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Wisconsin Trails

Today I got the December issue of Wisconsin Trails. They did a nice little article about my Chernobyl exhibit in Madison. I was afraid they would run the photo the size of a stamp, so I was happy to see it runs across a full page.

Revisiting Chernobyl
Madison photographer Michael Forster Rothbart spent a year in Chernobyl on a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph and interview Ukrainians who remain in villages near Chernobyl a generation after the 1986 nuclear power plant accident.

This Forster Rothbart photo (above) shows Leonid Budkovskiy with his grandson Slava. When the Chernobyl plant exploded, Budkovskiy was a mailman in Ivankiv. For four years, he was reassigned to deliver top-secret mail from Ivankiv to the military headquarters in Chernobyl. One after another, the drivers he worked with refused to drive to Chernobyl. He continued, however, out of a sense of duty. His legs slowly stopped working and by 1996 he was confined to a wheelchair. Currently, he spends most days sitting on his back stoop, overlooking the vegetable garden, and getting assistance from his wife and grandson.

"Most visitors think Chernobyl is a place of danger and despair, and so this is what they photograph. For me, however, Chernobyl tells a story about endurance and hope," says Forster Rothbart. "I created this exhibit because I want the world to know what I know: the people of Chernobyl are not victims, mutants and orphans. They are simply people living their lives, with their own joys and sorrows, hopes and fears. Like you. Like me."

Forster Rothbart's next exhibit, Inside Chernobyl, is currently showing in the Ukraine and will open in Washington, D.C. in April with additional showings planned for Milwaukee and Chicago. After Chernobyl can be seen online at

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