Film & Video

Volunteers Come Forward: The Story of Battalion 731

2011
12 min

Moscow, USSR 1986
Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ivanovich Ryzkhov is informed that an accident has occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine. Urgent actions are required to contain and monitor the disaster.

Ukraine, USSR 1986
Three days later many men were dispatched from Kiev to Chernobyl to take part in an operation of nuclear containment of gigantic proportions. Five men with little in common were enlisted into a special battalion, where orders were unwritten and names were unlisted.

The mission was secret. Battalion 731 operated in the shadow of the system, like a group of ghosts. Their mission was not recorded but their sacrifice will secure them the status of heroes of the Soviet Union, or so they thought.

Ukraine, 2006.

As the 20th anniversary of the nuclear disaster approached, we met Nikolai Fedetovich Bossoy, 64 at the time. Becoming a hero of the Soviet Union was no longer his focus. His concern was the uncertainty that bound the veterans of his battalion and the awareness that radiation had shortened and in many cases prematurely terminated their lives. While me and my men were fighting in the Chernobyl inferno, he was drinking tea in his dacha, claims Nikolai Bosoy of Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzkhov.

Over the next four years, we met Anatoly Kifa, Nikolai Bondar, Alexander Kumarinez and Vladimir Reznick. All served under Nikolai Bosoy's command and subsequently saw their path of glory shattered by the reality of the new Ukrainian government: crippled by years of propaganda and socialism and unable to recognise an event lost in the memory of a country the Soviet Union that no longer existed.

This is the story of 731st Special Battalion and its members. Together, they fought an invisible enemy that left a legacy of death disease and terrible uncertainty in its wake. It is a tale of unanswered prayers and bureaucratic red tape; a narrative where details are impossible to pin down and contradictions outnumber facts. This is the portrait of a lost generation trapped between two worlds; an untold tragedy of the worst nuclear disaster since the Second World War.

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Credits

Director/Producer
Tiziano Niero
Producer/Camera
Kine Dahl
Producer/Translator
Marina Potok

Screenings

  • 2011
  • Sanctum Screenings,
    London, UK
  • Pushkin House
    London, UK
  • International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival: Document 11
    Glasgow, Scotland
  • Cronograf - International Documentary Film Festival
    Chisinau, Moldova
  • Addis International Film Festival: AIFF
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • 2013
  • Private Screening
    Kiev, Ukraine
  • Araceli Cinema,
    Vicenza, Italy

Full film on Vimeo | 58 min