Odesa, Ukraine’s Black Sea jewel, prepares for the worst
By Isaac J. Martín
Odesa, Ukraine, Mar 15 (EFE).- The once bustling streets of Odesa, Ukraine’s answer to a city that never sleeps, have succumbed to an eerie silence as this pearl of the Black Sea braces for a Russian offensive.
Only a few dozen civilians amble around the city center between the newly-erected barricades, the anti-tank hedgehogs, the closed-up shops and army checkpoints.
One of the soldiers standing guard on a main avenue is Andriy, a Ukrainian-Lebanese national, who before the war worked as a TV presenter.
“We’re ready and I’m sure that if the Russians enter here we have enough weapons and brains to fight those stupid Russians,” he tells Efe.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed last week that Russian forces were preparing to bombard the port city, the country’s third-largest, which he said would be a “historic crime.”
Another theory put forward by Ukrainian authorities is that Russian troops seek to encircle Odesa by advancing from the nearby region of Mykolaiv, where shelling has intensified in recent days.
With the threat of a Russian offensive seemingly looming, many Odessites have abandoned the city to seek refuge in nearby Romania and Moldova. Some, however, have decided to stay.
Olga, 65, snakes her way through the barricades.
“Where I’m going to be, in France?,” she asks with a smile, adding that Odesa is her city and nothing would make her leave.
“Sure, the situation is bad, but it will pass. We will fight.”
Most of the soldiers holding positions in the city are under 25.
One soldier, a 21-year-old who preferred to withhold his name, stands guard outside Odesa’s national academic opera and ballet theater, one of the city’s most iconic buildings, with its Italian baroque design.
The soldier tells Efe they are “ready” for any Russian advance and would fight until the end to restore the city’s spark.
This spark was once embodied by the hustle and bustle in Odesa’s nightclub-lined streets.
For now, it has been put on mute. EFE