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Wife of Chernobyl firefighter claims she did not consent to have their story told in HBO series

Lyudmila Ignatenko’s husband Vasily was one of the first firefighters to die after the disaster.

Lyudmila Ignatenko as depicted in the series 'Chernobyl'
Lyudmila Ignatenko as depicted in the series 'Chernobyl'
Image: HBO/Sky

THE WIFE OF one of the first firefighters to die following the Chernobyl disaster has alleged that she never gave TV producers the right to tell their story.

Lyudmila Ignatenko, whose husband Vasily was one of the first responders to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986, was one of the central characters in this year’s HBO/Sky series Chernobyl.

During the series, Lyudmila is seen watching her husband leave for the power plant on the night of the disaster, and later caring for him in a Moscow hospital, before he succumbed to radiation poisoning in less than three weeks.

It is later revealed that Lyudmila, who was pregnant at the time of the disaster, lost her baby just hours after it was born.

In a new interview with BBC, Lyuidmila said she was “hurt and uneasy” when she discovered that her character would be depicted in the Emmy-winning series.

“I think the film company behaved very badly by not meeting me,” she said.

“There was a phone call from Moscow. [The producers] said they were filming in Latvia and Kiev and wanted to contact me but couldn’t.”

She describes being offered a $3,000 payment after the series was filmed, which she believed was a hoax.

“I told them that nobody pays money for nothing, and hung up. Of course I thought it was fake, some sort of fraud.”

Lyudmila also told BBC that she has had to go into hiding because of the attention that the series has brought her.

“There were people hounding me at my flat,” she said. “It got to the point where journalists would jam open the door with their foot and try to record interviews with me.”

She also describes being criticised for killing her baby because of the radiation it received while she cared for her husband in hospital.

“They were asking why I had been at my husband’s bedside knowing that I was pregnant at the time,” she said.

“But tell me, how could I leave him? I thought my baby was safe inside me. We didn’t know anything about radiation then.”

In a statement, HBO and Sky rejected Lyudmila’s claim that they did not contact her before or during the filming of the series, saying they were fully committed to depicting all events with “utmost sensitivity”.

“The production team, via local representatives, had multiple exchanges with Lyudmilla Ignatenko before, during, and after filming,” they said.

“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.”

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