By DOROTA LECH
If you asked me how I remember that day, I would say there was a dusty pastel-yellow pollen hovering over the asphalt and the grass. I was looking up at the sky and concentrating on the soft bumps of the sidewalk, which were steadily absorbed by the wheels of my stroller. I could see my father's face smiling down at me.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. The month had been warmer than usual, and almost everybody was outside. My mother was in the library preparing for an exam. Our inconspicuous town, located in south-western Poland, was just another small dot on a map of a country that had long been destroyed and divided. At that time the borders were closed. In later years, my mother would compare our life back then to that of my pet hamsters; forcibly confined in a small prison and running in pointless circles.
It was still sunny days later when my parents read about the explosion in Pripyat. They didn't believe the newspapers or the explanations spewed by the government. But still, we stayed inside. My grandparents drove to neighbouring villages to find powdered milk produced before the explosion. My mother made an appointment at the doctor's office for me to receive my iodine dosage. And we all just waited.
But we weren't like the hamsters at all. We didn't leave the hamsters inside the house when the carbon monoxide detector went off in the night. Why she let me keep them, I'll never understand.