You'd think that after 20 years thoughts about Chernobyl would be nothing but routine and memories would fade, but no, there're still things that take me by surprise.
I was literally shaking when I first looked through that girl's semi-fake site - kiddofspeed.com - in spring 2004. And I froze in my steps yesterday during our walk in the park - when I looked at the Dynamo stadium's green football field and suddenly recalled how we walked our new dog, Zosia, there - just days after April 26, 1986, when Zosia became our dog. Suddenly I could see her again, running fast across the field, joyful as hell. And as I was reading about the 14 firefighters at Olexa's blog tonight - the firefighters who arrived in Chernobyl hours after the explosion and died a few weeks later - I got a lump in my throat as I thought of Boris, husband of my mama's friend, a firefighter who would've been there then if he hadn't missed the bus. He was late thanks to the otherwise annoyingly remote, un-central location of their apartment. He did go later, more than once, but he's probably still alive. Dina, his wife, told mama about the accident right after it happened, on the morning of April 26, as they were on their way to play tennis. They found Zosia instead and went back to our place to wash her. There were years when mama wasn't keeping in touch with Dina, but in the summer of 1998, they were friends again for a while, and Zosia died in Dina's arms while my parents were traveling outside Ukraine. And maybe Boris is still alive, but my mama's other friend isn't - Nelya, a scientist who was spending much of her time in Chernobyl following the accident. I still can't believe she's dead. She died of cancer. In the summer of 2000. Mishah and I were leaving for Yaremche on the day I learned about her death. And then there's my high school boyfriend's father, Volodya, a physicist: we used to secretly borrow his car when he was away in Chernobyl - we used to basically steal his car, each time driving his poor wife, Valia, crazy with worry. I talked to Volodya on the phone in January and he sounded very sick, and I don't know if that's because of Chernobyl or maybe he wasn't all that sick but somewhat tipsy - it was his son's 33rd birthday after all. And I was afraid to ask what was wrong with him, and I felt a little guilty for having shared my joy with him, the joy of Marta's birth.