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Residents of Orbita employed to make preparations for the opening of the power plant lost their jobs and the town was quickly deserted, becoming a silent monument to the shock and terror caused by Chernobyl that reverberated through corridors of power in the Kremlin and around the world."There has been no heating or drinkable water here for a very long time," Alina's grandfather said."We are similar to Chernobyl, except that there is no radiation.

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His new neighbour Vasiliy came to Orbita from the pro-Russian separatist city of Lugansk a few months ago and is now renovating a damp apartment in a five-storey building that stood empty for many years."My home was seized by the rebels so I have nowhere to return to.

Life is very expensive everywhere, but here I took an apartment on credit for a very low price," said the 36-year-old, who lives on a disability pension."It is better to live in the forest than under fire," he added.- Abandoned lives -Eight families from various parts of the war-scarred east have relocated to Orbita, attracted by its cheap prices and calm.

It costs less than $1,500 (1,300 euros) to buy one of the Soviet-era apartments, a pittance compared to the average $40,000 that people pay in the capital Kiev.

Orbita's tale is tightly intertwined with that of Chernobyl, whose explosion spewed radiation across nearly three-quarters of Europe and left several thousand people dead or dying.

Plans for the town were initially drafted in 1970, the year ground was broken for the Chygyryn nuclear power plant, whose construction was never completed.

Authorities of then-Soviet Ukraine planned to make Orbita the home of engineers from the plant -- in what was intended to be the equivalent of Pripyat, a city of 48,000 built three kilometres (two miles) from Chernobyl.

In the 1980s, two nine-storey and two five-storey apartment buildings, a department store and all the necessary infrastructure were built.

But the disaster at Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident, meant plans to complete the Chygyryn plant were quickly abandoned and because the Communist party had not yet opened an outpost in the town, it was not considered to exist officially and was not included on maps of the region.

Orbita, a town whose existence was never registered by the Soviet authorities, was meant to house 20,000 workers at a nuclear power plant whose construction was abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster of April 1986 Missing from maps, Orbita is a ghost town hiding in the pine forests of central Ukraine, abandoned in the 80's but now filling with families fleeing the pro-Russian eastern separatist war.


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