World

Meet the new face of Chernobyl

Published 6:31 PM ET, Fri April 22, 2016
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For three years photographer Niels Ackermann followed the life of Yulia, a 23-year-old he met in 2012. The young woman lives in Slavutych, Ukraine, a town near Chernobyl built for disaster evacuees. "These essentially are the children of Chernobyl," Ackermann said. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Slavutych is surrounded by a dense pine forest. When the architects in charge of the project picked the location to build the town, they selected this place in the middle of a forest because the end of a railway line made the transportation of construction material easier. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Yulia and Dima celebrate the payment of a friend's salary in 2012. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
The nine-floor Hotel Viktoria in Slavutych remains incomplete. Although access is forbidden, the city's teenagers often hang out there, Ackermann said. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
A mural in an empty school in the abandoned Ukrainian town of Pripyat. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
A young man performs acrobatics on a fixed bar at a playground in Slavutych. There aren't many career options in the area and there's not much to keep young people entertained, Ackermann said. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
A mock-up of the city is displayed in the local museum. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Zhenya lies on Yulia's shoulder in 2013. Ackermann watched Yulia turn into a young adult through his camera's viewfinder. He saw her struggle as she moved from job to job and from a party lifestyle to relationships, marriage and then divorce. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
A radioactive field near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
A young woman looks out at the ghost town of Pripyat. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Yulia panics before getting ready for her wedding in 2013. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Zhenya and Yulia celebrate their marriage in June 2013. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Flowers bloom in Slavutych's central park. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Now, Yulia works as a translator at the most important job site in the region: the New Safe Confinement arch that's being built to permanently seal the remains of the burned nuclear reactor. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Zhenya's dog looks out the window. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
A view from the bus connecting Kiev to Slavutych. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris
Yulia looks over the rails at her job site. If all goes as planned during the final phase of the project in 2017, the New Safe Confinement's gigantic, 30-story-tall arch will slide over the ruined reactor and the site will be sealed forever. Niels Ackermann/Lundi13/Polaris