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Chernobyl’s Tragic Legacy

“I want people to see,” said photographer Paul Fusco. “For Lida, it has to be as painful as possible.” Lida is the mother of Aleysa Beoia, a seventeen-year-old girl who Fusco watched die in 2000, as he was shooting a collection of work calle…

“I want people to see,” said photographer Paul Fusco. “For Lida, it has to be as painful as possible.” Lida is the mother of Aleysa Beoia, a seventeen-year-old girl who Fusco watched die in 2000, as he was shooting a collection of work called Chernobyl Legacy.

His photographs show horror in black and white: An intelligent, lively four-year-old with almost no lymphatic system, his limbs swollen into monstrous trunks; a toddler whose torso blossoms into a tumor that cannot be removed, since his kidneys are contained within it; a baby born with its brain outside its body; children slithering around the floor, wordless pack animals, groaning and rolling, eating from bowls like dogs.

Fusco spent many months, over three visits, exploring state-run facilities dedicated to taking care of children damaged by radiation. They receive suitable care and affection, but no education. Many were born years after the 1986 accident and handed over at birth by devastated parents.

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