Monday, August 22, 2011

Exploring The Odessa Underground- Catacombs from WWII

The Catacombs of Odessa

It's illegal to enter the catacombs, a fact which excites several members of our five person tour. Of course, the primary reason entry is prohibited is because any section of the catacombs has the potential to collapse at any moment. "Oh, what fun." 
Non-decript entrance to Odessa catacombs
Located 10 km outside town, what was once an underground rock quarry, was used as a center of resistance during World War II. Ukrainians spent 18 hours a day underground emerging only in the evening to replenish their supplies and make raids against the Nazis. Before venturing out, they had to use make-up to hide their yellow skin, a consequence from lack of sun.
The Nazis knew about the catacombs and who lived in them, but they were unable to do much about it. The catacombs are comprised of over 2,000 km worth of tunnels, so trying to gas everybody to death didn't work, and if you try to enter, walk past a certain point, a voice asks for a password. Don't respond with the correct answer in 2 seconds in a Ukrainian accent- ratta tat tat tatta- the machine gun stationed directly in front of me would make mince meat out of your body. The Germans tried everything, from sending in Russian POW's as body armor ahead of them, to attack dogs. Nothing worked. I ponder momentarily just how many people died on the very spot I was standing.

Translation: Blood for blood, dead for dead.
Blood for blood. Life for life. Impossible to conquer a people who will fight you to the death.
A depiction of a World War II Ukrainian mother on the walls of the the catacombs, weeping over her dead sons
a photo of Lenin on the walls- to inspire hope for Ruskies
To end on a fun note, exploring the maze of the catacombs, there was a shortcut, a very narrow worm like passageway that we were dared to try to make it through. Everybody but me passes (I was dared, right?) and so I squirm on my stomach over the ground, realizing momentarily that I'm at least six feet under, and as I get to the end of the tight tunnel I find its radius decreased. I push. Why am I not moving? Oh my God, I am stuck in this underground tomb. There's only darkness other than that emanating from the light strapped around my fore-head, which I cannot even reach up to adjust, because my noggin's already through the hole. I push, I pull, but my shoulders are too broad to make it through.
Now I can't go backwards. I'm stuck like Winnie The Pooh leaving Rabbit's House after too consuming too much honey. Is the end of me? I'm really struggling, I'm not moving. There's no grease down here to lube me through. I haven't eaten anything. I'm not fat, it's not my fault I'm buffed! Like Cartman.
This is not how I want to go! And as everyone lines up to try to pull on me like I'm the rope in a tug of war, hoping their combined strength will pull me out the rabbit hole, just like in Winnie The Pooh.
They're counting up to three. I halt them on two with one final request:-- "Before you guys pull my arms off, can someone please bring me some honey?"

1 comment:

  1. look here is our wild tour to odessa catacombs:


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