Behind The Scenes - CHERNOBYLwel.come Story
Dear adventurer, welcome to the world of CHERNOBYLwel.come! My name is Dominik and I would like to tell you the incredible story behind this company. Everything started back in 2008: I remember sitting in my car driving over a bridge, when my only Russian friend (at that time) asked me if I wanted to go with him to Chernobyl. I never really paid any attention to what he was asking and I replied "why not?".
Four months later I was sitting in that same car with two more of my friends at the Ukrainian border. At first the customs officer didn't want to let us into Ukraine until we bribed him - Welcome to Ukraine :-)
The next morning we arrived in Kiev and joined a Russian speaking group to Chernobyl. We took our backpacks, respirators and I even had a hockey jockstrap filled with lead, I felt prepared. However, it felt like the Russians in our group, whom were equipped with only vodka and crackers, were laughing at us. Most of them were going to the Chernobyl zone for the third or fourth time, so they knew that it was safe. Safety was made more believable when I saw people working and living there and even more unbelievable was the incredibly low readings taken from my dosimeter. I noticed my heart rate increase when we crossed the border of the Chernobyl zone and I could not believe my eyes when I saw the first abandoned houses, barely visible behind the trees. Winter was here and there were no leafs at all. We got out of the bus in Pripyat and I remember taking a deep breath, closing my eyes for a second and trying to imagine how full of life this city was. At that very moment I fell in love with Pripyat and even now it's still my favorite place on Earth. I decided I would come back one day, not because of a lack of information that I got on the tour, but I was hooked on Chernobyl!
I wanted Chernobyl to answer more questions for me. Actually, I wanted to return to this special place more often and be more prepared with information and stories behind the Chernobyl tragedy. A few months later I gathered another group to visit Chernobyl, then another and the year after I started to organize regular trips by myself. First, I have to admit, the trips were pretty crappy. Despite the fact I have a journalist background and I gathered tons of stories and history of the Chernobyl zone, I was not able to interpret it in the right way to the visitors. Also, the website looked (despite the name CHERNOBYL – wel.come) like an invitation to hell and the overall service was poor.
This was only my hobby and I have to admit I was very selfish – my goal was to go to Chernobyl zone, the people with me on the tour was only the veil. But despite this stumbling, I made great friends with people from the tours! I remember all the guests, each different atmosphere, all the jokes and of course all the troubles. Solving situations when things go wrong became another education to me and I have to admit that once somebody even got lost in Pripyat. With each tour I organized I tried to think of another way to make the next tour even better, thinking about the special little details became an obsession for me. Making the tours as memorable as possible is still an obsession of mine today.
During the time, thanks to people I met and interviewed personally e.g. Robert Kiyosaki, Jimmy Wales, Pierluigi Collina, Brian Tracy, Jack Canfield, John Demartini, Peter Fisk, Scott McKain, Niki Lauda, Michael J. Andrews, Magnus Lindkvist, Blair Singer, Bill Pienias, David Pearl and many more. Plus, a huge thanks to all the people who travelled with me! Chernobyl is the best lesson for all of us – one can see all the tragedy of the past and beauty of the present. It is a place like no other, the places that shakes your set of values, a place that will show you the worst case scenario for planet Earth, a place where you can understand the power of nature. Together with my great colleagues – Eliska, Sona, Juraj, Tanya, Aleksey, Lenka, Lisa, Jimmy, Michaela, Zuzana and also my friends at help - Simon, Dan, Nico, Viera, my mother Sona, my wife Jana and my two daughters Lili and Diana (yes, the semen cryopreservation I did before my first trip to Chernobyl was totally useless:-D) we were able to bring the Chernobyl tours to another level. Now I can proudly say, we are not selling just tours, we are giving people an experience that will change the way they look on their life.
Let me finish this story with my favorite quote of Robert Kennedy: “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
p.s. I wrote this story to give you a look what is the “gasmask” project real face. Please do not take it as a sales pitch. Thank you for your attention and I look forward to hearing your stories from Chernobyl ;-)