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Lviv diggers demonstrate effectiveness of underground Poltva River as bomb shelter

bomb shelters
The Poltva River has wide dry side pavements and a solid concrete vault, which can withstand air strikes. Photo: near Hotel Lviv,
Lviv diggers demonstrate effectiveness of underground Poltva River as bomb shelter
Article by: Christine Chraibi
The Poltva River in the west-Ukrainian city of Lviv has finally surfaced after decades of being confined to underground tunnels: local diggers suggest using it as a bomb shelter to defend against a possible Russian attack.

Territorial defence, bomb shelters, weapons, survival training, first aid kits – today, these are on the list and in the thoughts of each and every Ukrainian citizen.

As Russia continues to escalate and move troops to the Ukrainian border, as the US and Europe issue alarming travel advisories to their citizens, Ukrainians all across the country have begun preparing for the worst.

Many are taking up weapons, training and joining territorial defence forces, others are packing emergency bags and yet others have started looking for the nearest bomb shelters in their neighbourhoods.

The Kyiv City Council recently updated a Google map showing bomb shelters in the event of an attack. According to city authorities, there are around 5,000 facilities that can be used to shelter Kyiv’s population in the event of an emergency. However, many basement premises have been purchased for commercial use; other shelter  areas are located in local metro stations, familiar entertainment venues, bars, restaurants and shops.

Former heavy-weight boxing champion Mayor Vitali Klitschko stated that in case of an airstrike, residents should take refuge in Kyiv’s underground metro stations. The metro system is equipped with air-tight nuclear blast-resistant steel doors, air ventilators, and water purification systems. Unfortunately, they can only house some 300,000 people, while the population of Kyiv reaches almost three million.

bomb shelters
Escalators in Arsenalna Metro station in Kyiv. This station is currently the deepest in the world (105.5 metres). Photo: open source

Meanwhile, in Lviv, a relatively large metropolis in western Ukraine, civilians and city authorities are also getting ready. Some experts believe that the Russian army will never make it so far west. Nevertheless, many civilians have joined territorial defence units and the Lviv City Council recently published a list of bomb shelters in the city.

bomb shelters
The underground Poltva River is an ideal bomb shelter. This photo shows the area near the Shevchenko monument right in the heart of the city. The entrance has been sealed. Photo:

Basically, city authorities are telling Lviv residents to take shelter in the basements of houses and apartment buildings. But, in the event of an attack, such shelters will turn into coffins; falling debris will obstruct most of the access points. Moreover, ventilation in old basements is far from sufficient, while isolation and crowded conditions would adversely impact hundreds of people packed into a small area.

bomb shelters
The Poltva River flows under almost every street of the old city centre. The entrance here is sealed with concrete blocks. Photo: near Chornovil Avenue,
bomb shelters
The vaults of the Poltva have withstood more than one war. Photo:

In light of recent events, Lviv diggers, who have been exploring the history of Lviv’s underground Poltva River, suggest using the unique protective structure offered by the city’s underground water system. There are literally dozens of underground passages under almost every street in the city centre. The walls are solid concrete, half a metre thick, and there are several metres of soil above them. In World War II, bombs completely destroyed dozens of Lviv buildings in the city centre, but failed to damage a single area of the underground collector system.

bomb shelters
Another sealed entrance to the Poltva near Shota Rustaveli Street. Photo:

Digger Andriy Ryshtun says the ventilation in the underground Poltva is pretty good as fresh air is channeled through the rainwater grilles. Moreover, the temperature remains stable all year round and there are enough convenient access points and stairs. These underground areas would actually be the best places to hide if not for one major stumbling block… LvivVodokanal, a company responsible for the provision of drinking water and maintenance of Lviv’s collector system and sewage treatment, has sealed or blocked off most entrances to the Poltva River with massive concrete structures.

bomb shelters
Andriy Ryshtun shows the concrete blocks that seal the entrance to the Poltva on Chornovil Avenue. Photo:
bomb shelters
A group of conscious citizens has removed the concrete blocks blocking access to the underground Poltva. Photo:

With the threat of a further, but deadlier Russian invasion looming over Ukraine, it is now up to each municipality to act and explore all possibilities before it is too late.

bomb shelters
Andriy Ryshyun sits on the banks of the underground Poltva near the Lviv Opera and Ballet Theatre. This area even is equipped with electricity. Unfortunately, the entrance here has been sealed and paved over with cobblestones. Photo:
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