Some call it the ghost town, because for decades it didn’t appear on any maps — a clandestine location that at the height of the Cold War likely concealed a deadly arsenal of nuclear weapons capable of wiping out major Western cities.
Others refer to it as the Polish Chernobyl, because the cloak of secrecy thrown up around its radioactive mysteries drew anxious comparisons to the exclusion zone surrounding the disaster-hit Ukrainian power station.
But today, Borne Sulinowo, in northern Poland’s West Pomeranian region, is emerging as an exciting travel
destination for adventure seekers looking to explore a beautiful natural area, and a relatively unknown Soviet hotspot with a very dark past.
Reaching this town from Szczecin, the region’s capital, involves a long drive through Poland’s mostly rural lowlands, a terrain that also still carries the legacy of the Cold War.
Nowhere more so than the town of Drawsko Pomorskie, the location of the largest military training ground for NATO troops in Europe.
Last year, tens of thousands of military personnel poured into the area, making use of the cover offered by the landscape of lakes and dense forest for Defender-Europe 20, said to be the biggest military exercise on the continent for quarter of a century.
Head an hour further east from Drawsko, where the forest becomes deeper and quieter, and you’ll arrive at the former forbidden zone of Borne Sulinowo.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, this place was accessible only for those with a special pass, or “пропуск” in Russian. Everyone else stayed away and pretended they knew nothing about it. It was closed, concealed and best avoided.
Nearly 12,000 Soviet troops were stationed in the Borne Sulinowo military complex at the height of the Cold War. They were part of the Northern Group of Forces present in Poland as part of the Warsaw Pact agreement between the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc socialist republics.
”The place was a massive construction site for troops and military facilities,” Wiesław Bartoszek, owner of the local museum in Borne Sulinowo reports
“After 1945, when the Soviets took over the place, the complex had become part of the Warsaw Pact military plans, which included massive drills that prepared the ground and air forces for an invasion of the West.
”There was only one road leading there, one railway track ending up in the mysterious town behind electrified fences.”
People living near Borne Sulinowo were, apparently, too scared to even mention it.