Ded Vasa and Matriona

After the accident at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl a few brave inhabitants stayed behind, for the love of their home and that of the land of their ancestors, which meant more to them than the omnipresent radiation and the associated risks of serious health complications.

 Among them is Vasya, also known as Ded Vasa and his wife Matriona. They have lived all their lives in Teremtsi despite the fact that their only daughter moved to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. For both of them it was too difficult to give up the land that had fed them for generations and to change their present way of life for the rush of the city. Vasya was 30 years old at the time of tragedy, now at 60 he is the youngest inhabitant of the Chernobyl zone.

Only 20 people now live in their village. With the return of winter in Ukraine, which is often as long and cruel as in Russia, some of them go away to live with their relatives or they pay for accommodation in nursing homes. The reason is simple. Houses in Teremtsi do not have central heating so all are dependent on wood heating. The older villagers do not have enough strength to chop wood and carry it inside every day and stoke it to fire the oven, therefore they look for an alternative housing solution just to survive the winter.

Vasya worked as a turner in the Chernobyl shipyard before the accident. Then, he and Matriona decided to return to their nearby home village. They found jobs at the local river port at the landing stage, Vasya as a sailor and Matriona as a cashier at the ticket office. Now as pensioners they still work every day so as not to waste the precious time that they have left. They live in a house with a huge garden and look after their pets so the idea of doing nothing and relaxing is strange for them. They manage to do so despite the fact that both of them have health problems that they link to their age rather than to the results of the long-term effects of radiation. Vasya has problems with his joints which causes severe pain. Interestingly, many people from this area have the same problem. Matriona has problems with her blood pressure so she has to go to the hospital twice a year to receive a course of medication and is put on a drip. At these moments, when Matriona is having her treatment, Vasya is alone. Nevertheless, they both try to take care of their household and pets.

Vasya also often helps his neighbours in the village, who are mainly lonely, elderly ladies that cannot handle hard physical tasks. Their husbands and sons used to do it for them but they have either died or they went away to try and take care of everything. We decided to buy a tractor for Ded Vasa and Matriona from collected donations to make it easier for them to work on their land where they grow their own crops. We were really pleased to hear that they do not keep our gift only for themselves, but also selflessly help the other inhabitants in their village. It is so worth helping the people who have the least, because they are the ones that give the most.