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Catacombs


A must see

Catacombs
Odessa is located on land that millions of years ago was covered by the Black Sea. Shells of mollusks combined and formed light yellow shell rock. Examining any of this rock, a person can see that it is composed of millions of shells.

Sandstone was both the foundation for the city and a primary building material. Easy to dig through, the sandstone allowed for the construction an estimated 2,000 kilometers of labyrinths stretching out under the city. Nearly the entire older section of Odessa is built with this stone.

The museum guides tell stories of how the catacombs were used as a refuge for slave traders, who smuggled stolen women out of the port of Odessa to the slave markets of Constantinople.

There are no forests or hills around Odessa, during World War II the only place were the Ukrainian partisans could hide were in the catacombs. The partisans used the tunnels as a base from which to attack the occupying Nazi troops. There were five partisan groups and 45 other groups, for a total of 6,000 people, that operated in these tunnels.

The partisans killed more than 3,000 Nazis, derailed over 30 trains carrying soldiers and military equipment, and they saved thousands of people from becoming slave laborers.

The partisans forced the Nazis to keep a force of 16,000 men in Odessa and surrounding villages.


Photo by Yubert at virtualtourist.com

DANGER: Every year the news reports someone lost in the catacombs. Sometimes rescuers find these people, sometimes they never do. Never go unaccompanied into the catacombs.

How to get to the catacombs:

Odessa Bureau of Traveling and Excursions (ќдесское Ѕюро ѕутешествий » Ёкскурсий)

Buses leave from the west side of the trainstation
Tel: 45-89-47 Home phone of Natalya Ivanovna Shatkovskaya (firm has other excursions of Odessa in Russian)

Only 15 Hr.

Daily at: 10:30, 12:30, 14:30 (2:30)
Tours are available from May-October.
For the past three summers these tours have remained at the same time.
Offers a Russian tour to the caves.

The easiest way to find the tour is look for a woman with a bullhorn in front of the train station.
(Summer only)

(For English tours, See tourist guides page, for excursions to the Catacombs)

The village of Nerubaiskoye

The Catacomb Museum is located just outside the city in the village of Nerubaiskoye, thirty minutes by bus or car. Nerubaiskoye was founded at the end of the 18the century as a reward for the Cossacks who took part in storming the Turkish Fortress Yeni-Dunya (New World) during the 1787-1791 Russian-Turkish war.

Catacomb entrance

Nerubaiskoye village is split by a deep gully. In one of these gullies is the entrance to the catacombs.

Over the main entrance to the catacomb is this inscription:
"It was here in the catacombs of the Nerubaiskoye village that the partisans commanded by the Hero of the Soviet UnionV.A. Molodtsov-Badayev had its underground base. They successfully operated behind enemy lines."

There are natural caves in the shell stone, but they are rare. Ancient animal bones have been found in the catacombs.

Catacomb museum

In 1965 the Odessa government had a group of Young Communist League members study the catacombs, focusing on the Soviet Revolution and World War Two and how the catacombs played a part in both of these wars. These children found many documents about these two periods and the museum was opened with these documents on May 9th, 1969.

The museum is separated into three sections:
The first section of the museum covers the revolutionary war. In the early 1800's revolutionaries had meetings and stored illegal Marxist literature from abroad in the catacombs.

The second section covers the 73-day defense of Odessa from Nazi invaders. During the bombing, the Odessites used the catacombs as bomb shelters.

The third section covers the Nazi occupation of Odessa. The exhibits have weapons, radio receivers, forged passports, and propaganda material.

One of the sections discusses Vladimir Molodtsov. Molodtsov was sent from Mosow in 1941 to collect information about the Nazis. Molodtsov organized a group of seventy people, half which stayed in the catacombs, and the other half which were spies in Odessa. The museums has pictures of Yakov Gordienko (see children's palace), one of the group.

Yakov informed the resistance about the timetable of a train carrying high ranking nazi officials. The resistance then derailed the train.

Yakov also informed the resistance of a creation of a large fuel dump and found out the time and the route of a planned march of the Nazis to Nikolaev. Because of this information, Soviet fighter planes carried out an effective surprise raid.

The Nazi occupiers tried everything to destroy Molodtsov's group. They mined and sealed the entrances of the catacombs, and even tried to use poison gas. All of these attempts failed.

Acting on information from a traitor, in February and March 1942 the Nazis captured most of Yakov's detachment. After months of torture and interrogation, in June Yakov was shot and killed. The remainder of the group eventually joined up with another partisan group and continued to fight.

Molodtsov and Yakov Gordienko are buried in the Alley of Glory

A spiral staircase leads from the museum down to the catacombs. This is the same entrance that the partisans often used. The main base that Molodtsov used are actually several kilometers away.

The people's avengers monument
Overlooking the museum and the catacombs is a large 12-meter (39 feet) sculpture called "The people's avengers". The six figures in the group represent the soviets that joined the partisans:

  • A sailor,
  • An industrial worker,
  • An old man,
  • A teenager,
  • A Young Communist League member, and
  • A woman

The inscription reads:

" The dark of the catacombs
and the Odessa black nights
You illuminate by your hearts
To the glory of Victory
You gave of yourselves"

Inside the catacombs

The first thing that strikes a person in the catacombs is the absolute complete darkness. The temperature in these caves remains almost the same in these caves throughout the year.

The pictures drawn by partisans have been relocated from other parts of the catacombs.

The partisan items you see in these caves are almost all recreations of the original. Inside the catacombs you will see sleeping quarters, shooting galleries, headquarters, kitchen, and a well. The sentry point, the barricade, the well, the classroom, and the guardroom are authentic and were used by Molodtsov's partisans.

The sentry point and barricade, with a large machinegun guarding the entrance, was used by the partisans to stop the Nazis. Near the sentry post is a picture of the partisans and a sculpture of a grieving mother. An eternal flame burns from a hand carved from stone.

Children used the classroom during the 73-day siege. The children worked by kerosene light, and the chairs and desks were made of the shell stone.

Below photos by Yubert at virtualtourist.com

Click the below thumbnails for larger photos:

   

   


Below photo of the Underground kitchen by Galen Frysinger
from www.galenfrysinger.com/odessa_ukrania.htm

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