This underground facility is situated within the Solotvyno salt mine near a small Ukrainian village of the same name, close to the Romanian border. It was opened during Soviet times in the 1970s, and operates alongside the Ukrainian State Allergy Hospital which is also located nearby.
The therapy which takes place at Solotvyno is based on a method known as Speleotherapy, an alternative therapy for asthma and other respiratory diseases. This therapy was discovered in Poland in the 1950s when it was noticed that salt mine workers rarely suffered from tuberculosis. Scientists found that the salt-permeated air of the working salt mine helped to dissolve phlegm in the bronchial tubes and also killed the micro-organisms which caused infections – and that this greatly helped patients who were undertaking treatment for asthma.
The clinic at Solotvyno salt mine is unique because its tunnels, which are 300 metres below ground level and remain at a steady 22°C (72°F) all year round, are the deepest in the world to be used for such purposes. Around three to five thousand people are treated here every year and there is often a waiting list – in fact, at any one time up to 200 people, a third of whom are usually children, can be receiving therapy. Patients spend an average of 24 days at the facility, using a lift to travel underground for afternoon or overnight sessions. During this time they talk, read or sleep on beds, grouped together in alcoves which are carved out of the rock and lit by fluorescent tubes.
Kirill Kuletski © 2009