The other day, I received a comment on this blog. It simply said “More!” Of course my first assumption was that it was a dyslexic calling me a moron, but delving deeper I realised that I have not posted here in over a year. If a week is a long time in politics, then a year is a eternity in Ukraine. Things have changed and changed a lot. Some of the huge things that have happened over this past year include my parents coming to visit, the price of beer going up oh and Dobbie the House Elf “not” sending little green men into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. There have been times when I have been close to throwing everything into the back of the X-Trail and running for the border. When the little green men started taking their extended vacation in Crimea things got pretty tense here. The car was fueled to the brim, plans were made with fellow ex-pats on which way to exit, cash was drawn from ATM’s. Eventually things calmed down in Crimea, obviously we would not be going there without a visa anytime soon but it seemed, Dobbie was happy with is new Black Sea real estate in particular, securing a place to moor the rust buckets he calls the Black Sea Fleet.
Huge events such as our parents finally meeting.
Oh and a revolution.
Then, a few weeks later, little green men started popping up in the East. A bunch of idiots, nobody had ever heard of declared they would hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine. The ballot, much like the one in Crimea was a bastion of democracy, armed guards at polling stations, loaded questions, the ability to vote at any polling station you wanted, even if you had already voted somewhere else, in fact 100,000 ballots had thoughtfully been pre marked “yes” the night before the referendum. These minor issues did not deter the idiots from proclaiming an independent state with a 95% majority. When Ukraine sent troops into the east, these supposedly local dissidents suddenly found the ability to shoot down helicopters and ambush military vehicles with ruthless efficiency, not bad for a bunch of disillusioned businessmen. Of course no little green men were used in the making of this new independent state.
Stress levels here in Odessa remained low. One of the arguments of the East was that Russian speakers were being discriminated against, yet Odessa in the South remained a difficult barb in that argument. Here was a Russian speaking city, quite obviously wanting to stay Ukrainian. Time to mix it up a bit and on May 2nd they did. A peaceful Pro Ukraine march was ambushed by Pro Russians. As in all other places this has happened, the Pro Russian were, presumably, very ugly, judging by the fact that they always had masks over their faces. They also had guns and randomly shot Pro Ukrainian marchers. The one thing they hadn’t considered though was the Ultras. In most countries, Ultras would be considered football thugs and indeed in Ukraine they have a fearsome if not entirely deserved reputation for violence. However in these troubled times, the Ultras had become passionate defenders of Ukraine’s liberty. Shooting at them upset them a little bit, in fact enough for them to retaliate against the little green men. The end result as most of you are aware was the bloodbath in which over 40 people died mainly in a government building that burnt down. Needless to say, during this time my passport, important possessions and money were ready to go, my sphincter had already gone.
However as bloody and violent as that day was, it seemed to send a message, this peaceful, beach loving, sun worshiping city in the south did not want this shit and would fight for it’s right to remain Ukrainian. The trouble may not be over here, but I still love this city and it’s people. I love the way Odessa takes everything in it’s stride then returns to what it does best, having fun Unless the little green men come knocking on my door, here is where I will stay. Incidentally little green men did come knocking on my door but that’s a story for another day.
Odessa will always be a peaceful city of culture and beach life
Now I realize as I reach the end of this post that it may not have quite the same humour as some of my previous ramblings. I am sure you will understand this but be aware that I am re-inspired to write again (actually I write all the time but about photography not life in the former Soviet Union) Future posts shall return to my banal and odd sense of humour. So to my dyslexic admirer, the moron has spoken again, however, if you are not dyslexic, you have your more!