurus glanis, a normal (non-radioactive) catfish, supposed to live? According to several sources, up to one hundred years. This fish can live longer than any other fish found in our rivers and waters. Only moss-covered carp can live longer . . .— The Star Absinthe: Notes on a Bitter Anniversary, by Yuri Andrukhovych
The essay, which is quite long, fascinates self with the movement from carp to Ukrainian nationalism.
If Sweden “hadn’t created such a ruckus,” the West wouldn’t have known about the disaster. Also, around that time, “Poland had stopped being a friend and was increasingly turning away, westward. This time it turned away from a radioactive cloud — holding its breath and fastidiously holding its nose.”
Fascinating piece. It’s in the anthology Writing from Ukraine: Fiction, Poetry and Essays since 1965, edited by Mark Andryczyk.