The real Lyudmila from Chernobyl on husbands terrible death and TV show’s ‘lies’

The 'real' Lyumila Ignatenko is the woman behind the HBO/Sky series Chernobyl, which depicted the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in 1986.

Lyudmila cared for her firefighter husband while he died from acute radiation poisoning from the disaster – 33 years on, she has never remarried, and she has finally spoken out about her feelings on the TV show.

The show, released in May, followed Lyudmila and her husband Vasily, who was one of the first firefighters on the scene and died a gruesome death soon after from radiation poisoning.


The real Lyudmila has never spoken out about the show until now, and she revealed she is "hurt" that the show's producers did not adequately reach out to her to get her permission to tell her story.

Speaking to the BBC , Lyudmila said that the media attention surrounding her since the show aired has been tough to deal with.

People were hounding her with questions and journalists would jam her front door open with their foot.


She reminisced about one of the last times she saw her husband as he lay on his deathbed, while she was caring for him in hospital.

He gave her three carnations, which would be the last flowers he ever gave her.

"I shall remember until the end of my life how we stood by the window together", she said.


Staring at the floor, and wiping her eyes, Lyudmila adds: "We didn't know this was the last time we would share a romantic moment."

Lyudmila revealed she had received cruel criticism for "killing her baby", because the baby died within four hours of being born from radiation poisoning.

Lyudmila explains that she had no idea about radiation when she was at her dying husband's bedside, so she did not know it would affect their child.

"Tell me", she said, "How could I leave him?"

Lyudmila said she never gave HBO/Sky permission to use her story, and she slammed them for not meeting her.

"When I found out there would be a film about me, I felt hurt and uneasy", she said.


She said producers offered to pay her $3,000 and didn't explain why – but the programme was already made by then.

She also thought the phone call was fake, as she was called from a Russian phone number, and Russia and Ukraine are in conflict.

HBO and Sky strongly denied her claims and stated that Lyudmila was in regular contact with them.

They argued the producers were "fully committed to depicting all events, including Lyudmila and Vasily Ignatenko's story, with the utmost sensitivity."

They also claimed they gave Lyudmila chances to participate in the process of making the show, and at no point did she express that she did not want Vasily and her story to be shown.

They concluded: "The film makers made every effort to depict their story, and that of everyone affecting by this tragedy, with authenticity and respect."

MirrorOnline has contacted Sky and HBO for comment.

"It was very hard to watch, and there were lies in the movie", said Lyumila, who says she has not watched the whole series yet.

"Me standing with his shoes in my hands – Yes, they buried Vasily with his shoes off, but the shoes were beside him."

She did however state that some parts were accurate, for example "that people were dressed lightly" while exposed to lethal levels o radiation.

Thirty-three years later, Lyumila has never remarried, though she has given birth to and raised a child since.

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