There have been a handful of loyal followers over the years of Assistant Professor Nicholas Hryhorczuk’s tales of his visits to Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst and biggest nuclear disaster.
But ever since HBO began airing the Emmy award-winning “Chernobyl” mini series, which this week snagged an award for outstanding limited television series, NIU’s own Hryhorczuk has become somewhat of a celebrity.
Curious parties are turning to him and his expertise for first-hand insights into the dark heritage site still teeming with radioactive particles more than 30 years after the 1986 disaster.
Hryhorczuk, who has been researching Chernobyl for the past eight years, himself is a huge fan of the series, and the attention it has brought to his works and to the area itself. He’s lectured on the subject at Bowdoin College, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. But now, with the popularity of the show, the interest is even more mainstream.
“I loved the series,” he said. “It was accurate and brought the disaster to a millennial audience at a time politically when these conversations are increasingly more important and relevant.
“Visits are up 40%, and most exciting to me, are the conversations with both novice and experienced travelers who are expressing an interest in visiting the zone,” he said.
His ultimate goal is to ensure Chernobyl becomes a UNESCO Heritage Site, as it serves as a reminder of humankind’s greatest technological failure and a reminder of the threat of an increasing reliance on dangerous technology, he said. Gaining the UNESCO designation would help ensure a safe and valuable tourism site for future generations, he added.
“Precedents for dark heritage sites include Auschwitz-Birkenau and Hiroshima,” he said “Their common elements are a historic tragedy, the expression of strength and hope of humanity, and a symbol for change. Chernobyl is a historic tragedy. The heroism among first responders and liquidators provides hope in humanity. Chernobyl has led us to ponder the pros and cons of nuclear power. Chernobyl meets the criteria as a potential UNESCO dark heritage site, but would require the financial support of the Ukrainian government and a commitment to ensuring a safe and valuable tourism experience.”