It will take a certain level of curiosity to watch this movie, the Babushkas of Chernobyl, available at least on Amazon. Of all the possible movie suggestions I could make, why this one and why now? Because it’s what I’m currently watching, having seen most of the worthwhile shows available and determined not to get mired down with the nonsense circulated as entertainment these days. Much more, though, I share this because of its humanity, engaging with the small cluster of 100 or so women who live scattered throughout former villages residing in the world’s most deadly radioactive zone. That these women are Catholic is an added bonus.
Pathos is one word I’d use to describe what I see here: sympathy and sadness for the arduous lives these women have with the Lord’s permissive will and their own stubbornness, refusing to relocate in safer places outside the Zone. For them, this is home--all they’ve known and loved, however brittle and threatening that home life has become.
The gals are a kick. A passing geologist comes by monthly with his Geiger counter and jokes with one about when was her last dance? She replies with feigned sorrow that there are no longer dance floors near her. These women are tenacious! Holding onto their rural life, waiting months for a social worker to drop off their penny-ante pensions. One babushka, frustrated and in tears for the long wait, receives only 7 Hryvnia--about 21 cents. To survive, they do what they know and have always done, living off the land by the sweat of their brow awaiting God’s mercy. One says with an honest smile, “no one should live to be one hundred."
Yes, I recommend this warmly moving documentary for its genuine humanity and special glimpse into the lives of people pressed by the limits of nature. I want to end on a positive note, though for me, the film alone won’t cut it. Pardon my intrusion, then, if I dedicate a quirky poem I wrote about a house I built on the moon for the woman I might someday love.
Here’s to you, Babushkas!
I built a little Moon House, just for her to live,
And take immense pleasure that she accepts my gift.
Most carefully, I planned to see she’d have all she needs:
Hot water for her bath, a greenhouse and plentiful supply of seeds.
She grows what she wants and lives well off the land,
And enjoys finding what falls from space, hidden in the sand.
A falling star, a fluff of dust, stellar rays her skin to tone,
Anything that would turn this little house into a lovely home.
Ever curious and impulsive--I must remind her of her suit:
“You dare not be caught without it: no air can still pollute!”
She smiles her disarming smile, which melts my heart like cheese,
And gets her way, which is to say, whatever she wants to please.
(Though she is careful and smart, she doesn’t risk the chance,
To pass up a quiet moment of indulging a stellar-lit romance.)
How I spoil her, and love to do, it’s easy as you see,
She also loves to do what she knows will also spoil me.
Quietly we sit and watch them: planets and setting sun,
And in due time we will retire, though our day is never done.
It was this little Moon House that I built for her to live,
Yet she has made it into a home and taught me how to thrive.
For that, we love and laugh, in awe. Before: how did we survive?!