Ukraine: Odessa the Night Owl, in the Blues of War    Southwest

Ukraine: Odessa the Night Owl, in the Blues of War Southwest

But that’s a story of the past. The almost faded memory of last summer, when more than three million tourists flocked to Odessa, the most important seaside resort in Ukraine. Tuesday morning on Langeron beach, the fanatics are still there. The wave in the soul. “We can’t live without the sea, you know? smiles Tetiana, 62, in a black bikini. “For us, summer is bathing, swimming, sunbathing, grilling fish, so you have no idea how sad that is,” she continues. All beaches have been closed since the beginning of the season, we are stuck there, on the promenades, lying on the ground. »

“Good for the Soul”

When the Russian armada approached the city last winter, the Ukrainian army mined the approaches to the port. “Mines are scattered throughout the water that move with the wind and currents,” says Tetiana. Since the beginning of July, two bathers have died in the region from jumping on mines, a party-goer from Zatoka on his birthday and a ruthless refugee from Donbass. The “fanatics” must have come up with a plan. Since they cannot bathe, they hang buckets on strings, scoop seawater from the pontoon and splash their heads and bodies. “It’s good for the soul”, philosopher Tetiana.

This summer of 2022 in Odessa, we’re playing hide and seek and trying to swim, taking refuge a little more sheltered among the rocks of Laguna Creek. A head in the water becomes a breach or an act of resistance. “For us young men, walking on the beach is even more complicated,” admits Sergii, a young thirty-year-old cameraman by trade, because the police search the beaches or the few open cafés of the Strategic Port facilities are never far away. “As soon as she finds a man over 18, she will check the papers and we can be sent to the army recruitment center. »

A head in the water becomes a breach or an act of resistance

In the classically designed city center, Deribasovska Street is just a shadow of its former self. Main thoroughfare of Odessa, usually teeming with people. This summer, babushkas line the dilapidated walls of old imperial banks, begging for a few hryvnas against the backdrop of devaluation. The wind whirls up the dust and the first dead leaves. The majestic Opera House, which usually hosts the Odessa International Film Festival, the Black Sea Cannes, is barricaded with sandbags. The adjoining Hotel Mozart was confiscated by the authorities at the beginning of the war, as were several businesses with a little too much Russian capital.

“A Taboo”

In the absence of an open techno club, another rhythm stirs the hot air, that of shrill sirens and the staccato of anti-aircraft guns suddenly beginning to chase the Russian reconnaissance drones. After the port was bombed on July 23, rockets destroyed an entire street in Zatoka, a small resort town just south of Odessa. “How do you expect us to attract tourists? It is impossible to tell Kievans to come to Odessa when it is less dangerous and allowed to bathe in the Dnieper in Kyiv! “Sighs Violetta Skrinnik, 25, owner of a small hotel on Mayakovsky Street.

“Compared to the previous year, our turnover has divided by ten,” she says. The only clients I have are Odesite sites willing to afford a nice hotel room in their own town just to unplug. From now on, Kievans or Ukrainians who can, hole up at home or at least turn green in the Carpathians. “I think the mere idea of ​​going on vacation has become taboo,” notes Violetta, whose husband, a soldier, fought in Sieverodonetsk and Lysychansk. It has become vulgar to say: I’m tired, I need a vacation. The idea of ​​resting, having a good time is gone, at least as long as the war lasts. »