There is no doubt that the 1986 disaster at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, which happened in the Soviet town of Chernobyl (now within the borders of modern Ukraine), is the worst nuclear accident to have ever happened in history.
Not only did it directly displace over a hundred thousand people from their homes and caused a hundred deaths; it also caused ecological damages as far as Norway, which overall cost over sixty-eight billion dollars, and even indirectly produced thousands of abortions of mothers who feared that their pregnancies had been affected by the radiation clouds that loomed over Europe.
Amidst this tragedy and the great fear that everyone at the time experienced, some brave men and women gave all their efforts, and very often their lives, to prevent the disaster from becoming a full-blown catastrophe: Vasily Ignatenko, the twenty-five-year-old firefighter.
He was also the first victim of the disaster. Keep reading as we review ten facts about his heroic deeds and his tragic end.
10 Model Citizen
Vasily Ignatenko was born in a little village within the Brahin District, southern Belarus (by then, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, a part of the Soviet Union).
He was an active child who developed a love for sports that would last right until the very end of his life.
By 1986, he had been an electrician for a couple of years and later a firefighter. He had married his girlfriend Lyudmilla Ignatenko (whom he met at a party) around three years earlier.
He also had been recently promoted to Senior Sergeant within his firefighting division: life was smiling upon the strong young man. But it wouldn’t do so for much longer.
9 Called Into Action
It was the dead of the night when the young couple received a call. At 2:29 AM, to be exact, and less than one hour after the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl exploded, Vasily was called alongside the rest of the Fire Bridge Nº6.
He didn’t volunteer or even knew what was happening at such a late hour: his brigade was on duty, and he followed his orders.
Alongside his companions, he was immediately transported to the accident site, where he climbed the roof of the reactor. Unbeknownst to him, that was the place with the most substantial radioactivity of the whole area.