The 22-year-old Korotayev, who had been assisting during the autopsies, was struck at the weird procedure in which all those present participated:
“There were two huge vats of alcohol in the morgue, and we got into them, into the alcohol. After this, they immediately gave Prosecutor Tempalov a free pass to a resort for recovery. The doctors said that we would become impotent.”
The members of a government commission that arrived from Sverdlovsk and Moscow, “seemed aware of some risks associated with being in the vicinity of the corpses”, and were having a binge in the nearby village of Pershino.
Bathing in alcohol seems to be an extraordinary precaution but it is not entirely unheard of. It was conventional wisdom in the 1950’s that alcohol washed away radiation.
Crews in submarines were dispensed a cup of alcohol and a cotton swab once a week to wipe themselves down. Sailors were told that red wine removes the isotopes from the inside of the body, while alcohol washes them off of the skin.
Whatever prompted Lev Ivanov toward radioactivity, for once in this otherwise slack investigation he seemed to have had a perfect guess, when he dispatched the clothes and biological samples of the victims to Sverdlovsk radiologic lab. The expertise concluded that three items of clothing were covered with radioactive dust.
“I remember very well that when we took off their clothes and hung them up on clotheslines, we noticed straight away that the clothes had a strange light purple hue, even though they were of different colors…” – Henrietta Churkina, an expert on fabrics
Curiously, all samples of the bodily tissues turned out to be clean, with one bizarre exclusion: Kolevatov’s heart.
Like many other clues, these facts will be neglected by investigation. Many years would pass before prosecutor Lev Ivanov acknowledges that he had fudged the case, following an order coming from the highest ranks of the Communist hierarchy.
THE ATOM HEART