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Real Life Story of Lyudmilla Ignatenko from 'Chernobyl' Who Lost Her Husband and Child

Pedro Marrero
Aug 02, 2019
08:00 A.M.
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If you ever wondered about the real-life story of some characters from the "Chernobyl" mini-series, we'll tell you about the true story behind Lyudmilla Ignatenko, a woman who sacrificed everything to be with her husband during his last days.


The nuclear plant disaster was a tragic event in history. The TV mini-series tells the story of those who suffered from this horrible situation, with Irish actress Jessie Buckley playing the role of a woman who survived the explosion.

According to the creator of the "Chernobyl" mini-series, Craig Mazin, the idea of ​​recreating these events is for people to be able to know what the explosion did to the families of the people who worked there, so their stories are not forgotten.


Lyudmilla Ignatenko was the wife of Chernobyl firefighter Vasily Ignatenko. They met teenagers in 1979 and married in 1983. After the explosion of the nuclear plant on April 26, 1986, she visited her husband every day at the hospital in Moscow.


When her husband was called at night to deal with the nuclear plant fire, they believed it was a fire like any other. But when Lyudmilla arrived two days later at the hospital to see her husband, she saw that something was seriously wrong, for the 25-year-old was unrecognizable.

Gradually, the radiation was burning Vasily's body, and during the days that followed his condition worsened. As a result of the radiation received at the plant when attending the emergency without the appropriate safety equipment, Vasily died on May 18, 1986.


Vasily's body was placed in a metal coffin and buried, but even after death, it contained the highest levels of radiation. While visiting her husband, Lyudmilla never protected herself from that radiation.


During the Chernobyl events, Lyudmilla was pregnant with her first child and the effects of being exposed to her husband’s levels of radiation unfailingly affected the unborn baby.

She attended the hospital daily to take care of him and told those days that he was a different man every day. Lyudmilla put her own life and her unborn baby’s life at risk by staying close to her beloved husband while he was dying.


She constantly ignored the warnings of the nurses and doctors who told her that she shouldn't pass the protective plastic that surrounded her husband. Nor should she hug him, kiss him or even touch him.

She lied to the nurses saying she was not pregnant. She was only 23 years old when she became a widow. Two weeks after the death of her husband, while visiting his grave Lyudmilla went into labor.

Unfortunately, her baby died four hours after being born from cirrhosis and heart complications. The baby's name, Natasha, was chosen by her father before he died.



Lyudmilla currently lives a life away from all publicity in Kiev, Ukraine, with her son. During the years following Chernobyl, she suffered multiple attacks on her health. She also told that doctors said she could not have any more children because of the radiation damage.

She commented that the only way she could withstand what happened was because of how quickly it was; just two weeks. In just fourteen days, people affected by the radiation syndrome died in terrible pain. And two weeks later her little baby also died.

Lifestory of Lyudmilla Ignatenko became famous thanks to the book Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by the Belarusian Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich.