Conflicts & War

Odesa stands up to Russian invasion with humor

By María Traspaderne

Odesa, Ukraine, Apr 2 (EFE).- Known as Ukraine’s capital of comedy, the Black Sea city of Odesa is squaring up to the Russian invasion through the medium of humor.

Odesa’s renowned sense of humor is put on display each year from April 1 during its Humorina festival, when the city’s theaters, streets and squares become one big stage for musical and comedy shows.

This year is no exception, despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although the shows have been scaled back for security reasons. One such performance this year took place in the city’s train station, where refugees arrive each day, while another was held online to raise money for Ukraine’s troops.

Local comedian Jacob Gopp tells Efe that comedy “is, has always been and will always be a very powerful weapon against propaganda.”

Odessites have long been famed for their sharp wit and manner of speech, especially to fellow Russian speakers.

“We say something and Russian-speakers find it funny,” Gopp says.

It is born of a mix of languages and cultures that have passed through the port city, located some 150 kilometers from the current front line, over the years.

Jews (who before 1917 made up a third of the city’s population), Greeks, Moldovans and Georgians have all contributed to the city’s culture, including a host of expressions that sets Odessites apart from the rest of Ukraine.

Odesa has so far escaped the horrific bombardments that Russia has doled out on other Ukrainian cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv and many of the city’s monuments and historic buildings remain intact.

The relative calm in Odesa has prompted some business owners to reopen shops and restaurants, restoring a sense of normality despite the circumstances.

Its streets have also become a canvas for satirical graffiti mocking Russia’s president Vladimir Putin or paying homage to the Ukrainian soldiers stationed on Snake Island, in the Black Sea, who in the early days of the war rose to international fame for telling for sending a message to an approaching Russian ship: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.” EFE


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