Voices from Chernobyl is a collection of first person accounts from survivors of the Chernobyl accident. The people Alexievich interviewed are not scientists or politicians, they are soldiers, farmers, and school teachers. Often the survivors describe the events around Chernobyl as being like a war, but it was a war with an invisible enemy. Old Science Fiction stories describe the glow of radiation, but the radiation released by the nuclear accident was completely invisible. Imagine soldiers coming to your home and telling you that you have to evacuate because of radiation and you have to leave all your possessions behind because they are all contaminated. The animals have to be killed, the plants cut down and buried under concrete and the topsoil scrapped away because it is all radioactive. All while bright sunshine streams down from blue skies onto lush green fields.
The most horrific account is from the widow of a fireman who rushed in to fight the fire at the nuclear station with no concept of the radiation he was being exposed to. He died in agony over a period of 14 days. Then come the soldiers who were ordered in to clean up the aftermath of the explosions. They knew what they were going into but had no choice in the matter. Then there are the accounts of the residents who were evacuated, or refused to leave, or in some cases have gone back. There is anger and bitterness, gallows humor, and quite a lot of despair.
I suppose what happened to these people is not significantly worse than anyone who lost their homes and families to disasters like earthquakes, floods, fires or hurricanes, but the main difference is that what happened at Chernobyl was entirely man-made. It would have been easier for the victims if it had been a war with an enemy to blame. Who do you blame when your home, your family, and your health is lost forever due to what amounts to poor engineering and bureaucracy.