However, despite safety warnings, some of these people have returned. According to Deutsche Welle, most of them missed their homes and couldn't imagine living in another place.
"I missed my home very much. I wanted to see what was going on in my home town, my house. I suffered a lot, my soul was hurting," the 78-year-old Evgeny told the media source.
The radiation level in Chernobyl and nearby settlements still remains high, but it has not prevented local residents from returning home. Like Evgeny, most of them came to the area secretly, without permission.
The returnees are being called "self-settlers" and live without any benefits of civilization. They grow vegetables and fruits, gather mushrooms in the woods and drink water from wells, have no TVs and buy food from a grocery van which comes to the area twice a month.
"We are old, working is becoming hard, but we still grow cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes," local resident Maria says. "Sometimes, we visit our neighbors, try to support each other," the woman explained.
Despite restrictions, every year, the exclusion zone is visited by thousands of tourists. Earlier, these were mostly Russians, but today most of the guests come from Poland, the Czech Republic and the US.