42nd Tikkun Olam Award to Cave Explorer Chris Nicola
Chris Nicola was born in England in 1951. He and his family immigrated to the US, settling ultimately in New York City. Chris is currently working as a Senior Investigator for New York State. Other jobs have included that of a union organizer, a police officer in Washington D.C., a bar manager and bouncer, adjunct lecturer, bodyguard, undercover investigator in the NYC schools, and civilian operative for the FBI.
As a graduate of three state police academies and recipient of specialized training from the FBI and NYPD his law enforcement career has spanned 35 years. He has earned undergraduate degrees in Criminal Justice, Physics, and Forensic Psychology; an MA in Criminology; completed post-graduate work while enrolled in a Criminology PhD program, and is currently pursuing a Forensic Science MS and Film BA.
Chris has done numerous speaking engagements at schools, museums, community centers, synagogues, churches, and libraries, to include such places as: the 42nd Street Y in New York City, the Explorers Club, Oxford University, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum. His work has been covered by the NY Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, BBC Radio, National Geographic, Readers Digest, Christian Science Monitor, NPR Radio, and the John Batchelor Show. He has appeared on numerous local and national TV broadcasts, to include The NBC Today Show, CBS Morning News, and ABC World News Tonight. His work has been recognized by numerous organizations with awards from such places as the Explorers Club, the Long Island Science Museum and New York University Cinema Studies Department.
In the Mid 70’s Nicola began his life as an explorer by scuba diving in the caves of central Florida, in conjunction with 10 years of ocean diving, spending many hours on the wrecks off of North Carolina. To date, he has participated, organized and/or lead over 40 caving expeditions in the Americas, Oceana, Africa, Caribbean and Europe. Today he spends most of his free time caving, being a public speaker, and further developing a story that he first heard as a rumor in Ukraine 20 years ago; a story of how a group of Jews survived the Holocaust by living in a cave for over a year. To date, he has confirmed the story by locating 14 of the original 38 cave dwellers, and co-authored the book, the “Secret of Priest’s Grotto” that led to the making of “ No Place On Earth”, a documentary about their experiences. Nicola runs the Priest’s Grotto Heritage Project; a genocide awareness project in which the grandchildren of those who lived in Priest’s Grotto Cave during the Holocaust will be working hand-in-hand with the grandchildren of those who lived above the cave in building an exhibit to honor what those courageous 38 did so long ago, and hopefully, by keeping this story alive for future generations, prevent such genocides as the Holocaust from ever happening again. On March 16, 2013, Chris Nicola received the prestigious Citation of Merit Award from the Explorer’s Club for his work in bringing the Priest’s Grotto story to light. Further details can be found at www.chrisnicola.com.