Looking Out For The Babushkas

UPDATE: As of April 2nd, you all have through your purchases and gifts given us enough to send $4400 to our fixer in Kyiv so far. I didn’t expect this much generosity and our fixer certainly didn’t either. You’ve made an old Stalker cry with your kindness.

As you might be aware, Russia invaded Ukraine. I apologize for the rude surprise if this is news to you.

One of the invasion routes that got people in a hell of a lather was the one from Belarus to Kyiv via Chernobyl. My goodness did people get excited about this thanks to radiophobia and the magic word “Chernobyl”. Gotten to spend a fair bit of time untwisting knickers from this in the last two weeks but that’s not the invasion effect I want to discuss.

I want to talk about the resettlers in the Exclusion Zone. Please note, all references to our fixer are being left very intentionally vague just in case.

Resettler Kitty – Most of the babushkas have cute kitties that are in desperate need of scritches. (photo by Phil Broughton, 2016)

When my friend Robyn and I visited in 2016, our fixer made a point to introduce us to some of the resettlers, who are mostly women (AKA the babushkas), that had returned to living in the Exclusion Zone. While arranging things for folks to get out there was their living, I got the distinct impression they were very fond of the resettlers and looked at them as their collective grandmothers. Doing little things like building windmill generators for some battery chargers and making some radio/cell phone relays so they could get help in emergencies. Also, bringing them treats like cigarettes, oranges, aspirin and chocolate. When Robyn went back the following year and spent a while living in the Zone with the babushkas, each of them thought it a crime that Robyn didn’t have any kerchiefs of her own. This is how Robyn ended up with a dozen or so beautiful kerchiefs as each babushka gifted her with one so that she would look proper the next time she visited. That is a kindness that is heartbreaking to even type.

So, when Russian troops decided to take a mosey on into the Zone, we reached out to our fixer to see if, 1) they were okay, and 2) if the babushkas were in any trouble. While, obviously, their business wasn’t happening with a war on and occupation in the Zone, the more important effect of the invasion was that the one and only store was closed. The babushkas are used to not having much of anything in the first place, but this cut them off from the few pleasures they might get and it’s not like they get out of the Zone much. That didn’t sit right with Robyn and I. Luckily, the hard part is already solved: we have a fixer quite willing to smuggle things to the babushkas even during enemy occupation of a nuclear accident area. I believe the quote went something like “Fuck ’em. I’d do it anyway and it’s not like the fucking Russians know where they’re going better than me in the Zone.” Bless their Stalker heart.

And so, like with my trip to Fukushima, I’m declaring the 750ml Coffee Wave and 1000ml Ineffable Mustachio’d Goat of Science to be fundraiser items for the babushkas. You buy either of those items and I will send a quarter of that to Ukraine for our fixer to go look after the resettlers in the Zone. If you just want to hand me cash to pass along, I’ll do that too but I’d feel better if you got some Black Blood of the Earth for your trouble.