HBO’s Chernobyl, which is one of the top ten most popular shows this year according to Google, documented the real-life story of the 1986 nuclear disaster. The series was critically acclaimed and won a few Emmy awards. However, a Chernobyl survivor depicted in the series has come forward, saying she had to move due to accusations that she killed her unborn child.
For some background, Chernobyl included depictions of Vasily Ignatenko and his pregnant wife Lyudmila. The series implied that Lyudmila’s unborn child had been exposed to radiation while visiting with her radiated husband. The exposure allegedly caused the death of the child, who died hours after birth from conditions commonly linked back to radiation poisoning.
While the real-life Lyudmila still lives in the Ukraine, she recently explained that she had to move after being hounded by media accusing her of knowingly killing her unborn child. Here’s what she said in her defense:
They were asking me why I had been at my husband's bedside knowing that I was pregnant at the time. But tell me, how could I leave him? I thought my baby was safe inside me. We didn't know anything about radiation then.
Lyudmila is, of course, referencing the events shown in the Chernobyl series. In the opening scene, firefighter Vasily Ignatenko is called to the power plant to put out a fire, not knowing that he’s about to be exposed to a devastating amount of radiation. Lyudmila shares with him her concern about the flames, but he dismisses it. He is later hospitalized for radiation poisoning and Lyudmila goes to see him, lying to the doctors about being pregnant to get inside.
The series was praised for its realistic portrayal of the 1986 nuclear disaster, which tackled the true to life cleanup process and the aftermath of the tragedy. However, in an interview with the BBC, the real-life Lyudmila admits that, while Chernobyl got some things right, it wasn’t always accurate.
In addition to that, Lyudmila revealed that she never gave HBO permission to use her story. She claims HBO representatives only reached out to her after Chernobyl had already been filmed. They allegedly offered her $3,000 after the series was completed and Lyudmila rejected the offer, claiming to have hung up on the representative.
However, HBO released a statement to the BBC denying the accusations. Here’s what it read:
The production team, via local representatives, had multiple exchanges Lyudmila Ignatenko… At no point during these exchanges did she express that she did not wish her story or that of her husband, Vasily to be included. The filmmakers made every effort to depict their story, and that of everyone affected by this tragedy, with authenticity and respect.
Lyudmila Ignatenko admits to not having seen Chernobyl in full as it’s “very hard to watch” and because not everything is depicted as accurately as she remembers, like how her fictional counterpart holds Vasily’s shoes outside his coffin when they were actually placed alongside his body. Lyudmila is said to have never remarried and has one son.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more on Chernobyl and this story. In the meantime, be sure to check out our midseason schedule to see which TV shows are premiering in 2020.