Every year more and more guests visit Odessa. This is not surprising, because which city can boast with so many attractions, interesting history, unique color and own language! When you mention Odessa, the sea, the sun, the Potemkin stairs, the monument to Duc de Richelieu, Privoz market, and many other things immediately come to mind.
One of the most famous wonders of South Palmyra are the catacombs. But not many people know that these same catacombs extend not only under the city itself, but also for many kilometers around. The stone-pit near the village Nerubayske have particular interest to tourists. The settlement itself appeared in the Zaporozhian Cossacks times and got its name because of the non-aggression treaty with the Turks (not to attack – not to chop ). It was the Cossacks who laid down arms that were the first settlers of the hamlet, which later grew and became a village. The mining of the stone in the vicinity of the village began in the late 18th century, and now the length of the catacomb system is over 300 km.
At various times, the catacombs of this area were used for various purposes and needs. For example, after the October Revolution of 1917, these stone-pits were involved in the fight between two opposite worlds: the world of socialism and the world of capitalism. At the end of 1918, the rulers of the Entente countries chose Odessa as one of the springboards for an offensive inland of the country. The newspaper “Communist” was considered as one of the most famous communist publications of those time. Initially, it was printed in private printing houses, but it was too expensive, because that newspaper was considered as illegal. Punishment for its publication and distribution was firing squad. This period is most clearly reflected in the film “Dangerous Tours” by Fyodor Silchenko. The Bolsheviks made many attempts to organize their own underground printing. Mother of Mikhail Ivanchenko – one of the propagator of leaflets – helped with the opening of the first underground printing. The woman lived in a dugout on the outskirts of the city. They tried to equip the basement and put a printing press in it. But the implementation of the plan was prevented by subsoil water flooded the room. There were many other attempts to organize such print sites, but only one of them was crowned with success. It was underground typography. The catacombs near the village Nerubayske were not chosen by chance. In case of failure, pressmen could defend themselves and sell their lives dearly. Two entrances led to the this mine, one from the side of an overgrown ravine, and the other from the basement of one of the local resident. When all the preparatory work was completed, the printing machines were shipped through the White Guard outpost in parts, under the guise of spare parts for the locomobile. The location of the printing house was more than 800 meters from the entrance, and the organizers had to wade through narrow tunnels with spare parts on their shoulders. Shifts on the object lasted from 24 to 36 hours, depending on the position and the situation on the surface.
Nerubayske catacombs played not the least part during the Second World War. In the labyrinths of intricate passages and galleries, part of the Moldtsov-Badayev partisan detachment was based. While the 4th Romanian army with the support of German units attacked the city, partisan bases were being formed in the catacombs. Molodtsov detachment located at a depth of 25-30 meters near Nerubayske. There were equipped area for headquarters, food warehouses (for about six months), an arsenal: 7 machine guns, 60 rifles, 200 grenades, up to a ton of tola, radio facilities for communication with Moscow. When the enemy troops entered the city on October 16, the Badayev troops began reconnaissance and sabotage operations. The detachment was divided into underground and ground units, in the catacombs was the Molodtsov`s command post. The connection between groups of underground fighters was carried out by the so-called “youth dozen” of the ground detachment, consisting of 16-17-year-old adolescents headed by Jacob Gordienko. Partisans conducted active reconnaissance and sabotage work, and even were able to undermine the railway, resulting in the collapse of two military echelons. Destruction the underground units were impossible for the Romanians, because the catacombs are huge system with a lot of exits. But in January 1942, the Romanian counterintelligence was able to recruit the commander of the ground group, Peter Boychenko. As a result, on February 9, Vladimir Molodtsov, Tamara Mezhigurskaya, Yakov Gordienko and two other members of the underground were arrested at the safe house belonging to him. One of the arrested was able to send a message to his relatives – on the edges of the handkerchief, it was written in blood: “Our Boiko was trai ..”. Thus, the remaining Badaev group learned the name of the provocateur. Molodtsov was shot by conviction of the Romanian court on July 3, 1942. By 1944, only 12 members of the legendary squad survived.
Discovering and mapping Nerubayske catacombs began in 1998. During the creation of maps there were discovered many interesting places and things. Objects or curious cases that was found there othen give the name to the quarries. One of the areas here is called “Lyubkin way.” This place has a sad history. In the 50s of the last century, a girl named Lyuba descended into the catacombs and almost fell under the collapse. Spilled stones blocked her way out to the only familiar for her exit. Trying to find a workaround, Lyuba finally lost her way and wasn’t able to get out of the labyrinth. Her remains have been in the catacombs for 10 long years before they were discovered and reburied. Because of this tragic history, this place was named at her honor.
The walls of endless corridors are decorated with many inscriptions, symbols, drawings and numbers. All this applies to different times, old mining drawings and calculations are coexist here with modern labels and images. Many drawings illustrate the underground legends and stories. For example, there you can find depicts of “catacombniki” – the mysterious creatures which are living at the mine. You can find figures of a white lady and a green girl. Both of them are characters of local catacomb legends. Often they portrayed ships, treasures and caricatures. All this is an integral part of the catacombs.
You can find out about this and many other things by visiting the labyrinth along with guides who will gladly guide you through the most interesting routes and tell you many stories. After all, it is much more interesting to take a lantern in your hands and plunge into this secret underground world personally, enjoy the walk along winding passages, the comfort of candles and the mysteriously ringing silence…