The real life faces and stories behind Chernobyl, HBO's gripping new miniseries.


On April 26, 1986, a safety test at the Chernobyl Nucelar power plant in the Ukraine malfunctioned.

Within moments, a series of explosions to the equivalent of 500 nuclear bombs was set off. It was the worst nuclear disaster in history.

“The thick concrete walls were bent like rubber. I thought war had broken out. Steam wrapped around everything; it was dark and there was a horrible hissing noise,” Sasha Yuvchenko, who was on the night shift at the Chernobyl power plant at the time, told The Guardian.

Instantly, two men were killed in the blast.

You can watch the official trailer for Chernobyl, right here. Post continues after video.

In the decades that followed, thousands of people were affected by the unprecedented disaster, with many dying of cancer and radiation related illnesses. Today, the death toll from Chernobyl is still unknown.

Now, over 30 years later, the Chernobyl disaster is back in the spotlight once again.


With the release of HBO’s five-part miniseries, Chernobyl, we decided to take a look at the series’ characters alongside their real life counterparts.

Here’s what we discovered.

Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson)

Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson).

In Chernobyl, Ulana Khomyuk is a nuclear scientist who travels to Pripyat to investigate the disaster after detecting radioactive dust in the air.


Although Khomyuk is a pivotal character in the series, she actually didn't exist in real life.

Instead, Khomyuk's character is simply a composite of a number of scientists who investigated Chernobyl.

Valery Legasov (Jared Harris)

chernobyl victims
Valery Legasov (Jared Harris).

Valery Legasov, played by Jared Harris in Chernobyl, was the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy.

The Soviet scientist was part of a team responsible for investigating the disaster.


In the two years following the disaster, Legasov attempted to keep open and honest about the cause of the incident, while others in power tried to cover up what really occurred.

One day before he was due to announce his results of the investigation into the causes of the disaster, Legasov took his own life.

Eight years after his death and a decade after the disaster, Legasov was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard)

chernobyl victims
Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard).

Boris Shcherbina was deputy head of the Soviet government.

Following the disaster, Shcherbina was in charge of dealing with crisis management following the Chernobyl disaster.

He died in Moscow in 1990.

Anatoly Dyatlov (Paul Ritter)

chernobyl victims
Anatoly Dyatlov (Paul Ritter).

Paul Ritter plays Anatoly Dyatlov in Chernobyl. 

Dyatlov was the deputy chief engineer at Chernobyl. After the disaster, Dyatlov was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the explosion.

After five years, however, he was released.

In 1995, he passed away from heart failure.

Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley) and Vasily Ignatenko (Adam Nagaitis)

chernobyl victims
Vasily Ignatenko (Adam Nagaitis).

Vasily Ignatenko was one of the many firefighters who was a first responder at Chernobyl.

Unaware of the dangers of the disaster site, many of the firefighters, including Vasily, developed acute radiation syndrome.

In the weeks following the explosion, Lyudmilla Ignatenko, who was pregnant, ignored the hospital's orders and watched her husband's health rapidly decline.

chernobyl victims
Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley).

"He was producing stools 25 to 30 times a day, with blood and mucous. His skin started cracking on his arms and legs. He became covered with boils. When he turned his head, there'd be a clump of hair left on the pillow,” Lyudmilla told Ukrainian journalist Svetlana Alexievitch for her book Voices from Chernobyl.

Exactly two weeks after being brought to the hospital, Vasily died.

After Vasily died, Lyudmilla went into labour while visiting his grave in Moscow. She gave birth to a baby girl, but after four hours, the infant died as a result of cirrhosis of the liver and congenital heart disease. Today, it's believed Lyudmilla still lives in the Ukraine.

Mikhail Gorbachev (David Dencik)

chernobyl victims
Mikhail Gorbachev (David Dencik).

Mikhail Gorbachev, who is played by David Dencik in the series, was the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union.

At the time of the disaster, Gorbachev was heavily criticised worldwide for failing to immediately issue a statement. It wasn't until 18 days after the disaster that he released a statement to the rest of the world.

The US President at the time, Ronald Reagan, was particularly furious with Gorbachev as the Soviet Union had initially tried to cover up the full extent of the disaster.

“A nuclear accident that results in contaminating a number of countries with radioactive material is simply not an internal matter," the US President said, according to Express. “The Soviets owe the world an explanation."

Today, 88-year-old Gorbachev still operates in Russia's political circles.

The five-part miniseries Chernobyl is available to watch now on Foxtel. 

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