Sitting at the top of Pip Ivan (in Ukrainian, Priest John), or the Black Mountain, as some call it, are the remains of an observatory that was built several generations ago. Recognized as a monument of cultural heritage, the Pip Ivan Observatory was once part of Bialy Slon, an abandoned campus of the former Polish Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory.
The area, which is incredibly remote, belonged to the Second Polish Republican back when the observatory was being erected in 1937. Completed the following year, in the summer of 1938, the Pip Ivan Observatory was an incredibly expensive construction project backed by the director of the Airborne and Antigas Defence League, the minister of military affairs, and a group of influential Warsaw astronomers. With walls build of local sandstone that had to be carried to the top of the mountain by local workers due to a lack of roads on-site, the observatory cost more than one million Polish zloty.
Designed to look like a castle, the Pip Ivan Observatory, when completed, has 43 rooms and 57 windows. The upper floors were occupied by meteorologists and astronomers, most of them working for the State Meteorological Institute and Astronomical Observatory of the Warsaw University to carry out observations for the Polish Air Force. On the lower levels of the observatory, soldiers lived in special lodgings. In addition to all of the housing, the Pip Ivan Observatory housed a custom-made astrograph, a refracting telescope made by Grubb Parsons of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a special power plant with two Diesel motor-generators.
Only a year after the observatory was completed, the Soviet’s aggression toward the eastern part of Poland led the astronomers and soldiers living at the mountain’s peak to pack the most important equipment and abandon the structure. Within weeks, the Red Army captured the building and used it as their own meteorological station. Over the years, the observatory housed a rotating group of troops. It was abandoned in 1944.
Several groups offer hiking trips to the top of the mountain to tour what still stands of Ukraine’s highest architectural structure. Over the years, groups of professors and astronomers have raised the idea of rebuilding the observatory and putting it back into use.