"White Elephant" on the "Black Mountain". The thing sounds great and really exists. Black Mountain is another name for the third highest peak of the Carpathians - Pip-Ivan, which has been considered sacred by the Hutsuls since ancient times. A "White Elephant" designates the observatory, located on the top. This is the most highly located building in Ukraine where people lived on a permanent basis (2022 m).
The construction of the observatory took several years. They still admire the work that the masters had to carry out. After all, all the materials were carried to the mountain on their own, sometimes overcoming distances of about 70 km (from the nearest railway station). And the volumes of raw materials were huge (for only the details of the dome they used 33 giant boxes, some of which weighing up to a ton). The observatory was subordinate to the National Universities of Warsaw and was built with the participation of the Polish Air Defense League.
Considering these circumstances, legends began to appear around the “White Elephant” that in fact there was not an observatory, but a secret airfield, and in the basements they hide military equipment. But all this was just story-telling .
In summer of 1938, the Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory named after Marshal Jozef Pilsudski was launched with honors. The building was equipped with a hotel, a conference room, a dining room, utility rooms and all the necessary infrastructure to independently ensure the vital activity of the building (battery, boiler room, electric pump system and central water heating). The observatory itself was located in a separate rotunda tower under the aforementioned huge dome.
At that time, the observatory was among the most significant in the world (and ranked 2nd after the French one in Europe). It has functioned only 2 years, but during this time, scientists were able to obtain a significant amount of data on stars, comets and planets, mostly thanks to a unique astrograph with a 33-centimeter lens delievered from Scotland. It was possible to get into the territory only with a special pass issued by the Warsaw Meteorological Institute.
Astronomical and meteorological studies during the operation of the station were carried out continuously. The building was constantly occupied by scientists, Polish border guards and the station director with his family. Since 1941, the Hungarian military has occupied the observatory, and after 3 years, the 70-year period of the desolation of the “White Elephant” began. Interest in the observatory reemerged only in 2012, however, from the Polish side. Their Ministry of Culture in partnership with the Carpathian National University named after Stefanyk allocated a significant amount of money for the reconstruction of the building. It is planned that in addition to scientific, it will serve as a hotel and an international training center for mountain rescuers. A few years ago, the “White Elephant” was a popular overnight stop for tourists who conquered Pip Ivan. Now they are carrying out restoration work there and the search and rescue point is already working.
How to get there!? It is more convenient to get to the observatory from Dzembronia - the most high-altitude village in Ukraine, through the mountain Eared Stone (Vukhatyi Kamin`) or Smotrych. A bus from Verkhovyna goes to Dzembronia several times a day, if you don’t manage to get it, you can reach the village on foot from Krasnik. However,it will take nearly 2.5 hours. Pip-Ivan can also be reached from the Shibene checkpoint across Maricheika Lake.