On April 26, 1986, the Ukraine suffered a tragedy of such a large scale that it would never be the same. The catastrophic nuclear accident occurred when Chernobyl's nuclear reactor exploded after an open-air graphite fire. Chernobyl liquidators, the brave people tasked with cleaning up the radioactive mess, tell a gruesome story that didn't stop when the fire was put out. These brave heroes literally crawled into glowing, radioactive wreckage to prevent the fire from spreading, knowing it would likely prove to be a death sentence.
For first responders at Chernobyl, 1986 was a year of grueling radiation poisoning that forever changed their lives – along with the very fabric of their DNA. With little protection from radiation other than makeshift lead suits, 28 firemen and employees died in the weeks following the event. Radiation was so strong that skin melted off of their bodies, and the Chernobyl firefighters' eyes turned from brown to blue. Many others, who survived acute radiation poisoning (along with some of the now-radioactive animals that survived Chernobyl), returned from the cleanup site with a wealth of on-going health problems. They never got better.
Someone had to clean up the radioactive mess, and the disaster liquidators stepped up to the plate.