In the 1950s and 1960s serious nuclear accidents and ongoing pollution by waste disposal from the ‘Mayak’ plant affected the Techa River region in the Southern Urals (Russia). These episodes were clouded in secrecy during the Soviet period, such that even local people were unaware of the dangers. Virtually all families have been affected by radiation sickness. Yet even today people still live in the affected area. The article describes how three generations of the population has adapted to life in such dangerous conditions and it outlines the very different responses of men and women and of the various ethnic groups living in the area (Tatars, Bashkirs, and Russians).