By Isaac J. Martin
Odesa, Ukraine, Mar 22 (EFE).- As Russia’s invasion of its neighbor intensifies, elderly Ukrainians, many of whom do not have the physical, mental or financial health to flee their homeland, are choosing to stay in place and wait out the end of hostilities.
“We are between 70 and 80 years old, where are we going to go?,” Boris, 71, tells Efe. “If I were young, yes, I would go.”
In Soborna square in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa, several older people quietly gather every day in the park to play chess to the sounds of anti-aircraft sirens and ringing church bells.
“The underground shelters are from before World War II, so I’m not sure they can withstand modern weapons,” 70-year-old Andriy says.
Odesa, known as the pearl of the Black Sea, is one of the most strategic points in Ukraine and is among Moscow’s most prized targets. The city has been on edge since the Russian war against Ukraine began on February 24.
On Monday tensions in Odesa spiked after days of relative calm. Russian artillery attacks struck the outskirts of the city, destroying residential buildings but leaving no victims, local authorities reported.
In addition, a high-ranking Pentagon official said Monday that an increase in Russia’s naval activities in the Black Sea has been detected.
Despite this threat, Andriy has only one thing on his mind: his monthly pension payment.
“We come here every day, to the park, because we don’t know what’s going to happen and especially what’s going to happen to us. If they don’t pay us our monthly pension, what are we going to do? We can’t work,” says Andriy, who receives about 250 euros ($274) monthly.
Neither Andriy nor his friends who join him for chess games in the park have any plans to flee the country.
Andriy, who used to work as a security officer, says he does not know “how to live abroad.”
Vladimir, 70, tells Efe after losing a match that Odesa means “the smile of God” and that nothing is going to happen to it.
Some 3.48 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled their country in the wake of Russia’s full-scale attack, according to the latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency.
UNHCR said that some 10 million of Ukraine’s population of 44 million have been forced to leave their homes. EFE