The catacombs of Odesa

Odessa Travel Blog

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Lydia in the catacombs of Odesa

This morning we visited the Museum of Partisan Glory, the entrance of 1000km of catacombs below Odesa. After the city was taken by the Germans and Romanians on the 16th of October, 1941, the city was occupied for two and a half years. The whole time, however, partisans fought a guerilla war against the occupiers. Knowing during the siege of 73 days that the city would fall, they prepared the catacombs under the city for war. There are over 1000km of catacombs in the limestone strata under Odesa, made by carving out building blocks for the foundation of the city. The limestone strata is 14 metres thick, and three distinct layers of catacombs were carved out, linked to each other and to the city via wells and basements.

Kitchen in the catacombs of Odesa
Within these catacombs the resistance held out the entire duration of occupation, until liberation on the 10th April 1944, 1500 people in twelve different detachments (each with almost no contact with each other), most of which died. We saw the main base of one of the detachments, of 105 people. It included a kitchen and bakery, telephone, beds (just grass upon a stone platform), kerosine lamps,a meeting room (including a library and photos of Stalin and Lenin), a room to publish resistance newspapers for those above, a hospital (with actual real beds, but little else), even family rooms and classrooms for the children. There was a munitions dump, with rifle racks, home-made mines, caltraps and Molotov cocktails, and the main entrance was protected by a machine gun.


At first the partisans relied on secrecy, only coming out at night to attack (having to change clothes so the smell of mold wouldn’t give them away), but once the Nazis found their base the machine gun hallway was their chief defence.

Kitchen in the catacombs of Odesa
The Germans tried to retaliated by flooding the catacombs with salt water or poison gas. Even then they still had contact via other passages, including a well that went up into a partisan member’s basement, through which food, fuel and information could pass undetected. Painted on the walls was “Blood for Blood, Death for Death”. We saw the paintings they made on the walls for their own amusement, a comic of Hitler and his generals, and a lighter scene of the charming old Slavic tradition of courtship, whereby a guy who liked a girl would pour a bucket of water on her head, and if she liked him in return she would give him an easter egg.


We spent the afternoon back at the beach, and then took an overnight train for Simferopol, the capital of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea.

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Lydia in the catacombs of Odesa
Lydia in the catacombs of Odesa
Kitchen in the catacombs of Odesa
Kitchen in the catacombs of Odesa
Kitchen in the catacombs of Odesa
Kitchen in the catacombs of Odesa
Blood for Blood, Death for Death
"Blood for Blood, Death for Death"
On the train from Odessa to the Cr…
On the train from Odessa to the C…
“the Hallowed blood of the soldi…
“the Hallowed blood of the sold…
Odessa
photo by: Biedjee