Historians Give Mystic City Tours of Kharkiv
Tourists get to see Kharkiv from a darker perspective
Tour participants are required to bring their IDs, wear sturdy shoes and take a flashlight. The interesting fact is that the actual route of the tour is not revealed beforehand.
Tour guides describe the main characters of their tour as ghouls. The two historians were brought together by their interest in strange and terrifying people who lived in Kharkiv.
“Kharkiv is very rich in ambiguous historical figures that made it into the history of the times they lived in with their atrocities. This is one of the things that gave us the idea for the so-called Kharkiv ghouls. To add some mystery, some vibes and thrill people who love history,” Serhiy said.
The tour starts at the city cemetery near the grave of Silvester Pokko. He was the head of the Kharkiv department of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission, commonly known as the Cheka, a punitive agency of the Bolshevik authorities. Their agents persecuted and eliminated the enemies of the 1917 revolution without charge or trial.
“Kharkiv Cheka were very weird guys. Lera has said it right. They have put Kharkiv in the history of torture. Imagine what kind of mess you have to do so that your deeds would become part of world torture history,” one of the tour guides, Serhiy Kozub said.
The next stop appears to be an ordinary building. The Cheka agents and their families lived here. Their commute to work was going down the stairs to the basement of the building since the torture chambers were there. Those tortured to death were buried in a ravine nearby. Historians have found 108 human remains there.
Another building with a rich history is a mansion of a businessman and a consul of Great Britain, Blacky. During the Soviet times, his mansion was expropriated and given to a Bolshevik, one of the organizers of Holodomor in Ukraine, Vlas Chubar. Now, this building houses a Russian consulate.
“Vlas Yakovlevich was born in a small mud house in a village. It is very interesting to compare looking at this extorted mansion of Blacky. Blacky was a director of Helfrich-Sade factory. Comparing this mansion and that mud house, that ‘the world is about to change its foundation,’ with the foundation changed by Chubar as well. As you can see, in such a way, you could make a jump from rags to riches,” Valeriya Kulshytska said.
Along the route, you will also be able to see an abandoned operations theater and weird graffiti of a local madman Mitasov. The “house with ghosts” used to be an orphanage for girls. Soviet authorities transformed it into a tuberculosis hospital. Now it is abandoned. Tour guides say that the building is for sale or it might be demolished. This might be the last time it is captured on film.
“I understood that I don’t know the city whatsoever. despite living here my whole life. That is why I had this feeling, like, you know, when you come to another city you walk around open-mouthed, examine houses and all. In some places, I looked up and saw what kind of beauty is up there,” a tourist Natalia Volkova said.
The tour wanders through old Kharkiv alleys for three hours.