A Slight Case of Overspeeding

Elena Filatova. Photo from Wikipedia.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before my writings would come to touch the case of Elena Filatova. This far it has not been a priority to me to write about her, but having twice in one month been asked whether I have anything to do with it (which I of course do not), I decided to finally take up the subject.

Elena Filatova, also or better known as "the Kid of Speed" is a now 37 years old Ukrainian woman who in 2004 gained internet fame after publishing the story of her solo adventure to the Chernobyl Zone - on a motorcycle. Yet to this day Filatova is still a legend to some, but as a matter of fact her site had not been online for a very long time before people started questioning her story, doubting the amount of truth in it. From various sources, some seeming more reliable than others, came different reports of her story being fake.

On Filatova's website, there are a few photo essays from her journeys to the area around Chernobyl; villages (inhabited as well as abandoned), buildings, nature and even some from Pripyat, but it should also be noted that a significant number of photos from her first essay are not her own (the photographers are however accredited). Going through the site, there is absolutely no doubt that she has been in the Zone and also seem to have a genuine interest in the history of the Chernobyl disaster, but... the first thing that was questioned was exactly how Filatova really traveled there the first time.

"[The essay] "Ghost Town" was under attack from the very day I put it online" states Filatova on her website, not specifying any of the met floods of accusations. The main questionings were however regarding whether she really rode that bike to the Zone. There were rumors that there are a matter of fact was no bike, but that Filatova along with her husband and had gone by an official Chernobyl Interinform vehicle. Later, the official guide Rimma Kiselitsa [who unfortunately passed away in 2006] confirmed this by stating that Filatova had been to the Zone on an ordinary booked one day trip, carrying a motorcycle helmet with her. Kiselitsa had been by no means impressed by Filatova and her husband as they would move items from different buildings to arrange them for photo compositions in a manner that made it all seem like they were doing it for sensational effects. Concerning the photographic excesses of Filatova, there are also several stories, but I will not get further into those.

"I have known Elena for years, so I know how much is fake and how much is true. ...I know that she cannot even ride a bike. The bike is her ex husband's. ...She can only ride a bicycle or little scooter."
...read parts of an electronic message sent as a response to the American author Mary Mycio's statement of Elena Filatova's motorcycle tale unfortunately being untrue. I will however not take this message into any account as the author of this message to me is unknown and I thus cannot verify its amount of truth. Let it be an example of a rumor.

The stetements of Mary Mycio, (at the time [2004] stationed in Kiev, writing a book [Wormwood Forest] about Chernobyl for the Joseph Henry Press publishing company), however adds more detail and substance to the rumors. Having heard about the woman who all alone on a motorcycle had traveled the exclusion zone, she wanted to find out more about it but after performing research she could report, amongst other things, that: 

"They organized their trip through a Kyiv travel agency and the administration of the Chornobyl zone (and not her father). They were given the same standard excursion that most Chernobyl tourists receive. When the Web site appeared, Zone Administration personnel were in an uproar over who approved a motorcycle trip in the zone. When it turned out that the motorcycle story was an invention, they were even less pleased about this fantasy Web site."
Torn loose rumors or reliable facts; there is one main feature that gives us a solid reason that Filatova's motorcycle adventure didn't happen and this is the fact that private vehicles are forbidden in the Zone and that visitors may journey through it only by an official vehicle or approved tourist bus. 

Since facing all these accusations, Elena Filatova decided to change the contents of her website. These days the text is merely hinting that she was in the Zone with her motorcycle and many photos have been removed or replaced. 

Looking into this issue, there is only one question that I experience cannot be answered in a rational way; the question of "why". Why would anyone want to make up a story like that? What profit is there to possibly gain? Obviously none, as Filatova decided to withdraw parts of her story and the "evidence". However, all was not futile because at the time she did manage to bring a certain attention back to a disaster that the world wants to forget. 

2 kommentarer:

  1. I have been to Poliske and can vouch for the validity of her pictures.

    I could have gone on to Vilcha, but didn't for lack of time, and not knowing if it would be safe.
    But Poliske is easy to visit - all it took me was a bribe of two small cigars at the checkpoints before Poliske and then Vilcha.
    Poliske and Vilcha are the two first entries on her blog.
    The Wolves Land on her maps extend all the way down to Ivankiv, and anyone can visit there and go about twenty kms into the Zone before encountering any checkpoints.
    I recommend it - there are many beautiful villages in the Zone, some deserted, some not. Some with children playing in the streets.

    I think it is obvious that her pics from Pripyat are arranged - has she ever denied that? If you go there now, the city will be overgrown by trees and shrub, and crumbling buildings. Just like Poliske.
    I would avoid the tour, overpriced and touristy.

    best regards, Priffe (Sweden)

  2. Yes indeed anyone can go to the "Wolves Land". If traveling to Chernobyl from Kiev, you will pass through parts of it (been there, done that, didn't go on any tourist bus trip, though, and never will) and Filatova has surely been around a lot - no doubt about that, but the "problem" is that she actually claimed those Pripyat photos to be real and not arranged, however removing all pointers to that as soon as the mass complaints started to flood in.

    Yes, Pripyat is withering and I reckon that only within a few years it will become very dangerous for visitors to enter any of its buildings.