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Articles / 9 January 2014 | 13:39
Legends of Kyiv subway: a city under the city

Legends of Kyiv subway: a city under the city

Ancient people used to invent legends and myths to explain unexplainable and, sometimes, scary aspects of the world around. And for several millenniums of existence of mankind the things have not changed much - fear of the unknown keeps generating fantastic stories, and curiously enough, horrors about Kyiv subway are among them. Passengers of the subway, who see only a small part of the complex, invent legends about what is left out-of-vision, including stories about ghosts of suicides, giant rats, abandoned stations and possible disasters. ForUm went underground to find out whether any of these stories contain a grain of truth.
Ghosts and giant rats
"You know, I've heard stories about ghosts and two-meter rats and other monsters living in the subway. I even read a story about it in some serious edition, though it turned out to be the April 1 issue. I've been working in the subway for over 30 years, and every three months I must inspect the whole line at night, when the traffic is closed. The subway is a city under the city. Every section, every centimeter of the tunnel is equipped with special devices, which require regular control and maintenance. We do not have abandoned places, even shafts are equipped with light and alarm system," chief of the Svyatoshinska-Brovarska line of the Kyiv subway Iryna Hetmanenko tells.

According to her, there are no otherworldly entities in the subway, while the living, on the other hand, regularly try to enter the tunnels. "We often register penetration attempts by so-called diggers. To prevent any damage we had to install alarm system in all our facilities, especially those accessible from city parks and ventilation systems. Such people indeed cause damage and troubles, and very often they get hurt as well," Iryna says.

The best known case is about a digger, who fell down a shaft. The young man survived, but invalided. Among other troublemakers there are so-called extreme riders, who enjoy riding car couplers, and things sometimes end bad - injuries or even death. 

The city legends also speak about giant rats in the tunnels. However, even not having any mutants, subway workers are still beware of ordinary rodent, which might damage important cables.

"We do not have any rats. The biggest animal I've ever seen on the territory of the subway was a field mouse in the open area. There is a special pest control and extermination service, which carries out disinfestations every time any signs of rodents are spotted in the subway. Moreover, at night, when the third rail is dead, the subway becomes a very crowed place, as many of our services work at night," Iryna says.
Fears of engine drivers
For practical reasons, weak-nerved people will never become subway engine drivers. The fact is that drivers are not only answerable for passengers' safety, but also are the first to render assistance in case of an accident. "Engine drivers are the first to pull out suiciders or accidentally fallen citizens. Even if there is a rescue team working, the driver must help following the rescue procedure - it is his job. If a person falls on the rails or under a car, the driver must stop the train and request  for high-voltage release. If a person is trapped between wheel pairs, the train must stay idle until the arrival of a rescue team of the subway and Emergency Control Service team. On average, a rescue operation takes one hour," Iryna tells the details of rescue operations.

In the best case scenario, a person falls in the so-called pocket - a hollow in the rail tracks near the platform. Such accident does not cause serious injuries, but still it does not diminish consequences of the stress a driver experiences when seeing a person falling on the rails. In fact, it may be the source of legends about wandering souls of suiciders.  
Abandoned stations and tunnels

Stations "Lvivska brama", "Telichka" and numerous "secret" tunnels are enveloped in mystery. However, only a few know that these objects are considered abandoned only formally. And if passengers are not allowed there, it does not mean anything. "Lvivska brama, for example, has a platform and technical facilities, where subway workers regularly carry out maintenance. It is just an unfinished station, which does not have exit to the street. When and if its construction is finally completed, we will be happy to welcome passengers there," Iryna explains.

The same concerns the "Telichka" stations between "Vydubychi" and "Slavutych". As for abandoned tunnels, there is indeed one in the very center of the subway. "When the station "Teatralna" was built and a new tunnel was dug out, a part of the old one, former stretch of rail track "Khreshchyatyk - Universitet", was abandoned. However, this tunnel is also equipped with light and alarm system and undergoes regular control. Some time ago, a company wanted to rent this tunnel to cultivate mushrooms, but it turned out the moisture level of the subway is not enough for mushrooms to grow," Iryna tells.

Bunkers and possible disasters

Fantasy writers and disaster-movie directors regularly stir up interest to mysteries of the subway. Thus, books of Dmitriy Glukhovskiy speak about post-apocalyptic future and about subway as the only shelter for survivors. And such scenario of escape is indeed possible.
"Back in soviet times the idea of the subway included shelter functions. At first we were preparing to a nuclear war, then Chernobyl happened... And until now the subway may function as a shelter for the population. We hold regular trainings and exercises, and in case of some disaster or emergency situation in the city, the subway will be ready to take people, though I hope we would never need to use these functions," Iryna Hetmanenko says.  
At the same time, there are no reserve rations or medicines kept in the subway, only the required minimum of gas masks and fire extinguishers for work shifts.

Moreover, a horror scenario about flooded subway, like in the smashing Russia hit "Subwave", is physically impossible in Kyiv, as no line goes under Dnipro, while ground waters can cause only insignificant leaks. Curiously enough, a flood in Kyiv subway can be caused by rain, in particular in stations "Vyrlytsia" and "Pozdniaky". "Darnytsya" stations used to be at risk as well, but the subway authorities negotiated the construction of a new drain system and special draining stairs.

Well, busting a myth may be even more interesting than the myth itself. However, it is hardly possible to "switch off" people's imagination and sought after mystifications. Thus, who knows what other legends about Kyiv subway will appear soon?

by Valentyna Dudko, photos by Maxim Trebukhov

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