A book by by Arthur Chichester
I found this book sometime last year via looking up information on a YouTube channel I have grown to love called “Bald and Bankrupt” by the same author under his real name (Arthur was a pseudonym). The format of that channel is that “Mr. Bald” goes around to less traveled areas of various countries in order to see how real people live, rather than the typical “touristy” stuff many travelogues do. He has purposely put his life in danger visiting some notorious slums or even areas with poisoned air. This book is definitely a starting point for some of his best content – his travels through the irradiated countryside of Belarus. It was through him that I learned that Belarus was far more affected by Chernobyl than Ukraine. You always hear about the ghost town of Pripyat and not much more when discussing the area, but apparently upwards of 1/3 of Belarus is contaminated to this day by the blast. In this book, as with the channel, Mr. bald travels around talking to people (he’s fluent in Russian) to see how they are continuing to live in the area.
“In ‘The Burning Edge’ the writer Arthur Chichester takes the reader on a journey to the furthest edge of Belarus, Europe’s least known country where he makes his way through towns and villages seemingly known only to those that continue to reside in them. On his journey through the irradiated borderlands he meets an assortment of characters struggling to make sense of a life in the shadows of the Chernobyl tragedy. At the end of his time in the region he decides to take one last journey off the map and walk alone through the irradiated forest on an adventure that will lead him through landscapes untouched and unseen since 1986. This is the first travel book to bring the region to a Western readership.”
Some of the stories are pretty interesting, such as a woman he meets on a bus that finds out he’s from England and basically wants to start dating him as a way out of Belarus. It’s somewhat heartbreaking to come across stories like that, where people try to drop everything and run off with a total stranger in order to make their lives better. Not everything is “doom and gloom” though, he manages to find plenty pf people that love their country and want nothing more than to see it prosper. Bald always has a bottle of Vodka on hand, and is able to find out the real pulse of the nation. My only quibble with this book is that its pretty short, I’d love to see him incorporate this book into a much larger one including some of his more recent thoughts on the everyday lives of folks in “The Zone”. On its own, this is an informative, quick read that makes one excited to see what the author does next. If you have never watched his channel, do yourself a favor and check it out.
If you would like a copy of this book, click HERE