Market day in Ivankiv – the last stop before Chernobyl

Car ride from Kyiv to the Chernobyl Zone is not an exciting experience in itself, and most people eagerly check their phones, prepare cameras and chat about Chernobyl rather than pay attention to dozens of identical villages passing by the window. There’s an occasional factory or a roadside grill bar to see, but otherwise the journey isn’t something worth remembering until you reach Dytiatky checkpoint.

Ivankiv is the last urban-style settlement before reaching the Exclusion Zone, about 30 kilometres from the first checkpoint and 50 from the Chernobyl town. With the population of 10 369 (January 2020) it’s neither large, beautiful or noteworthy for any particular reason, but it has several small restaurants and specialist shops for those who need to stock up on something specific before their trip, like we did few weeks ago.

On early Friday morning we parked our car by the road and ran to several stores looking for some paint and an adapter that will let us attach wires to a ceiling lamp bulb socket (but more about it later), none of which had it in stock or even heard of such thing. That is until we turned a corner and saw what must be the most Eastern European market in the entire Eastern Europe, packed with everything you might need from fruit & vegetables to camo jackets, clocks, cheap electronics, and fishing supplies. And of course the adapter we came for, where else would you find an item unavailable in two electrical shops if not hiding among batteries, toilet rolls, parcel tape and binoculars?

The photos below won’t be anything special for those of you who grew up in similar places, like I did, but many people visiting the Chernobyl Zone see Eastern Europe for the first time in their life. Kyiv and other large Ukrainian cities are modern, clean and full of brand new cars, but life outside of them can be vastly different.

Ivankiv is a poor settlement in a poor region of a country exhausted by an ongoing military conflict, trying to catch up economically with the West, and I absolutely loved it. Few people have a reason to visit it, even fewer stop there by accident, so without further ado please enjoy the photos. I wish I had my camera with me, but few quick phone snaps will have to do this time.

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