The Chernobyl incident of 1986 changed the course of many lives. Following the accident that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, a number of surrounding cities and villages in Ukraine were considered unsafe for human life and were evacuated.
These were then considered part of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Many of them were never re-settled and now resemble ghost towns.
Looking at photos of the effects of Chernobyl is quite confronting because it reinforces how many lives changed as a result of the incident. The photos show how thriving cities and villages that many people called home have been totally abandoned and categorized as unliveable.
Keep reading to see 20 haunting photos of the cities and villages that were affected by Chernobyl.
20 Abandoned Room, Kopachi
After a state of emergency was declared, entire buildings, like this one in Kopachi, were abandoned. As of 2019, they still look the same. Kopachi was a village near Chernobyl, to the southwest of the Pripyat River Basin. It now lies within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
19 Modern House, Opachychi
Similarly, Opachychi was a village in the Ivankivskyi Raion in central Ukraine. The village stands to the southeast of where the Chernobyl incident occurred. As of 2006, there were 19 people living there, refusing to leave their homes. They live in shacks just like this one.
18 Abandoned Building, Pripyat
The gas mask makes this photo even more chilling than it otherwise is. Pripyat is now a ghost town, full of abandoned buildings like this that were once full of people. The way it’s been left in such a mess shows how quickly the city was evacuated.
17 Swimming Pool, Pripyat
This empty swimming pool in the city of Pripyat says it all. It accurately shows how life was there one minute and gone the next. How something that was once so useful and loved by the community was completely forgotten about after the evacuation. Images like this are just haunting.
16 Vehicle Graveyard, Buryakivka
It’s not every day that you get to witness a graveyard of vehicles. This was taken in the village of Buryakivka in Ukraine, which was heavily affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Again, the leftover and rusting vehicles reinforce how life was once so bustling here. Very moving stuff!
15 The Palace Of Culture, Zalissya
The Palace of Culture in Zalissya was once a hub of life. It was the center of the community, according to Meandering Wild. People would meet here, attend performances in the concert hall, and even borrow books from the library. Today, it is nothing more than a ghost building.
14 Before And After, Pripyat City
You don’t realize how major the effects of Chernobyl were until you see images of what life in the nearby cities was like before the disaster took place. This before and after shot shows how the city of Pripyat was once a city like any other, and now resembles the set of a horror movie.
Poliske is now a totally abandoned settlement in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. It was once a town straddling the Uzh River that served as an administrative center of the local region. From images like this, we can see that it is now desolate and mostly vacant.
Poliske isn’t the only abandoned settlement in the area. This is Vilcha, an abandoned former town in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The buildings that still stand are empty and falling apart as there is nobody left to maintain them. Once happy, the vibe is now apocalyptic.
11 Hospital, Pripyat
It’s heartbreaking to see photos like this one. This hospital in Pripyat was once full of patients, staff, and visitors. Now, it stands as if nobody knows it’s there. The building itself is falling apart and the landscape around it is wild and overgrown.
10 Classroom, Pripyat
Seeing the signs of life in the leftover buildings of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone makes you realize how many people were impacted after the disaster. It’s now hard to imagine children playing and learning in this classroom, the way they must have before the accident.
9 Pripyat City Center
This photo really does show us how much Pripyat has become a ghost town. Although it looks like something out of a futuristic apocalyptic film about the end of the world, this is a real image of what Pripyat looks like now, all these years after the disaster.
8 Before And After, Pripyat Town Hall
It’s rare to find photos of Pripyat before Chernobyl, but they do exist. This collage shows the difference between the town hall before and after the Chernobyl tragedy. Like the other buildings in Pripyat, the town hall is falling into disrepair with nobody there to maintain it.
This photo is slightly less glum than the others, showing the residential village of Strakholissia. The village is located near the border of the Compulsory and Unconditional Resettlement Zone in Ivankiv Raion. Referred to as the village of Zelenyi Mys, it sits on the banks of a reservoir.
6 Amusement Park, Pripyat
This photo of the abandoned amusement park in Pripyat is perhaps the most haunting of them all. This was once a place of fun and joy, where locals would forget their troubles and make happy memories. Now that it’s abandoned, it’s hard to believe that it was ever a happy place.
5 Before And After, Pripyat City
It’s not just confronting to see the buildings of Pripyat at the surrounding villages left in disarray. It’s also alarming to see how nature has carried on in the area, even though humankind has not. The trees around Pripyat have now grown wild and covered the area, just like the legend of Sleeping Beauty.
4 Stari Sokoly
Stari Sokoly is a village in the Kyiv region—another victim of the effects of Chernobyl, be they direct or indirect. This photo gives us a sense of the quiet nature of the streets, which were probably once a lot busier. It definitely makes you grateful for the blessings in life.
3 Railway Station, Yaniv
The abandoned village of Yaniv lies in the Kyiv Oblast, to the west of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It is also home to the Yaniv Railway Station, which was once a prominent transport station in the area. Like much else in the area, it was abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster.
2 Sinking Ship, Pripyat River
We think this sinking ship in the Pripyat River symbolizes the state of the Chernobyl Exclusion Area well. Because of the tragedy, everything was just left to sink. Sadly, a lot of the buildings can’t be saved due to the circumstance of the disaster, even after all these years.
1 Before And After, Pripyat Amusement Park
This eerie photo of the Ferris wheel shows a before-and-after comparison of the amusement park in Pripyat, which was left in disarray following the disaster. Like the other photos, it’s completely chilling, reminding us of how much life and opportunity was stolen after Chernobyl.