Abandoned hospitals are creepy places. It’s kind of in their nature. Like abandoned amusement parks. Hotels, spas, mines… they don’t really get under my skin. Amusement parks and hospitals do – but none of them even nearly as much as Hospital No 126 in Pripyat!
When Maxim asked us on the first day which places we wanted to see, a hospital appeared on top of my priority list instantly. Hospitals are generally hard to find and even harder to access (since they usually are in easy to reach locations and filled with expensive equipment), so this was a great opportunity to explore one in a more relaxed atmosphere. At least that was my hope… sadly it wasn’t fulfilled. Nevertheless Hospital No 126 turned out to be my favorite location in Pripyat.
Although it was still morning we already “lost” quite some time on the Cooling Towers and the Przewalski’s Horses, so we arrived at the hospital way behind the schedule our dear guide has planned for us. As a result Maxim gave us half an hour since “the next location will be even better”.
So there was the time pressure… and then there was the atmosphere that was everything but relaxing. Of all the real places in Pripyat this one was by far the most real. The basement is actually one of the most contaminated places in the world and holds the suits of the first six firefighters that died within a couple of weeks after the accident. Maxim told us that he went down there once with full protection gear, but had to leave after about 30 seconds – something he never wants to do again.
At that point Maxim knew that Sebi, Michi and I were reasonable and responsible-minded people, so he just quickly entered the hospital with us to guide us to one of the interesting floors and then returned outside to wait with our driver. My fellow Swiss explorers headed their own way and so it took about two minutes until I was all by myself. In the maternity ward of an abandoned hospital. In Pripyat. Almost 25 years after the accident. Without the shadow of a doubt the highlight of this trip. We’ve all seen a horror movie or two, played video games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. The hospital felt like being the star in one of those works of fiction. On a very irrational basis – because the place was perfectly safe. It just didn’t look and feel like it…
Thanks to the time restraint I was only able to see one of the floors of one of the departments, maybe a tenth of the building, but it was nevertheless amazing. Almost every room, every corner had something interesting to offer. There were surgical instruments, bedpans, gynecological examination chairs, bathtubs, whole boxes of medicine, posters and signs with medical explanations (including explicit pictures) and much, much more. At the end of the hallway were several rooms with rusty baby beds, a really uncomfortable sight. The lighting that day contributed a lot to the atmosphere and made it very difficult to take pictures – never before I wished more that I had a tripod! Since I was in a hurry I cranked up the ISO and took photos while quickly exploring the rooms along the hallway – and on the way back I filmed about two thirds of the floor with my video camera. Sorry that parts of the video turned out to be a bit blurry, but there was no time for re-shooting; just consider it part of the atmosphere…
Looking through the photos from the relaxed comfort of my home, one of them caught my eye and gave me the creeps, although it’s quite unspectacular at a first glance. It shows an opened up register lying on top of other documents. There are lots of handwritten entries and even without speaking any Russian / Ukrainian I guess it’s pretty obvious what it is: Hospital staff logging in for work at 8am and 8pm on April 24th 1986, April 25th 1986, April 26th 1986 – and on April 27th nobody cared to log in at 8pm anymore… (EDIT: Well, obviously I was wrong – Greg let me know in the comments that it’s actually a checklist for people making sure that locked medicine is still where it should be. Thanks again, Greg!)
(If you would like to know more about my trip to the Zone Of Alienation please *click here* to get to the “Chernobyl & Pripyat” special. For a map of the area please *click here*. If you don’t want to miss the latest postings you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)