CWC Virtual: The Babushkas of Chernobyl

  • Thursday, April 29, 2021 / 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM (PDT)
  • With Holly Morris (director/producer)

In recognition of the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the Carsey-Wolf Center is proud to partner with the interdisciplinary conference “Fallout: Chernobyl and the Ecology of Disaster” in presenting a virtual discussion of The Babushkas of Chernobyl (2015). This powerful documentary explores the radioactive dead zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4, where a defiant community of women ekes out an existence on some of the most toxic land on Earth. They share this hauntingly beautiful but lethal landscape with an assortment of interlopers: scientists, soldiers, and even young thrill-seekers who sneak in to pursue post-apocalyptic video game-inspired fantasies. Why the film’s central characters—Hanna Zavorotyna, Maria Shovkuta, and Valentyna Ivanivna—chose to return after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is a remarkable tale about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny, and the subjective nature of risk.

Director Holly Morris joined moderator Sara Pankenier Weld (Germanic and Slavic Studies, UCSB) for a discussion of the making of this important film.

This event is presented as part of the conference Fallout: Chernobyl and the Ecology of Disaster.



Holly Morris (director/producer)

Director/Producer Holly Morris has spent two decades telling and championing pro-woman stories on the global stage. She is an internationally-known filmmaker, author, and presenter (Adventure Divas, Globe Trekker). Her film The Babushkas of Chernobyl premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the Jury Award for Directing, the first of nearly two dozen awards. The film has now been broadcast in more than twenty-five countries worldwide. The film’s story, based on Morris’s print journalism, concerns a defiant community of women who live inside Ukraine’s radioactive “Exclusion Zone”; this story also forms the basis of her popular TED Talk. Her new film Exposure tells the story of a daring expedition party composed of women from the Arab world and the West, and their recent attempt to reach climate change ground zero: the North Pole.

Holly Morris Maybe

Sara Pankenier Weld (Germanic and Slavic Studies, UCSB)

Sara Pankenier Weld is an Associate Professor of Russian and Chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at UCSB, as well as an Affiliate of the Comparative Literature Program. She specializes in Russian literature, comparative literature, and Scandinavian literature, and researches childhood across disciplinary and national boundaries, with a special focus on modernism and avant-garde literature, art, and theory. Her books include Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde (2014) and The Ecology of the Russian Avant-Garde Picturebook (2018). Her research continues to treat childhood and modernism, including her current book project on Nabokov and childhood, and also employs comparative approaches to children’s literature and culture, including in the pursuit of new interests in indigeneity and ecocriticism. She is currently working on an article related to temporality and childhood in Svetlana Alexievich’s accounts from Chernobyl and an article on Catherine the Greats writings for children in transnational context.

This event is sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center and
the interdisciplinary conference Fallout: Chernobyl and the Ecology of Disaster, which will take place on Friday, April 30, 2021.

“Fallout: Chernobyl and the Ecology of Disaster” is sponsored by the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and the T. A. Barron Environmental Fund. Event partners include the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, the Graduate Center for Literary Research, and the Carsey-Wolf Center. Other sponsors include the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, Department of Global Studies, Comparative Literature Program, Environmental Studies, College of Creative Studies, and the Department of History.

CWC Docs

The Carsey-Wolf Center is committed to screening documentaries from across the world that engage with contemporary and historical issues, especially regarding social justice and environmental concerns. Documentaries allow filmmakers to address pressing issues and frame the critical debates of our time.

CWC Global

Media are global by nature; they express culture just as much as they transcend borders. The CWC Global series is dedicated to showcasing media from around the world. This series features screenings and events that place UCSB in conversation with international media makers and global contexts across our deeply connected world.