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Pole to Pole

Day 34: Kiev

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleKiev has been very close to modern tragedy as well. If the prevailing wind had not been blowing from the south on 26 April 1986 - the day the reactor blew up at Chernobyl - Kiev, only fifty-five miles away, would have been a dead city. No one knows how serious the effects might still be. The wind started blowing towards Kiev five days after the explosion, but the reactor wasn't sealed for a month. Looking down from the old city walls I can see people splashing about in the Dnieper. I ask Vadim if it's safe. He tells me a friend of his, a nuclear physicist, told him that it was fine to swim as long as he didn't touch the bottom, for radioactive material always sinks. But, he shrugs, on a day as hot as today there will always be people who will take risks.

Back at the hotel, Volodya has defused a potentially embarrassing situation. Two months ago a local girl was made pregnant by an Englishman staying in this hotel, whose name was Michael. Since then her mother has scoured the guest lists for an Englishman called Michael, and this morning she turned up trumps. With her wronged and freshly impregnated daughter in tow she spent all day camped in the lobby, waiting for Michael Palin to return. I'm just relieved not to have been first through that door.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 34
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Kiev
  • Book page no: 77

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